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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny

Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny. I have no idea why I remember this phrase, which I learned as an undergraduate student 100 years ago. It's actually quite fun to say. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

What it means, in essence, is that the development of an embryo goes through all the same stages as its organism's evolutionary history.

I learned that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, not in evolutionary biology, where it seems to have been repudiated, but in a linguistics course. There, the theory states that the individual acquires language in roughly the same sequence in which the language originally developed. One echoes the other.

Which makes me think of cauliflower.


Every time I cut a head of cauliflower, I marvel at how each floret is a miniature version of the entire head.

It has a stem and a top and, if you cut the stem, you get smaller florets that also have a stem and a top.  And so on. And so forth. Whenever I cut a head of cauliflower, the words "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" echo in my head.

Then I think about Hashem and the amazing variety of fruits and vegetables He put into this world for us, with all their colors and smells and flavors and textures and sweetnesses and I feel happy.

Chodesh Tov.


mick jaron said...

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny; it’s been 50 years since I heard that expression, way back, when I began studies in geology. A zoologist by the name of Haekel introduced it in the late 19th century. Although Haekel’s theory was originally widely accepted by the scientific community, by the time I was an undergraduate it was well on its way to being repudiated. There is a lesson from this (actually more than one): because some learned scientist comes up with a theory, that doesn’t mean the theory will stand the test of time. This is very true, particularly when it comes to the theory of evolution.
On a different note: I like cauliflower. If you separate out some florets on to a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little olive oil, turmeric, cumin and garlic, and bake for about a half hour, you get some yummy results.

goyisherebbe said...

In this case, it's phytogeny.

Vernell said...

This is cool!