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By Newman L. (ed.)

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Alexander encouraged respect for alien cultures and the open-minded pursuit of knowledge. According to tradition—and it does not much matter whether it really happened—he descended beneath the Red Sea in the world’s first diving bell. He encouraged his generals and soldiers to marry Persian and Indian women. He respected the gods of other nations. He collected exotic lifeforms, including an elephant for Aristotle, his teacher. His city was constructed on a lavish scale, to be the world center of commerce, culture and learning.

The essence of artificial selection—for a Heike crab, a dog, a cow or an ear of corn—is this: Many physical and behavioral traits of plants and animals are inherited. They breed true. Humans, for whatever reason, encourage the reproduction of some varieties and discourage the reproduction of others. The variety selected for preferentially reproduces; it eventually becomes abundant; the variety selected against becomes rare and perhaps extinct. But if humans can make new varieties of plants and animals, must not nature do so also?

His city was constructed on a lavish scale, to be the world center of commerce, culture and learning. It was graced with broad avenues thirty meters wide, elegant architecture and statuary, Alexander’s monumental tomb, and an enormous lighthouse, the Pharos, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But the greatest marvel of Alexandria was the library and its associated museum (literally, an institution devoted to the specialties of the Nine Muses). Of that legendary library, the most that survives today is a dank and forgotten cellar of the Serapeum, the library annex, once a temple and later reconsecrated to knowledge.

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