So far in the continuing revolutions course we have heard a whole range of revolution stories from elements of the scientific revolutions, to environmental revolutions, and even social/artistic revolutions. All of the speakers have demonstrated how a revolution is no streamlined, cookie cutter event, but instead can embody an enormous range of social impacts, cultures, academics, communities, results, etc. Janet Brown’s lecture last Thursday (10/6) on Rethinking the Darwinian Revolution not only embodied an enormous amount of detail and interesting conclusions, but it also brought to light a few common threads that have run through all of the speakers we have heard from so far.
One of the points Janet Brown made in her lecture was that Darwin wasn’t the only evolutionary thinker of his time. Furthermore, what he proposed was the result of many different people’s help and work, and it wasn’t really a revolution when considering it with today’s science. Professor Cohen highlighted a similar question in his first lecture about how scientific/revolutionary was The Scientific Revolution. One example he used was how Aristotle’s work was a driving presence and influence in this revolution that acted as a base for other thinkers like Bacon, Descartes, and Galileo to build from. These scientists were all working in a very intertwined and interconnected way to almost one-up Aristotle’s presence. Gillen D’Arcy Wood concluded that certain social developments after the Tambora Eruption were influenced by the negative environmental effects that were spreading around the world. Would Mary Shelly have ever written Frankenstein if that bad summer weather hadn’t left bored high school and college students inside looking for something to do? Mr. Albaih also wasn’t alone in his work and standing up for the revolution he was a part of. He specifically mentioned how there were many others, even people he personally new, who also went to jail but for longer and even lost their lives for the cause. Do revolutions occur due to the efforts of one person? Or do they require the force of a number of people and thoughts standing together? The second seems more likely to me after considering the four different perspectives we have heard throughout this semester.
Another fairly common thread I noticed was how there is clear fear in starting a revolution or putting something out there that could have revolutionary effects whether you inevitably know thats what it will lead to or not. Janet Brown pointed out that it’s possible that Darwin delayed publishing his work and findings because he was scared or anxious about the repercussions that would follow. He knew that the church wouldn’t support or like his conclusions and that there would be a lot of anger directed towards him by interjecting theories that went completely against this institution. Professor Coen discussed similar concerns and setbacks in his lecture also on the scientific revolution about scientists would wait out of fear of the church and its repercussions as well. He gave us the example of how (I believe it was) Galileo waited until he was on his death bed to publish his model of the heliocentric system that contested the well-known geocentric model of this time. Furthermore, Mr. Albaih explained how he fears his life everyday and that it simply is a part and consideration for what he does
A lot of these individuals and events may not have known that what they were presenting or even considering was revolutionary, yet they all seemed to embody similar hurdles and things that came with the territory. While revolutions all look fairly different and can create an whole range of changes, there are several common themes that seem to run through the revolution stories we have heard so far. Revolutions may have very different outcomes and results, but it shows how despite how different they may look to someone they all have similar results and defining elements.