Home / Daryn Lehoux, Spontaneous Generation and the Contingency/Inevitability Question

 

Daryn Lehoux, Department of Classics, Queen’s University

In 1765, John Turberville Needham published a debate between himself and Lazzaro Spallanzani that depended, in part, on the question of whether living organisms could come into existence through the simple decomposition of organic matter (spontaneous generation). Spallanzani, who argued against spontaneous generation, is widely seen as having won the argument. But by recasting the Needham-Spallanzani debate as one about epigenesis versus protogenesis (all life was created by God in the beginning), an important new perspective is gained not only on the debate as it unfolded after 1765, but also on the broader philosophical question of contingency versus inevitability in successful science.

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