Monday, 12 March 2012

... moving randomly through space, like dust motes in a sunbeam, colliding, hooking together, forming complex structures, breaking apart again, in a ceaseless process of creation and destruction. There is no escape from this process. ... There is no master plan, no divine architect, no intelligent design.
All things, including the species to which you belong, have evolved over vast stretches of time. The evolution is random, though in the case of living organisms, it involves a principle of natural selection. That is, species that are suited to survive and to reproduce successfully, endure, at least for a time; those that are not so well suited, die off quickly. But nothing — from our own species, to the planet on which we live, to the sun that lights our day — lasts forever. Only the atoms are immortal ...

Lucretius wrote this more than 2,000 years ago, somehow his book managed to survive the fall of Rome, the burning, looting and desecration of the great libraries, a thousand years of cold storage in medieval monasteries where bookworms, censorship and erasures were common, so that at one point, maybe three — that's all, three — copies were in existence — and yet, says Stephen, On the Nature of Things emerged to become one of the most radical and talked about essays of the post-Renaissance, a favorite of Machiavelli, Montaigne, Sir Thomas More and Thomas Jefferson.

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