Loren Eiseley: How Death Became Natural
Loren Eiseley describes how the human quest for certainty has led to consider the death before life. Death was seen as an unnatural thing at the time, especially Christians believed that it was the “Fall from the Garden”(33). Then, Eiseley describes that the concept of death or extinction is a necessary precursor for an evolutionary theory. He justifies the Death’s becoming natural through the transition from deism to catastrophism. The displacement towards catastrophism is therefore shown as the explanation of the extinction of living forms and the reason why death became natural.
From Eighteenth century until toward the final decade of the century, people did not accept the idea that the species could be “utterly extinguished”(42). Deism was certainly the philosophy they believed to explain the extinction; They believed that God “immediately interposed his will in nature”(42) and “supernaturally intervened in mundane affairs”(42). However the first chapter, How the World became Natural, describes that the sense of divine intervention in Nature was being lost and instead the gradual and incessant action of natural forces were recognized in producing geological change. Likewise, catastrophism “persuaded man to accept both death and progressive change in the universe”(44). Instead of the conception that all the “major structural plans existed in the mind of God”(46), people started to observe the patterns of life, “the divine blueprints, persisted from one age to another”(48). “Life was a historic progression in which the past died totally”(49). Sir Charles Lyell says that the reason why it is inevitable for some species to suffer a reduction in numbers and to be replaced by others, and thus the life is a long course of geological change by natural forces is that “every living creature competed for living space and that every change of season, every shift of shore line, gave advantages to some forms of life...
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