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Darwin - Un-Aristotelian Exploration

Darwin - Un-Aristotelian Exploration

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Published by Christopher Brown
This shows how the pre-Socratic thinkers were much more intuitive/natural than Aristotle. Really, Aristotle may have standardized a way of theorizing and rational discourse that led to some good things, but the way he silenced all past thinkers, e.g. Anaxagoras, was quite rude. Were Aristotle never to have achieved the inordinate amount of fame that he did, Darwin would have lived much much earlier than he did (perhaps even in the BC's, and if he did, one wonders what one might call the BC's instead), or rather, evolution would have been discover, defined, and disseminated much earlier in history.
This shows how the pre-Socratic thinkers were much more intuitive/natural than Aristotle. Really, Aristotle may have standardized a way of theorizing and rational discourse that led to some good things, but the way he silenced all past thinkers, e.g. Anaxagoras, was quite rude. Were Aristotle never to have achieved the inordinate amount of fame that he did, Darwin would have lived much much earlier than he did (perhaps even in the BC's, and if he did, one wonders what one might call the BC's instead), or rather, evolution would have been discover, defined, and disseminated much earlier in history.

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Published by: Christopher Brown on Oct 20, 2008
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05/09/2014

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Christopher BrownDr. Marcy Brown MarsdenDarwin26 February 2008Charles Darwin’s Un-Aristotelian Archaeological ExplorationIn Chapter Seven of 
The Voyage of the Beagle
, Darwin travels through the Pampas of Brazil, intent on studying the abundance of fossils in the area and hypothesizing what creaturesstalked those wilds in millennia past. His labors are fruitful, his observations keen, his insightsenlightening, and his debt to Aristotle non-existent. Through what Darwin focuses on and whatfindings especially excite him, the reader can discern the immense differences between him and“the philosopher,” Aristotle (Birx 43). Their differences are numerous, as we will see in firstclosely examining this chapter, and then by comparing it to H. James Birx’s exploration of Aristotle’s ideas on the fossil record and changes in the world.Darwin begins by locating a river where past archeological finds have been made, such as“the case of a giant armadillo” (124), but discovers nothing of note in this riverbed besides atooth which has significance in a later chapter. Hearing of a site more profuse with bones,Darwin arrives at another location, but the bones are too decayed to excavate successfully. Henotes, though, his native guides’ theory on how the bones of the animal came to be so far underground (in this case they were revealed by a river cutting through the earth): they were sureit must have been a “burrowing animal” (124).Darwin is able, however, to draw more logical conclusions from his observations than hisguides’ theories:“[I] employed myself in examining the geology of the surrounding country, which was
 
Brown 2very interesting. We here see beds of sand, clay, and limestone, containing sea-shells andsharks' teeth, passing above into an indurated marl, and from that into the red clayey earthof the Pampas, with its calcareous concretions and the bones of terrestrial animals.” (126)He consequently deduces that:“This vertical section clearly tells us, of a large bay of pure salt-water, graduallyencroached on, and at last becoming the bed of a muddy estuary, into which floatingcarcasses swept.” (126)At this site he finds a large section of an ancient armadillo-like case, a mastodon's molar tooth,and a multitude of rotten bones that were "as soft as clay" (126).But more importantly, he happens on the tooth of a horse, and on the grounds of itsgeological position, concludes that a “horse […] lived as a contemporary with the various greatmonsters that formerly inhabited South America” (126). By juxtaposing this and a Mastodon'stooth, found in such close proximity, and condition, Darwin ponders thus:“No sensible difference in their state of decay could be perceived; they were both tender and partially stained red. If the horse did not coexist with the Toxodon, the tooth must bysome accident, not very easily understood, have been embedded within the last threecenturies, with the remains of those animals, which ages since perished, when the Pampaswas covered by the waters of the sea. Now, I may ask, will any one credit that two teethof nearly equal size, buried in the same substance close together, after a period of so vastan inequality, could exist in the same condition of decay? We must conclude otherwise.”(127)Darwin concludes that horses must have been contemporaneous with the Mastodons—horsessimilar enough to the horses that he was familiar with to have indistinguishable teeth.
 
Brown 3Even in locations far from South America, Darwin uses the presence of bones in distinct places to make judgments on the geological shifts that might account for the similarity of fossilrecord. He notes how the “remains of the elephant and of the ox have been found on the banks of the Anadir” near the American coast, and also on the opposite shores of the strait, and concludesthat the separation “of the Asiatic and American zoological provinces appears formerly to have been less perfect than at present” (128). But Darwin claims fossils of the mastodon found inSouth America are “much more remarkable” even than the evidence of cross-Siberian-Straits population, because the distance of the mastodons' Northern origin is farther than the distanceacross the strait (128). This supports the idea of continental shift and connectedness, arevolutionary concept for his time.That Darwin was convinced of a crucial link between biology and geology is apparent,especially in his belief that past geological shifts account for the line of division of species acrossmid-Mexico:“The geologist who believes in considerable oscillations of level in the crust of the globewithin recent periods, will not fear to speculate either on the elevation of the Mexican platform, as a cause of the distinction, or on the submergence of land in the West Indianseas, – a circumstance which is perhaps indicated by the zoology of those islands.” (131)The two, biology and geology, are irrevocably linked, and the each can be used to understandand imply things about the other.A “
 gran seco
” (devastating drought) had preceded Darwin in the area by only three years(134). On hearing firsthand accounts, Darwin considers that such droughts probably occurredregularly in the past. Floods followed the drought, in such force that the masses of skeletonsaccumulated by the drought were congregated by the thousands in lowlands. Darwin took the

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