Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Himalayan triumph of the human race

While reading Here Be Dragons, I saw a paragraph whose sentiment I agree with completely:
If an extraterrestrial were to land in my backyard and ask to be taken to the most significant achievement of the human race, I would very likely lead the alien not to the Louvre or to Giza or to London or Manhattan, but to my bookshelves, and I would hand him On the Origin of Species. So colossal in its significance, so sweeping in its explanatory power, so painstakingly erected upon countless empirical facts, On the Origin of Species stands as the Himalayan triumph of the human race.  But, unfortunately, the bright glare of Darwin's masterpiece tends to obscure the importance of Alfred Russel Wallace, who had independently discovered the theory of evolution but whose name, like Elisha Greay, the co-developer of the telephone, is ever consigned to foot-notes and parentheses.
I don't think I had heard of Wallace before my stroke. And, like Sherlock Holmes refers to Irene Adler as the woman in A Scandal In Bohemia, I refer to Darwin as the man. I came to know of an amusing incident regarding On the Origin of Species in this book review:
When he received the manuscript of The Origin of Species, John Murray, the publisher, sent it to a referee who suggested that Darwin should jettison all that evolution stuff and concentrate on pigeons.
I think too little importance is paid to evolution in the school syllabus. I had one chapter on evolution in Std. X and never heard of it again although I had Biology till Std. XII. I think evolution should be introduced much earlier and regularly referred to throughout the course. Otherwise biology is a collection of facts with nothing to tie them together. Evolution is not only to satisfy intellectual curiosity but also has practical applications.

PS: You had a welcome break for a couple of weeks because my mother-in-law had knee replacement surgeries so Jaya was mostly in the hospital and now has many additional responsibilities.

1 comment:

  1. Finally, a chance for me to claim cheap (actually, TRIVIAl, but the pun would be a really bad one) intellectual superiority - I knew of AR Wallace in my school days. Looking back, my guess is that I was a sucker for conspiracy theories (another bad pun) - oh, the world rewarded the wrong person - at a very young age.