The Same and Different: Early Theories of Evolution
In the eighteenth century, evolution began to fill the gap left by vegetable souls. The first broadly evolutionary theories reimagined the ladder of nature, turning an eternal movement into a process in history. Thus, early theories were progressive and only roughly mechanical. Locke and Comte blazed a trail with reforms in epistemology, Buffon, Lamarck, and Erasmus Darwin experimented with progressive concepts of evolution. Four key developments set the groundwork for evolution by natural selection: a distinction between bodies and persons, a permissive view of mechanical explanations, a reintegration of vegetable and animal life, and an acceptance that species can change with time. Nutrition and reproduction remained the most important activities for understanding life.
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