Friday, March 27, 2009

My Aristotelian Garden


The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that certain animals grew not from sexual reproduction, but spontaneously from inorganic matter.

So with animals, some spring from parent animals according to their kind, whilst others grow spontaneously and not from kindred stock; and of these instances of spontaneous generation some come from putrefying earth or vegetable matter, as is the case with a number of insects, while others are spontaneously generated in the inside of animals out of the secretions of their several organs.

Barnacle geese were thought to form on driftwood, first as an amorphous blob, then forming beaks (which held onto the wood) and protective shells. Once they had formed feathers, they could break free from the wood. Apparently, this belief allowed early Christians to classify waterfowl as "fish" and allow them to be eaten during lent.

Other examples of spontaneous generation were flies (born from rotting meat), bookworms (generated by winds blowing on south-or west-facing libraries), and eels (which either sprung forth from earthworms, or created new eel-forming particles by scraping themselves against rocks.)

Frankly, I think there's a lot of charm in these early attempts at describing the natural world. And before we scoff at these ideas, I think we should consider how future astronomers or physicists might consider our current methods of describing the lesser-known regions of cosmos. Dark matter? Strange quarks? Sure, whatever.

In any case, I feel that I have mastered the science of spontaneous generation. I've taken coffee grounds, and kitchen waste, and sawdust, and I've created black delicious smelling earth. And lots and lots of tiny wriggling red earthworms.

The Grouch Marx hypothesis notwithstanding, everyone knows that earthworms are formed from banana peels!


Pockafwye said...

How odd... I dreamed last night about someone cultivating earthworms. It was very detailed... I was looking into this box of wiggling, vigorous worms with fascination.

Now, this morning, this was the first post on my RSS feed reader.

Anonymous said...

For years I tried to convince my boys that they sprang spontaneously from compost. It seemed easier than explaining what actually went on between Mom and Dad....


Anonymous said...

Wait... You mean I WASNT found in the compost?

Oh, geeze...

I occassionally find a variety of odd things in my compost, usually of the "Oh my, that looks like a...

1 Family of Mice,
2 Litter of kittens,
3 Groundhogs/Racoons/Moles/Voles/Rats/Snakes/Birds.

When living in Baltimore city I would do compost tea in a big 20 gallon construction bucket (covered). The best compost I ever got was from the elephant poop I got for free fom when the Ringling Brothers and Barnun Baily circus used to come to town. I never found any peanuts in the poop, though.

When I tried to make uncovered compost in the city, I once discovered a magnificant, obscenely large dead rat. I showed it to my local homeless guy who used to dig thru my trash, (to warn him) and we both agreed the rat would have won several prizes for large sized dead rodent catagory, had there been a contest of that sort in Baltimore.

Hey Lisa and Robb, remember Baltimore City's RAT FISHING contest? Peanut butter works best!


Tonya said...

I have red wrigglers, too. They are actually in my living room in a 15 gallon plastic bin hidden cleverly behind my oouch. I love saying "I'm going to feed my worms."


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