Darwin: The Most Revolutionary Scientist of All Time


150 years ago today, Chuck Darwin published his famous On the Origin of Species, so it's appropriate to dedicate today's entry to the brilliance and imaginative power of this radical intellectual. In the following thought-provoking lecture, Richard Dawkins persuasively argues that Darwin may very well deserve the title of most revolutionary scientist ever, even more so than Newton or Einstein. A bold claim indeed!

Ideas about evolution go all the way back to the Pre-Socratics in ancient Greece; the argument from design had already been refuted on logical grounds by the Scottish philosopher David Hume; and there may even be authentic claims of priority for the concept of natural selection by other naturalists. So what makes Darwin so damn special?

Dawkins argues that a proper understanding of evolution by natural selection requires the crossing of four intellectual bridges. With the exception of Alfred Russell Wallace, who managed to cross the first three bridges, even those who may have a legitimate claim to the priority of natural selection, failed to see through the power of the idea of natural selection and its implications. Darwin, the argument continues, was the first person to independently cross all four.

Even more impressively, he also came tantalizing close to crossing a fifth bridge that would not be properly understood until the development of population genetics in the 20th century: what is normally referred to by biologists as "the modern synthesis" of Darwinian evolution and Mendelian genetics. Dawkins refers to this paradigm shift as Digital Darwinism.



Click here to learn more about the power of the digital revolution.
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