Something else about the Aristotle footnote troubled Darwin long after the fourth edition of Origin had found its way into the bookshops.
He could not see how anyone in ancient Greece, even the great philosopher, could have foreseen natural selection. There were no microscopes and so no way of studying single-celled organisms. There were no taxonomic theories to work with or against, so there was no way of understanding the various families of animals or the relationship between the plant and animal kingdoms. There were no systematic anatomical or dissection methods and no way of preserving body parts during examination. There were no studies of the effects of plague or population statistics. No libraries. Surely there were only superstition and sacrifice and vengeful gods and the relentless Greek sun turning everything black and fly-infested. How was it possible?
Excerpted from Darwin's Ghosts by Rebecca Stott. Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Stott. Excerpted by permission of Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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