|Simon & Schuster
the most extraordinary scientific legacy of Charles Darwin's
vision of life? Chance variation, juxtaposed by its primary motif
selection. A marvellously simple and elegant tale of how organisms
are created and extinguished.
tells this fascinating story in terms of an equally phenomenal
and beautiful voyage of their genes—which is one cogent
reason why the organism vanished from Darwin's biology as
the fundamental unit of life. The most basic and important component
of life in the scientific idiom is the gene.
Though Darwin did not foresee how this story of stories would
unfold, our very geno-centric biology is a perfectly logical
of the way Darwin chose to describe evolution in terms of inheritance,
random variation, and natural selection, including the survival
of adapted species. In this sense alone, Darwin was ahead of
his time. No routine experimenter, he researched with an eye
justification. He was his own compass. There was no error
in his induction.
to an age that had discovered historical explanations and was
becoming preoccupied with change. And, it goes to his
credit, notwithstanding his prosilient credo that there was nothing
biology, Darwin accepted that nothing was inevitable in science,
even a science informed by interlocking levels of meaning and
as may be the case with all scientific discoveries, Darwin's
foremost critics contend that the great man based his arguments
continuity, random studies, a kind of inertia, and resistance
to change. This is unfair both to Darwin and his monumental
Science, after all, is verified or verifiable knowledge, produced
by conception of precepts, induction of deducts. For scientific
imagination, not many percepts are needed. One never wrote a eulogy
on Don Bradman just by looking at the words in the lexicon. This
paradigm holds good for Darwinism, too. In our modern age of technology
and scientific advance, it would only be folly to miss the woods
for the trees.
Many of Darwin's critics hold a profound belief that Darwin,
towards the end of his long innings, had metaphysical leanings.
Darwin had reasons to keep his powder dry. Metaphysics has a
definitive impression on almost everything in life. Even Jungian
in spite of being completely scientific, has had some predilection
for metaphysics. So had Darwin's psyche. Darwin was so plagued
with ill health and personal tragedies, that he was doubtless
not averse to seeking solace in perceptual thought that presupposes
the attainment of higher levels of consciousness.
A Life in Science, authors Michael White and John
Gribbin lucidly explain the enormous impact of his thinking on
as natural selection, evolution and genetics. In so doing,
the duo brings readers up-to-date with how Darwinism has moulded
modern scientific thought.
privileged upbringing, Darwin was a humanist. He was also ambivalent;
he had very little self-confidence. But,
he had, as White and Gribbin put it, more than just genius to
apply to science. Darwin was also a superb writer in the great
Victorian tradition. He loved literature. Fastidious to a fault,
he constantly rewrote
his books, even at the proof stage, driving printers and publishers
to distraction with his last-minute changes. His was a clear
voice. He talked to the reader in a straightforward manner. Darwin
indeed, the first-ever scientist to take his art into the minds
and hearts of the common man.
After all, how many of the original publications
describing a revolution in science can be recommended as a
good read for non-scientists? And,
the writings of the quantum pioneers are not something you
would take to while away a train journey. There is only one
Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
special about Darwin that makes him eternally fascinating. Darwin: A Life in Science is a revelation
of that vision—a temporal biography that gives new meaning to
man's life and, in turn, to our own.
a Mumbai-based writer-editor. Visit him at www.wordoscope.com.