By publishing one single book, Charles Darwin started a revolution, the one named after him. Even though he might not be the one who originally thought of this particular concept, however, by accumulating his thoughts and results in that book, he challenged the basic stereotype of the human origin. In doing so, he was also challenging very widely held beliefs in religion, science and other aspects of society.
Such has been the impact of the Darwinian Revolution that if you now ask somebody to think of evolution, that person might think of many things But definitely, one would be the very famous image depicting how man slowly and gradually evolved. The historical book was published in 1859, yet its impact can still be seen in 2016. This shows that all revolutions are not sudden. They take their own time to develop and integrate themselves within the society.
Another aspect which perhaps needs rethinking is that if Charles Darwin was not the first to think of ‘The Theory of Natural Selection’, should the revolution be named after him? There have been strong speculations that even 150 years before Charles Darwin, a lot of intellectual thought and debate had gone into The Theory of Natural Selection, including that of his own grandfather. Furthermore, many people claim that Alfred Russell Wallace is the forgotten hero behind the evolution of principle, further stressing that Darwin relied on Wallace for many of his findings. However, this revolution is Darwinian for a host of reasons. Firstly, he was one of the first to stand up against the Church and other religious authorities and claim that they are wrong. Moreover, if you look at the structure of the argument presented in ‘Origin of Species’, it is near flawless. Darwin brilliantly highlights the key principles and findings from his observations and acutely presents them in a systematic manner. One can wonder, had the book been structured differently, it might not have the same historical impact which it did.
Even though the Darwinian Revolution might not seem relevant as other revolutions, what perhaps makes him so popular is the fact that his subject arouses curiosity. It allows people to imagine what they might have been in the past, and what they imagine, fascinates them.
Humans have always been a curious species. If they observe something, they desperately seek answers to the ‘how’ and the ‘why’. Study of climate was also born this way. On October 11, Kerry Emanuel spoke to us about the various revolutions in the field of climate study, and how how these revolutions have shaped climate science as we know it. These revolutions include various feats by mankind like the discovery of the greenhouse effect to the determination of the causes of the ice ages.
Some people might be wondering that amidst some revolutions capable of overthrowing governments and changing major political landscapes, do revolutions in climate science actually have any major significance? Well, the answer is yes. For it will be a revolution in climate science itself which finally finds solution to the externalities of global warming. This brings me to my next point, the motivation to address these particular externalities. There has been ample evidence throughout history which suggests that the field of climate science has not always been given its due respect by people. The classic example would be the greenhouse effect. This particular phenomena appears to be something which was recently discovered. However, some argue that this effect was actually known since around 200 years, but nobody just cared about it. When it finally got to the point where the living conditions were in possibility of grave jeopardy, only then did the people wake from their slumber.
Yet, it is believed that the best of climate revolution is still to come. Analysts argue that series of technological developments would play a crucial role in the future. Chris Goodall, an expert in New Energy Technologies, in his book ‘The Switch’ touches upon various aspects of future climate revolutions. Now, the question arises, will we let that future in climate revolution happen? There are dangerous indications which might lead us to conclude with a ‘no’. For all his business acumen, it is widely known that President Elect Donald Trump has not always believed in the idea of climate change. His cabinet selections further seem to indicate that he might not bother about it during his tenure.
This is what needs to be different about a future climate revolution. It has to global. Not China’s, where living conditions are insufferable due to vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Not India’s, where smog envelopes even the capital city, Delhi. And not USA’s. The global community needs to come together and support the climate science community so that the revolution can happen. Otherwise, we are done for.
Throughout the semester, we have looked at revolutions from all kinds of perspectives. We have looked at historic events from the past, and wondered why they were distinctly defined ‘revolutions’. We looked at probable revolutions of the future, and how we need to prepare for them. We even defined revolutions through different aspects, ranging from a philosophical version to a sociological one. And, Professor Marcos Perez, in his lecture titled ‘On Being a Revolutionary’ on 6th December, nicely summed it up. Professor Perez attempted to explain what it actually means to be a part of a revolution, and how these revolutions can significantly alter the lives of those affected by it.
While discussing many aspects of a revolution, Professor Perez also discussed the constituents, or rather, the elements of a revolution. He stressed that conflict is an important part of a revolution, for it acts as a necessary catalyst which draws people’s inner desires to bring about a change. In explaining that, we were given the example of Soviet Union, where a genocidal revolution took place in the 20th Century. Through speeches and other forms of public propaganda, the opinions of the common masses were mobilised into perceiving the Kulaks (wealthy famers and peasants in the Soviet society) as the enemy of the society, the ones who were stopping their society from prospering.
Revolutions take place in all aspects of life. Finding another habitable planet in the future would be a revolution in science. And one thing is for certain, they will continue to happen. For people are never satisfied. We always want to see change. Yet, we all need to keep caution beside us in our journeys. Some revolutions will change the world for the better, while some may not. There fore, we need to carefully observe, critically evaluate and when the time is right, pounce on the opportunity.
On November 29th, I had the opportunity to listen to Keith Peterson, who discussed in length about Bruno Latour’s highly controversial philosophies, the major one being whether we have actually been revolutionary at all. Bruno Latour argues that we have never been revolutionary, asserting the fact that we actually have never been modern. While this is an interesting approach to defining revolutions, I believe that it is not comprehensive. Firstly, I think that it is highly subjective. How would person A define modernity? How would person B define modernity? Will they find any parallels?
Bruno Latour also finds faults in society’s current system of distinguishing everything between nature and society. He believes that this is something our ancestors never did. For instance, take a look at alchemy, or even astrology. To strengthen his argument, he identifies certain aspects where the distinction between nature and society simply becomes overwhelming. Think about ozone depletion. This is a classic case where nature, science, politics all converge. So, what about the distinction?
While I attempted to follow Bruno Latour’s line of thought in that span of one hour, I was left wondering about the arguments presented. The audience was presented with a whole lot of new concepts beforehand without any background context whatsoever, such as anti-modernism, postmodernism and others. His is a refreshing approach questioning how humans have differentiated between nature and society; however at times I was puzzled at his methodology. While I do approach philosophical subjects with curiosity, the technicality of the discussed sometimes got the better of me. So while I believe that Bruno Latour must have very strong reasons to suggest that we have never been revolutionary, I do not think he was successful in convincing me, which of course says nothing about his arguments.
Some of the most significant political revolutions took place in the late 18th and early 19th Century. The American Revolution in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789, which gave birth to democracy and outlined the idea of power amongst the common people. But Wait. We are still missing one major event. Its the Haiti Revolution, which took place in 1804. This event saw the rise of power of slaves to overthrow the colonial French rule and establish an independent empire of Haiti. If you probably never heard about the ‘Haiti Revolution’ until now, there is no need to be worried. You are not alone. Time and time again it has been overlooked by the western historians, simply because it was caused by the blacks.
Jeremy D. Popkin, in his lecture ‘New Perspectives on the Haitian Revolution’ discussed in detail about the Haiti Revolution, which took place in the ‘age of revolutions’. Amongst many things he discussed as to why Haiti Revolution is not talked about much. Possibly because, being caused by blacks, historians did not simply consider it a revolution. Maybe, for them, it was more like a black uprising. this also talks a lot about how racism in general has evolved over the years. By establishing an independent empire of Haiti, the black slaves had strived for liberty and independence. Yet they were not provided the glory of the American and the French revolution.
It is important that whole of mankind remembers the Haiti Revolution. For it is events like this which inspire people, encourage them to take on the world and bring about a change, a revolution.
The lecture by Judy Stone titled “The Unfinished Business of the Darwinian Revolution” was an eye-opening experience for me; for it made me realise that revolutions are underway all around me. Years down the line, our successors will credit this present time as an extremely important time in mankind’s history, not realising that revolutions are happening in their time too.
Judy Stone talked about one of those revolutions, one which had not reached its final evolutionary stage yet. The spark kindled by Charles Darwin had yet to enlighten the human mind wholly. The theories proposed by Darwin are now seldom unheard of around the world, yet this revolution faces a roadblock which needs to be dealt with for the revolution to remain relevant. This roadblock I talk about is the incomplete interpretation of evolution throughout the globe. The most profound example can be found in the iconic image of evolution itself, which shows the different stages of man during different times. This reinforces false typological thinking, considering Darwin implied evolution to be a branching process rather than ladder like. Moreover, evolution is never meant to be depicted as moving towards a goal, as the image does. Instead, evolution results from the process of natural selection, where all sorts of distinct variations within species function as the key ingredients for natural selection.
This brings me to my next point, that being our ability to ignore those variations within humans and place different people within different categories, never acknowledging the continuous genetic variations within our species. This has been enforced within the public mind most commonly through the ‘gene’ which has led people to use baseless assumptions to reach false conclusions, which can have trivial, irresponsible and even criminal impacts. One of those instances occurred where differentiating people through races led to creation of race-specific medicines. This is clear ill-usage of principles of evolutionary biology where medicinal growth is seriously being impacted.
Evolutionary biology has already impacted our lives in various ways, and shall continue to do so, provided we proceed in the right direction in the next step of this unfinished revolution. It seems that exploration of genomes and deep further research in personalised medicine seems the right way forward, but who knows, if we are evolving, who is to say that revolutions aren’t?
On April 10, 1815, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, Mount Tambora erupted vociferously. While it trembled, it shook the whole world along. However, two centuries later, the human race still fails to acknowledge its enormous impact properly.
The Tambora eruption didn’t just cause an “Year without a Summer”. It resulted in around three four years of disastrous climate changes around the whole world. All in all, its impact can be broken down into two wide categories. Firstly, the great inconvenience and suffering it caused in various corners of the world where relentless weather changes resulted in numerous deaths and starvation instances. Secondly, the rapid emergence in the field of climate study it brought where its occurrence had left many people curious.
The significance of the Tambora eruptions would have been overlooked if not for the keen eyes of many historians. They have been responsible for connecting the many dots pointing towards the Tambora eruption. While the regions nearest to Sumbawa experienced extreme heat due to lava gas clouds formed over time, people without proximity to Tambora had little idea that they also had to suffer. Their hardships are recounted in various literary forms and styles, are now just as important to historical study as they are to literature. The fact that Frankenstein was born out of Tambora can be considered a major breakthrough in our quest to fully understand the Tambora eruption.
I also say that the Tambora eruption led to wide improvement in climate study because while it caused parts of polar caps to melt, it encouraged the people that they can indeed study more about the polar caps. Thus, new scientific data accumulated in both material and non-material forms. One instance can be considered as the putting forth of the ‘Ice Age Theory’.
The argument that Tambora is revolutionary can be justified by observing the numerous lives it influenced, and still influences. However, there is an important lesson for the whole of humanity through its occurrence; Mankind does not have the right to play with nature. If it goes too far, it will pay. Remember, revolutions do occur.
After the conclusion of Professor Dan Cohen’s lecture, namely “How Revolutionary – and how scientific, was the Scientific Revolution” on September 13th, I frankly found myself overwhelmed with different perceptions and opinions flooding my own. This subject required further contemplation. In other words, some questions had to be answered. Before that, the right questions had to be found.
Mankind has come a long way since its inception. We have learnt to create peaceful (well, some) societies, created various forms of government, developed various complex languages and continuously broadened our horizons of knowledge of our universe (and beyond) through Science. Come to think of it, Science now somehow intuitively acts as verification of information, sort of a ‘last resort’ when human minds fail to determine something. Is the dress black and blue or white and gold? Can’t decide? Well, why not Science let deal with that!
Needless to say, humanity has taken giant leaps to reach where it stands today. Now the question arises, which of those ‘giant leaps’ would you consider a revolution? Maybe ALL of them? Our interpretation of the word ‘revolution’ needs to be further scrutinised before we proceed ahead. I consider something revolutionary when it majorly affects my lifestyle, my way of thinking and functioning of society. For once, the Oxford Dictionary agrees with me too. Therefore, logically we should have multiple scientific revolutions throughout our course of history. Why is the honour designated to only the period between the 16th Century and the early 18th Century?
It leads us to assume that something was different about this incredible phase. While humankind benefited wholesomely through the magnificent works of proprietors of critical thinking like Galileo, Isaac Newton, amongst many others, it was something else that was revolutionary. It was their approach. Through their constant efforts, society was finally learning to desert unexplained principles of philosophical beliefs for proven scientific facts. Everybody could finally realise the flaws present in traditional thinking, and thus were open to a more modern approach. Thus, in conclusion, the scientific findings and their roots in radicalisation of human thinking make the Scientific Revolution so revolutionary.