The macho sperm myth

23 Aug

Before science was able to shed light on human reproduction, most people thought new life arose through spontaneous generation from non-living matter. That changed a smidgen in the middle of the 17th century, when natural philosophers were able (barely) to see the female ovum, or egg, with the naked eye. They theorised that all life was spawned at the moment of divine creation; one person existed  inside the other within a woman’s eggs, like Russian nesting dolls. This view of reproduction, called preformation, suited the ruling class well. ‘By putting lineages inside each other,’ notes the Portuguese developmental biologist and writer Clara Pinto-Correia in The Ovary of Eve (1997), ‘preformation could function as a “politically correct” antidemocratic doctrine, implicitly legitimising the dynastic system – and of course, the leading natural philosophers of the Scientific Revolution certainly were not servants.’

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Posted by on August 23, 2018 in Reportages



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