Quote of the week

Quotations and sayings with an environmental theme

Aristotle wasn't just a philosopher; he looked at every area of ethics and knowledge, and he was a keen scientific naturalist. He learned from country people, but he was also one of the first people to test theories scientifically.

Of course, he didn't have time to test everything he heard (he was busy being the teacher of Alexander the Great, working in politics, etc) and some of the things he accepted seem very strange to us now. He knew that birds like the swallow and the redstart disappeared from Greece in winter, but he didn't know they went to warmer places further south. His theory was that swallows hibernated, and that redstarts turned into robins (which arrived in Greece at about the same time the redstarts disappeared).

He also had a famous misunderstanding about eels. Nobody had ever seen a baby eel, and nobody had been able to locate an eel's gonads. Aristotle accepted the theory that eels were produced by earthworms, or "just happened" in wet earth.

It was another 2,000 years before European scientists discovered the astonishing truth of bird migration to Africa, or solved the mystery of eel gonads (which are difficult to see) and eel reproduction in the Sargasso Sea.