By C. U. M. Smith (auth.)
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Extra resources for The Problem of Life: An Essay in the Origins of Biological Thought
Some support for this view may be found in the profound and fascinating book (3) in which de Santillana and von Dechend suggest that perhaps millennia before the birth of science in Magna Graecia astronomical and hence, by implication, mathematical knowledge had developed to a very high level. Similar suggestions have been made by students of mesolithic stone circles such as Stonehenge. Could it be, then, that far from being fossilised remnants of the 'mainstream' from which the classical civilisations of the Mediterranean originated, contemporary primitives are in fact untypical, adapted only to fit unimportant ecological niches?
It is evolutionary both in the original and in the more modern sense of the term evolutio. It can be seen as an unfolding, as a florescence; it can also be seen as a process actuated by selective forces operating on random change. That biologists saw their subject differently in the past cannot, however, be denied. Indeed in the following pages the outlines of perhaps four different biologies can be dimly discerned. These might be designated Aristotelian, Cartesian, Goethean and modern. Unlike the cases of physics and astronomy there is no very sharp line of demarcation between them.
In The Golden Bough Sir James Frazer has collected a great mass of detlliled observations relating to this primal world-view. From this extensive fieldwork he believed that two sets of regularities-two laws-might be distilled. These serve the primitive much as Newton's laws serve the modern. Frazer named the first of these laws the law of similarity (6) and the second the law of contagion. According to the first like causes like, an effect resembles its cause-'fat pigs', for example, 'are driven by a fat steward', or a wife stumbling over a household box may cause her distant husband to stumble in front of his foe.
The Problem of Life: An Essay in the Origins of Biological Thought by C. U. M. Smith (auth.)