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Creatures Born of Mud and Slime

, 192 pages

1 halftone

October 2017



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Creatures Born of Mud and Slime

The Wonder and Complexity of Spontaneous Generation


We accept that, at some point in the history of our universe, living creatures emerged from nonliving matter. Yet from the time of Aristotle until the late nineteenth century, many people believed in spontaneous generation, that living creatures sprang into existence from rotting material. As Daryn Lehoux explains in this fascinating book, spontaneous generation was perhaps the last stand of the ancient scientific worldview.

In Creatures Born of Mud and Slime, Lehoux shows that—far from being a superstitious, gullible, or simplistic belief—spontaneous generation was a sophisticated and painstakingly grounded fact that stood up to the best scientific testing. Starting with the ancient Greeks’ careful and detailed investigations into how animals are generated straight through to the early modern period, Lehoux brings to life the intellectual contexts, rivalries, observational evidence, and complex and fascinating theories that were used to understand and explain the phenomena.

The book highlights both the weirdness and the wonder that lie at the heart of investigations into nature. Lehoux concludes with a new look at a set of conflicting experiments that demonstrate that even the best scientific evidence can end up muddying what we take to be the truth about the world. Creatures Born of Mud and Slime is a compelling look at how we understand conceptions of scientific change, truth, and progress.

Daryn Lehoux is a professor of classics and philosophy at Queen’s University. He is the author of What Did the Romans Know? An Inquiry into Science and Worldmaking and Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World: Parapegmata and Related Texts in Classical and Near-Eastern Societies.

"A very well-written and well-researched book that grapples with the foundational questions of the history of Western philosophy."

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