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Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's TreeThe Evolution of Visual Metaphors for Biological Order$
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J. Archibald

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164122

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164122.001.0001

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date: 22 September 2017

The Paragon of Animals

The Paragon of Animals

Chapter:
(p.200) Chapter Eight The Paragon of Animals
Source:
Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's Tree
Author(s):

J. David Archibald

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231164122.003.0008

This chapter examines how perceptions of our place in nature evolved over time as we discovered and attempted to understand the vast living and nonliving world that surrounds and defines us. How the vast majority of people view humans' place in nature, even when accepting that evolution occurred, can be summed up by a quotation in William Shakespeare's Hamlet: “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!” This chapter looks back at the earliest tree-like attempts to visualize supposed racial differences as well as the ancestry of all living humans and proceeds by discussing Charles Darwin's evolutionary trees and the question of when humans departed Africa as well as its implication for the meaning of the human race. It concludes that evolution has not produced a clearcut phylogeny of humans or any group of plants or animals that would result in a neatly branching family tree.

Keywords:   nature, humans, evolution, animals, ancestry, Charles Darwin, evolutionary trees, Africa, human race, phylogeny

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