Words from the achiever
“Charles Darwin formulated one of the most extraordinary ideas of the western mind, the idea of evolution by means of natural selection. Today, physicists are trying to develop an understanding of what they call the “grand unified theory,” something that would unify all aspects of the physical universe. We have spent billions of dollars sending telescopes into outer space, building radio telescopes, designing laboratory experiments to get down to things like the Z particle, and all of these things that happen in cloud chambers, and so on. And yet, Charles Darwin, because of his five-year experience on the Beagle, traveling around the world as a naturalist, designed an idea of evolutionary change, which is the grand unifying theory of biology. Today, even though biology is leaps and bounds beyond Darwin in 1859, when he published The Origin of Species, the basic core of biology, is natural selection.But Darwin was a very retiring person. He didn’t want to go out and defend his theory. He was being attacked by the church, and by other scientists. Huxley, one of his colleagues, really became the defender of his ideas. He wrote a book with a wonderful title, Man’s Place In Nature. Darwin removed humans from the center of the biological universe. He said that humans and human ancestors must have been susceptible to the same forces, the same winds and caprices of climatic change, evolutionary change, as any and all other living organisms. What Huxley tried to do in his book, was to put man in his place in the natural world. I thought this was a brilliant idea. It intrigued me to realize that the plants and animals and insects that I was studying and interested in were there for the same reasons that we were. The same process of evolutionary change that brought about the monarch butterfly, or the rabbits that I was observing in the neighborhood, was the process that brought us to where we are today.”
About the book
Darwin’s first enunciation of the theory of evolution by natural selection, based on his first-hand observations of the breathtaking variety of plant and animal life he encountered in the Galapagos Islands.