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"St. Augustine and Biological Science"
Mary Emily Keenan
Osiris, 7, 1939, 588-608
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"As a Father of the Church we expect St. Augustine to abound in allusions to animate and inanimate nature. Ancient writers generally were given to the practice; Church Fathers were confirmed in it by the example and peculiar authority of the Scriptures. This mannerism is so pronounced in some patristic writers that their works make arid reading for most modern tempers and seem to be unprofitable reading for most purposes of inquiry. Augustine's allusions to the plant and animal kingdoms are not without interest, however, for the student of the history of science, for they present him with a mixture which is as significant as it is curious. He does not need to be told that Augustine was often uncritical in his acceptance of biological lore. What will surprise him is the restless curiosity, the frequent cautiousness, the readiness to doubt or to reject venerable authorities such as Pliny, the willingness to experiment, the application of the value of observation. This strange compound of acumen and gullibility could only have been produced by one of the first minds of the ancient western world rising by its own innate qualities above some of the limitations of a time when the laboratory was so long out of fashion. As Roger Bacon's Greek Grammar is one of the most striking bits of evidence of the greeklessness of so much of the medieval West, St. Augustine's biological allusiveness is probably the most striking illustration available of the state of biological science in his day." - author

Language: English

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