Early Evolutionary thought:
The Rise and Fall of the Classic Tradition
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Greek Materialist Philosophers
ca.: 600 - 400 B.C.

  1. Materialists - life arises from non-living matter
  2. Simple life forms give rise to more complex life forms
  3. Extinction of life forms that don't function properly
  4. Fossils are the remnants of extinct organisms

Classical Greek Philosophers
ca.: 400 B.C. to Early Christian Tradition

  1. Vitalists - life forms fundamentally different than non-living matter
  2. Essentialism - objects have ideal, eternal, unchanging "essence" (eidos)
  3. Scala Natura - unbroken "Great Chain of Being"

Important factors in the breakdown of the Classical (antievolutionary) Tradition
Renaissance to 18th Century

  1. Interest in the human body - art, anatomy, medicine, physiology - Renaissance Humanism.
  2. Taxonomy (first motivated by interest in medicines and agriculture)
    1. gaps occur in Scala Natura
    2. modification occurs within species
  3. Realities of fossils
    1. often not the remains of extant (living) forms
    2. found in unlikely locations (pleisiosaurs on mountain tops)
    3. occur in strata (layers)
      1. similar assemblages in different locations
      2. assemblages of simpler (older) organisms deeper than more complex (recent) organisms
  4. The age of the earth and Uniformitarianism - the observable, slow action of erosion, the slow rise and fall of ocean levels.