Griechische Philosophen über die Evolution der Arten
And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another generation, the fifth, of men who are upon the bounteous earth. Hesiod,
While some say that evolution theory fails to describe many phenomena we should not forget that only 50 years have passed since the DNA structure has been discovered and that there is an evolution of science and evolution theory!
About 2500 years ago, Anaximander said that life originated in water and that simple forms preceded complex forms. Democritus thought that the simplest forms of life arose from a kind of primordial ooze [Carl Sagan, Cosmos ].
Was Darwin really the first person who had the idea about the evolution of species? The French astronomer and mathematician Pierre de Maupertuis (1698-1759) writes: “Chance one might say, turned out a vast number of individuals; a small proportion of these were organized in such a manner that the animals organs could satisfy their needs. A much greater number showed neither adaptation nor order; These last have all perished -- thus the species which we see today are but a small part of all those that a blind destiny has produced." Essaie de Cosmologie
But much more earlier we have the following comments by Aristotle about Empedocles (c. 450 BC, who lived at about the same time as Democritus): Empedocles says that the greater part of the members of animals were generated by chance... Why then should it not be the same with the parts in nature, e.g. that our teeth should come up of necessity-the front teeth sharp, fitted for tearing, the molars broad and useful for grinding down the food-since they did not arise for this end, but it was merely a coincident result; and so with all other parts in which we suppose that there is purpose? Wherever then all the parts came about just what they would have been if they had come be for an end, such things survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way; whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to perish, as Empedocles says his ‘man-faced ox-progeny’ did. Aristotle, Physics II.8
Empedocles also believed on life forms that previously existed on the Earth, but many races of beings “must have been unable to beget and continue their kind. For in the case of every species that exists, either craft or courage or speed has from the beginning of its existence protected and preserved it.” These comments raises the question whether also Aristotle's theory that Greek men had more teeth than Greek women is actually true. It is said that he argued vehemently that this was so, but never experimented the hypothesis.
Aristotle did not believe in evolution. Aristotle argued that the world was eternal, and that it will always be the same; that one generation of men has always produced another, without ever having had a beginning that could be determined by our intellect. In this, his teaching, clashed with that of Plato, who taught that "there was a time when mankind did not perpetuate itself"; but in spirit both doctrines agreed, as Plato adds immediately: "This was followed by the earthly human race, in which the primitive history was gradually forgotten and man sank deeper and deeper"; and Aristotle says: "If there has been a first man he must have been born without father or mother -- which is repugnant to nature. For there could not have been a first egg to give a beginning to birds, or there should have been a first bird which gave a beginning to eggs; for a bird comes from an egg."
Aristotle arranged the living forms on a scale of increasing complexity, the so called scala naturae i.e. scale of nature that was complete not allowing mobility along this ladder of life.
And Plato? He does not believe in a “probabilistic” evolution. In Timaeus, which could be a part of the Bible, he says:
Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of generation. He was good, and the good can never have any jealousy of anything. And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should be as like himself as they could be. This is in the truest sense the origin of creation and of the world, as we shall do well in believing on the testimony of wise men: God desired that all things should be good and nothing bad, so far as this was attainable. Wherefore also finding the whole visible sphere not at rest, but moving in an irregular and disorderly fashion, out of disorder he brought order, considering that this was in every way better than the other. Now the deeds of the best could never be or have been other than the fairest; and the creator, reflecting on the things which are by nature visible, found that no unintelligent creature taken as a whole was fairer than the intelligent taken as a whole; and that intelligence could not be present in anything which was devoid of soul. For which reason, when he was framing the universe, he put intelligence in soul, and soul in body, that he might be the creator of a work which was by nature fairest and best. Wherefore, using the language of probability, we may say that the world became a living creature truly endowed with soul and intelligence by the providence of God.
Another supporter of the evolution theory was Epicurus who actually believed that life was not formed only on Earth but also other planets (worlds) have specific form of animals and plants:
And further, we must not suppose that the worlds have necessarily one and the same shape. For nobody can prove that in one sort of world there might not be contained, whereas in another sort of world there could not possibly be, the seeds out of which animals and plants arise and all the rest of the things we see.
Again, we must suppose that nature too has been taught and forced to learn many various lessons by the facts themselves, that reason subsequently develops what it has thus received and makes fresh discoveries, among some tribes more quickly, among others more slowly, the progress thus made being at certain times and seasons greater, at others less.
About the lack of experimentation by Aristotle and the Greeks I enjoyed reading this in How Francis Crick, discoverer of the structure of DNA, must be enjoying himself in the Underworld! He had so much in common with the early Greek philosophers
Likewise, in discovering the structure of DNA, Crick and Watson decided that experimentation was a waste of time, claimed to 'ignore data, which complicates life', and instead used the power of pure reason to construct a physical model demonstrating how DNA worked. (See more in Ancient and Modern )
Of course today we know that evolution is more complex than maybe Darwin imagined. There are periods of rapid change, periods with almost no visible evolution, animals prehistoric still existing such as the coelacanth. There is no reason why evolution should be smooth as there are many control parameters and unexpected events. The most important fact is that there is an evolution from the simple to the complex and more advanced.
Strange Animals The Crocodilopardalis or “Crocodile Leopard”
Ancient and Modern Science: Some Observations
Medieval Science: The Great Chain of Being
The development of science after the Greeks and the Romans (who did not significantly advance Greek speculations about nature) is a long and complex story, which we can only quickly and inadequately summarize here. Generally speaking, early Christianity in the first ten centuries had little interest in anything we might call science. The Greek inheritance had largely been lost (in Western Europe), the organized centres of education had been closed, and the emphasis in early Christianity on the supreme and exclusive authority of the word of God as revealed in the sacred writings (eventually codified in the Bible) offered no encouragement to rational speculations about the nature of the world. Everything one needed to know (or was able to know) was in the sacred text. Besides, this world was for many a distraction from the really important concern of life: preparing for the next world beyond death.
The Survival of the Fittest
Sculpture of Robert Ingersoll Aitken
Presentation Speech by F. Henschen, member of the Staff of Professors of the Royal Caroline Institute, on December 10, 1933 The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1933 for Thomas H Morgan
As long as human beings have existed they will have observed children's resemblance to their parents, the resemblance or non-resemblance of brothers and sisters, and the appearance of characteristic qualities in certain families and races. They will also early have asked for an explanation of these circumstances, which has produced a kind of primitive theory of heredity chiefly on a speculative basis. This has been characteristic of the theories of heredity right up to our time, and as long as there existed no scientific analysis of the hereditary conditions, the mechanism of fertilization remained impenetrable mysticism.
Old Greek medicine and science took much interest in these questions. In Hippocrates, the father of the healing art, you can find a theory of heredity that probably can be traced back to primitive ideas. According to Hippocrates, inherited qualities, in some way or other, must have been transmitted to the new individual from different parts of the organisms of the father and the mother. Similar ideas of the transmission of qualities from parents to children are to be found in other Greek scientists, and, modified, also in Aristotle, the greatest biologist of the olden times.
Later on, this so-called transmission theory has been dominating. The only theory of heredity that has perhaps rivalled it, is the so-called preformation theory, an old scholastic idea that can be followed back to Augustine, the father of the Church. This theory maintained that, by the creation of the first woman, all following generations were also preformed in this first mother of ours. In modified form the preformation theory dominated the biology of the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, the transmission theory survived. Its last great representative was Darwin. He also seems to have understood heredity as a transmission of the personal qualities of the parents to the offspring through a kind of extract from the different organs of the body.
Did centaurs actually exist? - English article from Pravda
David Sedley, Lucretius and the New Empedocles; Leeds International Classical Studies 2.4 (2003) ISSN 1477-3643 (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/classics/lics/)
Adrienne Mayor ", The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times , Princeton University Press (October 1, 2001) ISBN: 0691089779