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Kendall Haven is an award-winning master storyteller and the author of many books for Libraries Unlimited and Teacher Idea Press. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly.

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Overview Renowned story teller, Kendall Haven brings his expertise as an oceanographer to the authorship of this third book in a four- book series intended for teachers to use with students in the upper elementary and middle school grades. Grades Average Review.

Write a Review. Related Searches. View Product. There are Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of. Jack Nisbet first told the story of British explorer David Thompson, who mapped the Columbia River, in his acclaimed book Sources of the River, which set the standard for research and narrative biography for the region.

Now Nisbet turns his Fun with Nature: A workbook of natural science. It's time to explore the basic parts of the Earth's surface with this fun beginner's It's time to explore the basic parts of the Earth's surface with this fun beginner's guide to rocks, soils, trees, and other natural resources.

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Glacier: A Natural History Guide. Author and naturalist David Rockwell explains the evolution of the park's geology from the erosion Author and naturalist David Rockwell explains the evolution of the park's geology from the erosion of Australian mountains more than a billion years ago to the glaciers that gave Glacier National Park its distinctive landscape. Today the comforting concept of antiquity as the cradle of our culture and starting point of progress has lost the unanimity it once enjoyed. If the Greeks are the oldest, then they are certainly the deadest of those "dead white males" that so trouble some of our contemporaries.

And yet, precisely because we cannot and should not remove ourselves from the continuity of our traditions, the faint and distant voices of the ancient Greeks may clarify our unstable and "postmodern" situation. The ancient world presents simpler models that may aid us to achieve a more comprehensive perspective on the late developments in our culture that bedevil us. The Greek heritage, as is well known, has worked its spell in at least three different cultural realms: in art, in poetry, and in the world shared by science and philosophy.

It is this last realm that I shall explore in this essay. I believe that the crisis of science, the crisis of "nature," and the crisis of tradition are interconnected. Traditionally, the story of ancient Greece has been a great hymn to the irresistible march of progress toward rationality and humanity from a state of brute primitiveness. The popular slogan has been "the momentous leap from ' mythos ' to ' logos '"—from fantastic tales about gods and the prehistorical past to a credible account of permanent nature, the foundation of civilization and of modern consciousness.

We are less secure today about the essence of this progress.

Wonders of Nature: Natural Phenomena in Science and Myth

Traditional praise of the pageant of Greek thought has been proved to be flawed on at least three counts:. Myth is no longer viewed as an inferior genre of primitive understanding, but as a central and persistent phenomenon in culture. This also means that the superiority of logos is becoming less clear. Take as an example the book on the "sacred disease" attributed to Hippocrates, a doctor of the fifth century B. This is a treatise on epilepsy which fervently advocates a "natural" explanation for this illness with vigorous polemics against older explanations of it as a "sacred disease" and against prescriptions for treating it with religious rituals.

Epilepsy, the author writes, is not at all "sacred" but "has its nature and its cause. But when Hippocrates goes on to set out his own diagnosis, which is that phlegm enters blood vessels and causes the convulsive attacks of epilepsy, we know that his conclusions are erroneous, indeed ridiculous. The consequences of treating a patient according to Hippocrates' theory would probably be worse than letting a witch doctor chant his formulas.

So where is the "progress," except for the arrogance of style? Hippocrates' rhetoric is contemporary with the political and judicial rhetoric that arose with Greek democracy; we see a different social context for medical diagnoses but we do not see the triumph of science. Another example from the same period is the assertion that the moon shines by light reflected from the sun. Based on observation, this belief flatly contradicts the Greek name Selene , the "shining torch" of night. One step further is the explanation of the moon's eclipses as produced by the shadow of the earth in the sky.

This proposition requires some exertion of imagination to understand the interrelation of what is below to what is above the horizon, the sun standing somewhere beneath, opposite the full moon in the sky. Both theses, reflection and eclipse, were discoveries of Anaxagoras, about B.

Note that the sun's eclipse is easier to understand, though it is a much rarer phenomenon: you can perceive clearly the moon covering the sun's face. The solar eclipse was described by Thales in the sixth century B. Let us note: these are discoveries of natural facts, explanations which are simply true, even if they were not accepted by everyone at the time, and some dissent persisted for centuries. Statements of this kind are independent of varying interests at the individual or communal level. Of course there were conflicts with traditional superstitions that an eclipse is a divinely-sent "sign" which has "meaning" for king and country.

One could disregard the discovery of Anaxagoras, as General Nikias did when he relied on the purported sign of the eclipse of 27 August B. More radical was the thesis that the earth is a globe. We do not know for certain who first proposed that the earth was spherical. Plato knew about it in the fourth century B.

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Eratosthenes, years after Aristotle, had the correct number; Columbus, following Ptolemy, used a smaller number for the earth's circumference, better suited to his optimism about completing his voyages. One proof for the sphericity of the earth came from the moon's eclipse: when the earth's shadow is seen in the eclipse it always appears circular, whether the full moon is high up in the sky or just at the horizon.

It would look different if the earth were a flat disk. But remember that for two thousand years this insight about the spherical earth could not be proved directly, nor put to any practical use. Ancient ships were not equipped to sail around the globe. Not until Magellan's ill-fated voyage beginning in did a ship circumnavigate the earth. Here again, a fact was established incontrovertibly and transmitted to future generations. Yet if Greek cosmologists agreed on the sphericity of the earth, they agreed also, with negligible exceptions, on the thesis that the earth stands still at the center of the universe.

Ptolemy collected physical evidence to support this assertion. It needed the new physics developed from Galileo to Newton to dispel those assertions and make the new fact of earth orbiting the sun a permanent reality. Yet even the erroneous theory about the earth at rest should be distinguished from the pronouncement that Earth is the Mother of men, or of gods and men, or of the local polis.

Myths like these have rhetorical and political purposes, not scientific ones; they exist principally to motivate patriotic war and heroic sacrifices. The Greeks did believe fundamentally in an independent and persistent reality that should be a subject of discourse. They created the very concept of "nature. The word was translated as natura by the Romans. By etymology, physis is a form of "being"—the verbal root is identical with the English "be. Growth occurs on its own, undisturbed, but according to a predetermined and repetitive course.

Physis is the opposite of "manipulation. There exists a basic department of reality which keeps to its course and which develops by its own laws, and which sustains the life we share. You may observe it with discretion, but you cannot influence it directly, though you can destroy it. And you can put its essentials into speech; you can give an account of it. You can show by logos what the facts of the matter are; Heraclitus writes, "[I am] distinguishing each thing according to physis and declaring how it is. The world of nature is represented in all phenomena which we have come to call biological, but also in the greater frame of the universe, all of which appears to exhibit some "order.

The contrasting concept was termed nomos by the Greeks, meaning "law" in the sense of "convention" or "custom. Such rules, nomoi , are dominant, though limited in scope. They account for the differences in language, customs, and character; to that extent, nomos approximates our concept of "culture. Nomos seemed necessary to them in order to counteract egoistic interests and the appetite for unlimited private profit, but one could argue that there were so many different variants of nomos that none were obligatory in general.

This point is graphically illustrated in the work of Herodotus, who is particuarly fascinated with the diversity of religious beliefs and practices. He approvingly hints at tendencies to find the divine spirit in physis , in the universe and its phenomena. Antiphon, a so-called sophist of the fifth century B. You can observe the necessities of what is organized by nature in all humans, as it is provided by the same faculties for all of them; and in this there is neither barbarian nor Greek discriminated among us: we all breathe into the air by mouth and nostrils, we laugh when we are glad in our mind, and we weep when we are feeling distress; and by hearing we accept the sounds, and through brightness we see with our eyesight; and we are active with our hands, and we walk with our feet.

The distinction between Greeks and barbarians had long been popular in Greek culture: We, the Greeks, are the center and zenith of humanity, amidst tribes who are incomprehensible and inferior.

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Antiphon cleverly inverts the claim: We Greeks are made barbarians by such "cultural" distinctions, in contrast to nature which determines what is necessary and universal. The necessities of nature are not to be discussed or negotiated; they constitute the fundamental and inescapable community of mankind.

I like even better a scene from Aristophanes' The Clouds , in which the comic protagonist Strepsiades, refined by the teachings of Socrates, is approached by his banker who wishes to collect interest from a loan; Strepsiades tells him, "Look [at the sea]: Do you have the impression that the sea is fuller now than before? But you claim that your money should increase more and more [every day].


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The discovery of "nature" in the fifth century B. Anaxagoras was asked, "What is the sense of human life? The Greek word for such a "look," a comprehensive, interested, yet disinterested look, is theoria. With slight changes of meaning, this word has remained another keyword in the wake of ancient Greek culture: "theory. At Olympia, for example, there are toiling athletes, there are businessmen making money, but there are also spectators who just enjoy the free look at what is going on.

A play of Euripides praised the happiness of those who manage "to see the unaging order kosmos of immortal physis "; such people will rise above disreputable mercenary considerations. In the Nicomachean Ethics , Aristotle, too, rated a "theoretical life" the most perfect form of human existence.