By Peter Bowler
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Extra info for The Fontana History of the Environmental Sciences
The vast increase in the knowledge of geology and paleontology that made modern theories of the origin of the earth and its inhabitants possible would not have occurred without the incentive provided by the desire to exploit the earth's natural resources. And the new sciences that so obviously challenged the Genesis story of creation were seized upon by the emerging commercial and professional classes to argue that social progress was merely a continuation of natural evolution - the movement known as 'social Darwinism'.
In fact, the transition from natural history to biology and geology was a complex process, and some areas have remained largely untouched by explanatory schemes such as the theory of evolution. The entomologist who specializes in the description and classification of insect species may still find little of value in modern evolutionism. Yet 'mere' classification is itself a theoretical process, and, although our attention will naturally be drawn to the creation of the great explanatory theories, we cannot afford to ignore the continued efforts of those whose primary aim is classification.
Se which accept a universe extending over vast periods of time, have preferred a cyclic model of history in which everything is re-created over and over again. Irreversible change was seen as a frightening prospect. The cyclic model does appear in western thought, but only as a stimulus that has forced the advocates of the developmental viewpoint to extend their timescale. Once again, it turns out that the Judeo-Christian foundations of western culture have played a role in creating the frame work within which modern science interprets the world.
The Fontana History of the Environmental Sciences by Peter Bowler