Conclusion The intermediary between man and other animals is the monkey.1 —Denis Diderot, Elements of Physiology (1774–1780) Eighteenth-century thought regarding the origin of man was a mosaic com- prised of diverse opinions, many brilliantly prescient, and as varied and col- orful as the naturalists and philosophes who held them. There were the Creationists, who held that all species left the hands of the Creator in perfect condition and that no new species have arisen since Creation (Buffon and Voltaire). There were also the atheist materialists, such as Maupertuis and Diderot, who embraced random creation propelled by the motive and con- scious properties of atoms. On the other hand, there were the panspermists, such as Maillet and La Mettrie, who held that preexistent seeds fertilized the earth, sky and sea. Finally, there was Rousseau, who posited anthropological (intraspecies) change, but not biological (interspecies) transformism. Rous- seau creatively applied Buffon’s theory of the physical degeneration of spe- cies to the dissolution of man’s morality; he borrowed many of Buffon’s observations regarding the physical bodies of creatures, and ingeniously fol- lowed a parallel route, applying them to hypothesize a psychic and moral dissolution that occurred during man’s anthropological (intraspecies) meta- morphosis from his natural state to his civilized. Maillet was stunningly prescient, for although he wrote c. 1700, he pro- posed measuring the rate of sea level decline to date the earth. Furthermore, his character, Telliamed, says that fish developed wings and fins that helped them to walk on the ocean floor...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.