Look, I’m not here to tell you what to think. But you need to be grateful for science – all of it. Even the crazy stuff. Even for folks who could have sworn it was possible to turn iron into gold, and even for that time when a brilliant astronomer thought that there could be life on the sun. Because great leaps in human understanding are always surrounded by backward steps and dead ends. It has to be OK to fail. Spectacularly.
In this gallery we present to you the silliest of the silly scientific theories, some of which you’ll no doubt recognize because for whatever reason people refuse to give up on them. So remember, there are no dumb theories, just dumb reasons to keep believing in long-discredited theories.
Lambs That Grow Like Weeds – Literally
The ancient Greeks were the first to have the crazy idea that a lamb could grow right out of the ground, with a stem attached to its navel. Pliny the Elder later mentioned it, and Europeans picked up the idea again in the 14th century.
This is the exceedingly strange legend of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary.
Now, these folks were well aware of where lambs came from. They were baby sheep that came out of mommy sheep. Or a stork drops it off. Or whatever. But their story may have arisen out of the first Western accounts of cotton plants, which an ancient Greek by the name of Megasthenes found in India, referring to them as “trees on which wool grows.”
Then boom, people start thinking that lambs can grow out of the ground. Said Sir John Mandeville, a sort of 14th century travel writer, of India: “There grew there a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the ends of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungry.”
The allure of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary continued into the late 1700s, when it was still debated by botanists. Those being experts in plants.