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Power point spontaneous generation

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  • 1. Spontaneous Generation Life Enters Stage Left By Peter G. History 4UU3
  • 2. • Ancient Greek mythology readily accepted spontaneous generation. • “Spartan” means “sprouted men” and they were originally generated by the planting of a dragon’s teeth in the earth. • Greek myth saw less distinction between current concepts of animate and inanimate.
  • 3. Guess Who... • Like so much of intellectual thought, Aristotle dominated the concept of spontaneous generation until the Enlightenment. • His endorsement of spontaneous generation lent much credit to the theory.
  • 4. Follow the Leader • Saints Aquinas and Augustine incorporated Aristotle’s concept of “spirit” imprinting a form and soul onto the subject-matter. • Spontaneous Generation was Christianized, as God was responsible for arranging all of the necessary conditions and materials
  • 5. Let’s Eat Before the Pope finds out! • Clergymen in England, Ireland, and Scotland argued that the “barnacle goose” spontaneously generated • As a result, they could eat the bird even during Lent, as it did not come from the flesh • Pope Innocent III issued a papal bull in 1215 prohibiting such a practice, arguing that the geese functioned just like any other bird.
  • 6. Longevity • Spontaneous generation was still accepted by some prominent people as late as the seventeenth century • The physician J.B. van Helmont claimed he had spontaneously generated mice by leaving sweaty underwear and some wheat in a container for twenty-one days
  • 7. Enter Challengers • The days of an unchallenged theory of spontaneous generation came to an end with the Enlightenment. • Francesco Redi, 17th century – meat will not generate maggots • Lazzaro Spallanzani – 18th century – broth will not generate life – Not believed because others repeated the experiment with opposite results – problem of standardizing experiments.
  • 8. Enter Pasteur, Exit SG • Pasteur, in 1859 conducted similar experiments to those of Spallanzani, however under a different context: a competition. • The French Académie des Sciences held a contest, as such, Pasteur’s results were verified by the Académie and this is widely regarded as the death of spontaneous generation.
  • 9. Life Only From Life • The very same year Pasteur attacked spontaneous generation, Darwin published On the Origin of Species. • Evolution seemingly entails that spontaneous generation had to have occurred at some point in history, however Pasteur’s experiments were accepted more immediately than Darwin’s theory.
  • 10. Life from...half life? • The Russian scientist Aleksandr Oparin suggested a gradual emergence of life from simpler organic compounds. • He theorized that these compounds could much more easily have formed in an early- Earth atmosphere. • For Oparin, natural selection began with these organic molecules.
  • 11. Honey, I Shrunk the Evidence • A progression can be seen, from larger to smaller, of the subjects of spontaneous generation • Spartans (Greeks), Geese (clergymen), maggots (Spallanzani), bacteria (Pasteur), organic compounds (Oparin’s primordial soup) • This requires the use of ever more sophisticated technology (technoscience).
  • 12. Spectre of SG • Stanley Miller, in 1953, synthesize amino acids in an artificially constructed old-Earth atmosphere. Lends support to Oparin. • Spontaneous generation revived, less than one hundred years after Pasteur’s refutation. • However, the question has changed...
  • 13. Redefining the Problem • Original question: How do living things spontaneously generate? • Next step: What living things spontaneously generate? • New enquiry: What is Life? Oparin suggests SG of organic compounds (eg. Watson and Crick’s DNA molecule). Is DNA alive? The question migrates.
  • 14. Decision Makers • Who decides “what is life?” • The scientists are working on this problem currently, is anyone else? • Should the scientists be the only ones allowed to input on this discussion, can they be trusted (them with their numbers and measurements)?
  • 15. Enter Latour (Exit Simplicity and the Audience) • This is precisely the question Latour is asking, “Who will input to the discussion? Who should?” • Answer 1) the Scientists • Answer 2) Everyone
  • 16. The Division • Science, which speaks for Nature, tends to silence discussion, not permitting other interested parties from speaking, like the parties that have Society as their subject matter, instead of Nature. • Latour believes Nature and Society have separated too extremely to deal with certain (complex) issues: these are called ‘hybrids.’
  • 17. Is SG a Hybrid? • The spontaneous generation debate has evolved to the larger question of the definition of life – this seems to be a prime candidate for a hybrid. • If any question deserves democratic input from all interested parties (i.e. all parties who have a stake in the definition of life) it is this one, “What is life?”
  • 18. New History? • For what it’s worth...

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