He was born in in Basra, the second biggest city in Iraq. Even though his family was very poor, it did not stop Al-Jahiz of seeking knowledge and attending lectures on different topics like Arabic poetry, philology and lexicography. Although the Book of Animals consists of a wide range of subjects, the great amount of scientific information given is of great value. Al-Jahiz introduces the concept of biological evolution in this book.
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He was born in in Basra, the second biggest city in Iraq. Even though his family was very poor, it did not stop Al-Jahiz of seeking knowledge and attending lectures on different topics like Arabic poetry, philology and lexicography. Although the Book of Animals consists of a wide range of subjects, the great amount of scientific information given is of great value.
Al-Jahiz introduces the concept of biological evolution in this book. After observing animals and insects, al-Jahiz came to the conclusion that there must be some mechanisms which have influence on the evolution of animals, and this years before Darwin did.
Al-Jahiz writes about three main mechanisms; the struggle for existence, the transformation of species into each other, and the environmental factors. It was clear to him that there is always one species stronger than the other, and that in order to survive, species had to develop new characteristics. These new characteristics helped species to adapt to environmental conditions and created new species. Although the mechanisms are scientific, Al-Jahiz added a spiritual aspect to it.
It eats some other inferior animals, like small animals and small birds…it hides its babies in disguised underground tunnels for protecting them and himself against the attack of the snakes and of the birds. Snakes like eating rats very much. As for the snakes, they defend themselves from the danger of the beavers and hyenas; which are more powerful than themselves.
The hyena can frighten the fox, and the latter frightens all the animals which are inferior to it. This is the law that some existences are the food for others…All small animals eat smaller ones; and all big animals cannot eat bigger ones. The Book of Misers, for example is also very popular. It is a social, literary and historical encyclopedia. They are all written in a language very accessible for the common person.
He sometimes added funny anecdotes and amusing comments in his scientific works. It is not clear how he died, but there is no doubt that his works were and still are indeed revolutionary.
The Father of the Theory of Evolution: Al-Jahiz and His Book of Animals
Edit The Kitab al-Hayawan is an encyclopedia of seven volumes of anecdotes , poetic descriptions and proverbs describing over varieties of animals. It is considered as the most important work of al-Jahiz. In the Book of Animals, al-Jahiz first speculated on the influence of the environment on animals and developed an early theory of evolution. Al-Jahiz considered the effects of the environment on the likelihood of an animal to survive, and first described the struggle for existence , an ancestor of natural selection. He used his theories on natural selection and environmental determinism to explain the origins of different human skin colors , particularly black skin , which he believed to be the result of the environment.