Aristotle on natural selection

As the teeth, for example, grow by necessity, the front ones sharp, adapted for dividing, and the grinders flat, and serviceable for masticating the food; since they were not made for the sake of this, but it was the result of accident. And in like manner as to the other parts in which there appears to exist an adaptation to an end. Wheresoever, therefore, all things together (that is, all the parts of one whole) happened like as if they were made for the sake of something, these were preserved, having been appropriately constituted by an internal spontaneity; and whatever things were not thus constituted, perished, and still perish.

Arisotle, Physicae Auscultationes, as quoted in: An Historical Sketch of the Progress of Opinion on The Origin of Species; in: Darwin, C. (1909) The Origin of Species, Collier Press.


2 thoughts on “Aristotle on natural selection

  1. Very close to “survival of the fittest.” Darwin built upon his knowledge of domestic breeding, I wonder whether Aristotle had anything like that to provide a basic framework for him. Presumably they had already figured out outcrossing and how to make a bigger, stronger racehorse.

    • Great point Matt. To me the key thing is that Aristotle recognized that there was not necessarily any “designer” designing anything.

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