Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘optimism maturity

This article approaches two points: First, the demonstration that scientists and scholars’ cooperation and prompt dissemination of colleagues’ works is the cornerstone for diffusion and development of new knowledge and inventions: This is the case of the intellectual climate of England in the 19th century, the period of Darwin analytical discovery. Second, the article will confront the misinterpretations and outright falsehoods heaped on Darwin and straighten out the correct positions of Darwin.

While France generated far more scientists, discovers, and inventors than England, the fact that England of the 19th century established sustained scientic institutions, in all fields of study, with mission of prompt dissemination, translation, and publications of scientific papers permitted England to become the hub of scientific progress in theory and application.

For example, Darwin frequently dispatched samples of what he gathered in his long trip, on his 5 years around the world, to the botanist professor Henslow in England.  These samples were promptly disseminated among the specialists in their fields for study; and monograms in geology, entemology, archeology, mineralogy, and natural sciences were written and conferences called at for discussing the findings.  Darwin was already well-known in England while far away on the Beagle.  

The preface of Darwin’s book “Voyage of a naturalist around the world” stated: “The manuscript contains a memoir of professor Owen on mammalian fossils, a memoir by Waterhouse on living mammals, a memoir by Gould on birds, a memoir of Jenyns on fishes, and a memoir by Bell on reptiles.  I added to the description of each species observations on its habits and habitats.   Doctor Hooker will present a description of the austral flora that I have dispatched from meridional America.  Professor Henslow published a list of plants that I gathered on the isles of Keeling, Berkeley describes my samples of cryptogamic plants….

In 1858, Darwin is ready to publish the results of 20 years of analysis when he receives the manuscript of Alfred Wallace “On the tendency of varieties to separate indefinitely of the original type”.  Wallace insists more on the ecological and climatic pressures on species selection and evolution.  Darwin does not deny the ecology factor but his main variable is based on sexual selection. 

In “Variation of animals and domestic plants” Darwin exposed his preliminary hypothesis: “Everything that nature made individuals acquire or lose under the influence of circumstances in which the race has been exposed for too long, and thus, under the influence of the usage of a predominant organ, this organ is conserved by later generations, given that the acquired changes are common characteristics to the two sexes.  This natural law of transmitting common traits to future generations has been observed in all species.”  This is what Darwin means by innate characteristics.

Many religious and political “scholars” started misinterpreting Darwin’s theory, consciously or for political advantages, a situation that forced Darwin to extend further clarifications, particularly on the evolution of mankind characteristics.  He wrote: “Man is distinguished from animals in the fact that his conscience replaces instinct, or that his instinct is a conscious one. As man advances in civilization and small tribes gather in larger communities, the simple reason advises an individual to extending his social instincts and empathy to all members of the community and to the nation, even though the member is personally unknown to him.  Once this stage in civilized life is reached, only artificial obstacles retains man from extending his sympathy to all men, regardless of race or color.”

On the issues of the inferiority of “savages” and female gender in the evolution process, Darwin had to clarify misunderstanding; he wrote: “Attached to the education of the kids and to a life less adventurous and less explorative than man, women had less opportunities to developing inventiveness and hardiness in their characters.  Women are nontheless the bearer of social instincts: they are formost in protecting, and defending the weaker members, common to the rescue and weaving social links; women are best in transmitting moral feelings.  Women as well as the colonized people are victims of society and not inferior by heritage.”

Darwin’s grand father, father, and elder brother were physicians; his dad wanted Charles to become also physician but Charles was interested in natural sciences; Charles’ father then relented and sent him to Cambridge to become an Anglican cleric.  Charles wrote: “I totally wasted my time these three years to learning theology”.

Charles  has three older sisters and one elder brother; he was 8 as his mother died.  His elder sister Susannah cares for his education.  “I was passionate for gathering all kinds of plants, insects, stones, stamps…and then classifying them and storing them in an orderly fashion. I was doomed to becoming either a systematic naturalist or an avaricious person.  It must have been an innate nature in me since no one in the family shared this passion for collecting things.”  Charles love fishing and hunting.

Charles’ brother Erasmus let him participate with him in chemistry experiments on their property lab. “This period in the lab was the best schooling I could receive:  I learned what is scientific experimentation” and Charles reads several treaties in Chemistry such as “Chemistry catechism” by Samuel Parker.

At Cambridge, Charles spends most of his time walking in the forest and collecting rare insects and the “British insects Illustrations” published his article.  Charles wrote: “Nothing is more magical than reading my name in the magazine saying “captured by C. Darwin, esq.”  Charles is assiduously being invited to Fridays’ gathering of scholars at professor Henslow’s who is a botanist and knowledgeable in the fields of geology, mineralogy, entomology, and chemistry.

In 1831, Charles accompanies the geologist Adam Sedgwick during his summer vacation exploring the geology of northern Galle of England.  He would later write: “When we examine for the first time a new region we feel dispaired by the chaoes of rocks.  As we start registering the stratification, or the nature of rocks and fossil in numerous locations, never stopping reflecting and predicting what we are going to find in the next location, then light grows little by little and the structure of of the whole region becomes intelligible.”

In 1829, Charles aspires to travel like Alexander Humboldt to Tenerife and Latin America that was freed by Simon Bolivar from Spanish colonialism in 1826; he talks about his project to Henslow.  This year, the French precursor to Darwin, Lamarck dies. Lamarck had exposed his theory that species evolve slowly and by ordinary generation and organic functions modified according to living conditions.  He claimed that all living species, animal and plants, are derived one from another, and extended the hypothesis that mankind is descendant of monkey.  Lamarck coined the name “biology”.  The other French colleague, Cuvier, stated that mankind is a “catastrophic creation” among this discontinuous series of species. The French Saint-Hilaire has also written : Species are formed of the same organic units and evolve slowly under the influence of the environment.

Charles has to finish another semester to getting diploma when Henslow finds him a place on a military navy the Beagle with mission to studying the cartography of Latin America.  The trip was for 2 years but it lasted 5 years. The 27.5 x 7.5 meters Beagle is crowded with 76 people  and lead by captain Fitz-Roy, who later will be appointed governor of New-Zealand.   Charles is 22 of age and embark on Nov. 27, 1831.  Fitz-Roy offers Charles a gift “Principles of Geology” by Charles Lyell.  

Lyell has postulated that earth is still slowly evolving and changing and current shapes and forms are the results of slow forces constantly acting on it.  The Beagle is carrying three men from the island of Fiji, on the southern tip of south America, to be returned:  Fitz-Roy had kidnapped them three years ago and were educated as Englishmen and the men expressed the wish to return to their island.

Charles has observed the treatments of slaves working in sugar canes in his travel and wrote: “I would not want to be a conservative Tory, those dry hearted people encouraging the worst Christian scandal: Slavery.  I have witnessed enough monstrosities in the disposition of colonial slavery to be totally disgusted by the lies and insane positions spoken about in England”.  Darwin is collecting snakes, lizards, birds, parrots, plants, stones, shelves…

The three men of Fiji are dropped on the island and the crew aid them build homes, and plow, and saw for survival and leave them tools.  Fritz-Roy is plagues with remorse and returns to check on them six months later, delaying the return of the Beagle.  Two of the men had left carrying all their belonging and a third was found with a woman, living in nature’s life-style. This observation will have an impact on Darwin’s theory on the evolution of mankind.

Darwin decided to categorize all his samples by himself for accuracy, and spent 20 years finding links among them.  In the meantime, Darwin would publish monograms on the batches he analyzed and described in details.  He wrote: “I had formulated a theory of evolution to work on, but I decided to spend time on further exhaustive analysis.”

He showed Lyle the manuscript of over 800 pages and the latter suggested to abridge and give recognition to Lamarck.  The published book is a thorough description of every collected specie in his samples and then the theory is expressed in a few paragraphs at the end. Darwin states his theory that acquired traits can be explained by an evolution taking into account the geographic isolation and the environmental climate of a specie.

Darwin wrote: “Last night, I reflected on the fact that there are far intelligent men who produce nothing original than the ones who discovers unknown realities.  I wondered if the art of discovery resides in the habit of searching for causes and their significance of what is generated.  This implies attentive observations and a deep knowledge of the subject matter.”

Karl Marx considered Darwin as an original communist and wrote to his disciple Ferdinand Lassale in Germany: “The work of Darwin offers a foundation, within the natural sciences, to the historic struggle among classes.  Darwin recognizes the division of work, the competition, the opening of new markets in the English society.” He sent Charles hi first volume of “Das Capital”.  Charles read the first 150 pages of the voluminous manuscript and replied: “I have no expertise in your line of study and cannot invest time on other fields of research.”

Thomas Huxley, a strong memebr within his powerful secert society, the “Athenee Club”, manages to have Darwin buried in Westminster Abbey in the greatest of pomp in 1882.  The autobiography of Darwin will be published 5 years later at his request.

I contend, in addition to Darwin’s findings, that a critical factor for survival is the acquired ability for “optimism maturity”.  A mature optimist has learned to discriminate among cases of life’s problems:  Problems with windows of opportunity to fight and resist for survival, versus problems that no actions can modify the course of events, thus, adopting a position of waiting for the storm to clear up while keeping focused on a window of opportunity to reacting decisively and vigorously.




September 2020

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