Adventures in Ethics and Science

Robert Fludd, “The Great Chain of Being”, 1617

Maybe you’re familiar with the classical notion of the “great chain of being”, the hierarchical relationship between all the stuff in the universe. It was meant to show the connections between animals (including humans), vegetables, minerals, and the stuff out beyond the Earth, including angels and God.

Younger offspring felt (and I can’t help but agree) that it was time for an update.

First, all the stuff in the universe? That’s probably too much stuff to be organizing into one system — at least if the system is going to be useful, memorable, and (most importantly) the kind of thing you can draw in one sitting between nature walk and snack time.

Second, hierarchies are so first and second millenium. The reality that presents itself to our senses has more loose affiliations.

Finally, putting humans at the center of things seems kind of self-centered, especially given that most animalia couldn’t care less about us (unless they’re feeling peckish). Still, using a close relative to suggest the involvement of humans in the animal kingdom’s get together seems OK.

Here, then, is Younger offspring’s picture of beings unchained:


  1. #1 Dlanod
    August 18, 2006

    I really like the monkey on the skateboard with the pink purse.

  2. #2 gribley
    August 24, 2006

    Younger offspring would appear to be a big fan of Ed Emberley! Fantastic.

  3. #3 rat-terrier
    August 28, 2006

    I’ve always suspected that it was actually a frog-o-centric universe, with bats out on the periphery. My own little one holds that the moon is the key. As she informed me, with no prompting at all, “the moon made the sky”.

    Three weeks shy of her second birthday and she’s got a cosmology going.

    The chic little monkey on the skateboard is indeed darling — and fascinating. There are a heckuva lot of concepts wrapped up in that image.

  4. #4 Prup aka Jim Benton
    August 31, 2006

    A ‘frog-o-centric’ Universe? Bahh? The Universe is centered around CATS and those things that make their life pleasant, like people as adjuncts.

    (This post was ‘guest-posted’ by Kittenz, Sprout, Rumbles, and Captain Puddles.)

  5. #5 matt
    June 18, 2008

    A zoocentric universe it seems! Where are the plants?

  6. #6 Baba Wawa
    June 14, 2009

    I find it curious that it is a female, naked at that, which is to represent all of nature. Given that women were a vile, unclean, unholy subspecies. But historically speaking humans have always seen the female body as a metaphor for life, and the earth. Gaia, mother earth, the mother land.

    The animals should be more forgiving to the guys who made this- who obviously could not come up with a more original symbol. Plus, her right tit seems to be shooting off crazy lazor…

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