The Chicken or the Egg

Open an introduction to genetics textbook, and you'll find a few preliminary pages on preformationist theory. The underlying message is: Look here, look how far we've come. Look at how silly early embryological theory was.

The fact of the matter is that preformationism made perfect sense at the time--and it was a theory that dominated the embryological landscape for well over 100 years. Ovism (the idea that preformed humans existed in eggs) is what made the most sense to early-modern philosophers. It would take Kant and Blumenbach's theories in the 1780s for theorists to be able to imagine the idea of something coming from nothing, that an organism can form from disorganized matter.

So here's the question: How will history judge us in a few hundred years? What do we know for sure, right now, that is destined for the joke books of the future?

Image: Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine

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