The Shoulders of Giants

The Shoulders of Giants

Don’t have anything too crazy for y’all today. Mostly because I procrastinated doing this for a while.

Classes, the gym and a homework assignment I’ve been putting off that’s due tomorrow took priority, I’m afraid.

Sorry about that, blog.

But I can do something about procrastinating another day. Today I wanted to talk really quickly about something that came to my attention the other day while doing a different assignment.

Lately I’ve been reading chunks of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” for my Evolution and Creation class. I actually mentioned it right at the beginning of my Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom pseudo-review yesterday, but we’ve been talking about natural selection and all of the details surrounding it for about two weeks now.

While reading the introduction to his arguably seminal work (which he calls an incomplete abstract in hilarious contrast to the fact that it’s nearly 500 pages), something very poignant struck me.

At one point, Darwin mentions a specific tenant of his theory: That creatures who have specific adaptations more beneficial than others will be more likely to live on and spread their genes, hence propagating that new adaptation.

Admittedly a bit distracted while reading through that part of the piece, I rolled my eyes and muttered, “well duh.”

Then I had to stop myself and reconsider my entire life.

Because I had just ‘well duh’d’ the man who literally invented the concept I was brushing off as obvious.

A concept which he only brought into popular consciousness less than 200 years ago.

Just starting to imagine that such a ubiquitous idea in modern science is so relatively recent is kind of mind-blowing. Schools teach Darwin’s ideas of natural selection and evolution as the first two paragraphs introducing a chapter in Biology 101.

The casual air with which we treat these, frankly, revolutionary and recent ideas is kind of stunning. It’s amazing how much one can take for granted that old tenant that we stand on the shoulders of giants with regards to the sciences…

But also with practically anything else on Earth today. Seriously, even things that we consider wholly modern like social media or 3D printing can see roots traced back to town criers in a pre-mass literate era and rudimentary use of electricity brought about by pioneers like Benjamin Franklin.

Honestly I think that’s the kind of mindset I’d like to hopefully instill in all of you with this quick post.

Even if you don’t agree that Darwin was a revolutionary figure (as I recognize that much of my reverence comes from a liberal-leaning Western education and an understanding of how hilarious the man was from reading his works directly), there are tons of things you use every day that you could think about in terms of which developments have become ubiquitous in making them a now casual idea.

So go on and think about all of the cool things you use that would be unthinkable just decades ago, and let me know what sort of interesting things come to your attention.


P.S. — When I say Darwin was hilarious, just know that in the portion of Darwin’s “The Voyage of the Beagle” that covers his trip to the Galápagos, he spends a page-and-a-half describing how he repeatedly threw the same iguana into the ocean to see how it would return.

That’s the kind of man I would party with.

4 thoughts on “The Shoulders of Giants

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