Author: Dana Getschow

We Have Always Been Revolutionary

Not only the western world, but the human race as a whole, has continued to be revolutionary from the start of time. By any definition of time, it is hard to argue that there have not been huge changes that have altered future events. I believe that while Bruno Latour had some very interesting ideas, he was looking at revolutions like an anthropologist and not like a general member of society. I find it hard to argue that scientific and intellectual revolutions did not occur, especially when taking a history course. Seeing how much the human race has changed from year to year, decade to decade and century to century seems to me to be evidence of multiple revolutions. Humans tend to become stuck in their ways and believe that what they are doing is the correct thing, and it almost always takes a revolution to change this.

Latour mentions dualism many times throughout his book, the dualism of matter and mind, nature and society and purification and mediation just to name a few. One of the most concerning points that Latour made was that nature and society are essentially different things and cannot work together to support theory (Asymmetrical theory and 1st principal of symmetry). The idea that theories can be proved false only by social explanation does not seem feasible to me. In the present day, it seems that theories can be proved by nature and by means other than a social explanation.

The Asymmetrical theory states that nature explains truth and that society explains falsehoods in theories. This seems wrong to me, if nature can prove and explain a truth to society, there should be a social explanation for the truth, instead of a social explanation of a falsehood. The theory the 1st principal of symmetry starts getting towards my idea that nature or society should be able to explain truth or false theories in the world, but states that society explains truths and falsities and that nature doesn’t explain anything. I think that if one side is explaining things, it should be nature. Nature is a sure thing, we are not doing anything to change what is happening naturally. Society can change the way that they feel about one theory depending on the time period and other social effects.

Nature and society should not be compared to plate tectonics, as Latour does, but instead should be compared to something that moves together. Nature should be explained by society and theory should be supported or falsified by both at once instead of rejected by one or the other while being deemed true by the other. If we consider this, we can consider ourselves revolutionary. We can say that through revolution we have merged nature and society and have been able to make large steps forward in scientific, intellectual and political revolutions. Humans are almost revolutionary by definition, they are constantly changing in ways that better their culture and the way they live, they are not happy to be a sedentary species. For this reason, we cannot agree with Latour, and have to begin to accept that humans are revolutionary.

A More Revolutionary Democratic Revolution

When we think of democracy, our minds jump to places like France and the United States, who published declarations of independence in 1789 and 1776. One of the most prominent books on the subject, The Age of the Democratic Revolution (by RR Palmer) focused mainly on these two revolutions and only mentioned the Haitian revolution at the very end of the book. The Haitian revolution was all but silenced until very recently, and was never really seen as a part of the history of democracy. Only at the very end of the 20th century did the Haitian revolution begin to be considered as a part of democratic revolutions.

Modern historians would likely argue that the US, French and Haitian declarations of independence should be grouped together, and if anything, the Haitian revolution should have been seen as the start to modern democracy and not the other two. The Haitian revolution towards democracy truly realized the ideal of the movement of enlightenment and had the idea of rights for people of all colors far before the French or the American people. Their original Declaration of Independence (in 1804) recognized that all of the people in Haiti were granted rights, regardless of their skin color. This was unthinkable even as it happened, and was likely part of the reason that the history of this revolution was silenced afterwards.

Both the American and French Declaration’s of Independence fell short in this category of equality and neither abolished slavery or gave full rights to those who were not white men. In 1804, Haiti was highlighting issues of race and of slavery. Just a few years earlier, American and French documents were actively opposing it and only giving full rights to certain people. France did technically abolish slavery around this time (the abolition law passed in 1794), but this did not stick, and they needed to abolish slavery once again closer to 1848. The American and French democratic revolutions were triumphs of reason and freedom while the Haitian revolution added equality to this description.

These revolutions, while all similar in the end point, had very different founding moments and very different levels of violence. The US revolution was peaceful in comparison to the other two, with just a small amount of violence. The French revolution towards democracy was certainly more based on violence than the US revolution, as evidenced by the Burning of Cap Francais. The Haitian revolution, however, was the most violent of all three, and the revolution itself was essentially defined by violence.

The definition of violence in this revolution was offset by myth. With no eye witness testimony’s of the founding moment of Haiti, known as Bois Caiman, the opportunity to fantasize the event was certainly taken advantage of by the Haitian people. With only stories, and no literature published until years in the future, it is not clear exactly what did happen that day, but the stories told by word of mouth have been put down as the history of the founding day.

The silencing of this revolution has clouded our understanding of the democratic history, and bringing this revolution to light has given us a better understanding of the world around us.

Cities As Tombstones

Monuments always seem extremely important at the time of their creation, but can be quickly outdated and forgotten, raising the question, should we let our cities and towns turn into tombstones of past events? These monuments are meant to be memory making, and yet some of the most prominent monuments bring back memories of oppression or former regimes that the nation no longer takes pride in. Many people would say that cities should not be turned into remembrances of past events, but instead should be left to modernize as they otherwise would. I would like to argue differently, although I agree that some monuments are no longer relevant, or even offensive, it is important to the state or country’s history to remember certain things, whether they be good or bad.

Even just before considering the events that the monuments are commemorating, it is worth mentioning the significance of architecture. Many of these historical monuments will have amazing architecture, and we can learn a lot just from that. By taking down monuments, we are taking down little pieces of the history of architecture, we in some ways can me monumental on its own. For example the Monumento Alla Vittoria is a monument celebrating fascism, but is also a monument that was revolutionary in its architecture. It was an arch without arches, and had many new features that had never been seen before in architecture. Although the monument was not created for reasons that are currently supported within Italy, the monument itself is beautiful and a piece of the country’s history.

History is another important piece of the argument to keep monuments, and why turning the city into a tombstones of past events may not be a terrible thing. Although certain monuments do not bring up the fondest memories, it is still important to remember parts of history. In some circumstances, I think that it is possible to modernize these tombstones to be less offensive and to fit more with the current times. A good example of this is once again the Monumento Alla Vittoria being revitalized and made into a monument that can be historically appreciated in the right way. We should not try to get rid of our history and forget our pasts, but instead remember the important times. There obviously should not be monuments for every little event that occurs, but for the big things, these monuments are very important to remember people and events.

While it seems like an easy argument to keep cities modern and not dwell in the past, it is also important to think about how central these monuments become to a nations identity. Would Paris be the same without the Arc de Triumph? Would New York be thought of as just a city of skyscrapers without the Statue of Liberty or the Freedom Tower? What about Italy? Is the Monumento Alla Vittoria an important part of the country? Monuments shouldn’t always be seen as tombstones, but rather backbones. The more monuments, the more things that we have to build up the history and personality of a nation.

Data in Economics

As a student at a liberal arts school, I can really appreciate the data revolution. Without the data revolution, my studies would be solely based on theory and my future contributions to the field could only be changing theory. Because of the data revolution, I can contribute to the field with my own original research, even as a college students. As a college senior, I am currently partaking in a project on a topic within economics that has never been explored, something that would not be possible if it weren’t for the growing amount of data on the internet.

I am very grateful to the people who have made the revolutions in data possible, starting with Francis Bacon, the father of empiricism, and the Royal Society. Both Bacon and the Royal Society came up with the idea of separating themselves from philosophy and noticed the need for experimental science. Richard Bernard’s contributions were also very important to the data we have today, his idea of the common language being the best way to convey scripture allowed many important steps in science and the way that textbooks were written. Data as evidence and data as images became necessary in the world of science and of any type of research oriented fields.

Robert Hooke was the real originator of this trend in Micrographia (1665) where he put images of things that the had seen under a microscope into a textbook. This was revolutionary at the time, as many people had never seen anything under a microscope and were shocked by the things that they had never really observed in the world around them. Hooke used both images and metaphorical language in his textbook to have the most influential impact on the readers. He personified things that many people would argue could not be personified and used much more beautiful language than most people would expect to read in a textbook. Thomas Sprat also began using these ideas around 1667, where he followed the idea of using the bare minimum for written description in his writings so that the common man could understand his ideas.

More modernly, cybernetics, “The study of control and communication in the animal and the machine”, has come about, as has the question of how much information can flow through a system, and how fast? Data visualization has also had a notable impact on the problems and solutions in research within science and other research-oriented fields. Data has always been visual, while “Big data” is a conceptual revolution as much as it is a technological one. When data becomes the main form of the evidence, that is when the revolution begins.

For me, as an economics-mathematics major, the data revolution has been instrumental to my studies. Without the data revolution my college experience and studies would be totally different, I would have learned much more theory and done much less independent thinking. I am able to conduct my own research and come up with my own ideas and research questions. I have gathered thousands of data points to answer my questions, questions that have never been asked before by any other economist.



Evolution, an Unfinished Revolution

As humans, we like to think of ourselves as the endpoint of the evolutionary process while we are actually just another branch on the evolutionary tree. I say tree instead of ladder here because of the common misconceptions that evolution is a moving forward process that enforces typological thinking. At many points in history, we have had many conceptions of evolution and many ideas of categorizations within species.

We can begin exploring the idea of evolution before we explore the concept of Darwin’s evolution. The pre-Darwinian ideas fell under the idea of the Great Chain of Being, which was accepted from roughly 500 AD to 1700AD. The Great Chain of Being is what it sounds like, a ladder-like chain of evolution. When Darwin came about, the revolution truly started. Darwin came up with the idea of evolution as a branching tree, otherwise known as the branching tree of common descent. The idea of evolution by natural selection was a truly revolutionary idea that has continued to drive our ideas behind evolution even today.

Darwin’s idea was supported by ideas from great thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle. Plato’s Theory of Forms followed the idea that every object or quality has an idealized essence. Aristotle’s Biological Classification said that species are categories or types within broader categories such as genera. This implies that if species are types, then the variation that we see within species is imperfection. Darwin saw this variation, and recognized the centrality of this variance within the species. This variation within species is the raw material necessary for natural selection. Species do not suddenly adapt, but adapt from the ideal traits that aid them to lead better lives and hence naturally select.

Within evolutionary biology and genetics, there have been two main types of scientists, biometricians, who believe in natural selection of small changes and mutationists who believe of the transmission of large differences within a species. Mutationists studied the inheritance of discrete traits. Evolutionary biologists believed that they had reconciled this with their own evolutionary theories.

This mutationist, typological thinking has been further reinforced through the ascendance of “the gene” in the public mind. This emergence of the gene has had impacts that are trivial, irresponsible and criminal in evolutionary biology. Something that needs to be realized, however, is that we do not have types and that human genetic variation is continuous. This is evident in that most human variation occurs within populations instead of among “types”. The discovery of “the gene” has led to race being a differentiator for medicine used to treat different people. This is not a good medical construct, as when we take a closer look, it becomes apparent that disease probabilities do not go significantly up or down when we look at race, variable traits within any race have complex causes. Instead, we should be looking further into mapping the genome and exploring further the concept of personalized medicine.

With all of these revolutionary ideas being proved and disproved, and species constantly coming in and out of the world, I think that it is too bold of a claim to say that humans are the end point of evolution. In a few hundred or thousand years, I am excited to see what we have evolved into.

Climate Science: Revolutions Which Begin As Not So Revolutionary

When we think of change and improvement within a subject, gradualism and catastrophism come to mind as drivers of the progress. Revolutions in climate change seem to follow this trend, mainly starting with catastrophism and then following a trend of gradualism thereafter. In slightly fewer, shorter words, science proceeds by revolutions and small steps.

Over the years, there have been significant advances in climate science. Many of these important discoveries were driven by curiosity and evidence for large ice sheets and about what determines the Earth’s surface temperature. By the 18th century, climate science was already looking towards the ice age and geologists searched for boulders that may have been transported by glaciers during one of the multiple ice ages. Before considering examples of scientists who embody the revolutions followed by small steps theme, it is important to mention that science makes advances and ideas gain traction because of those scientists who are good writers, not necessarily the best scientists who make the first discovery.

The first man who made an example of catastrophism leading into gradualism was Jean Baptiste Fourier. Fourier was studying heat flow theory and was curious about the Earth’s temperature. He drew analogies between the Earth and the sun and a heated rod. He was under the impression that the Earth was warmed by the sun and starlight, a revolutionary claim that would later be studied by other climate scientists and corrected. Fourier essentially started a journey of climate scientists looking for the reasoning behind the heating of the earth.

Tyndall was one of the scientists who conducted experiments motivated by Fourier. Tyndall was aware of the wavelength dependence of radiation, and discovered that oxygen, nitrogen and argon make up close to 99% of the atmosphere and are almost entirely transparent to solar radiation, while water vapor has a better response and carbon dioxide and other, extremely small components of the atmosphere actually have the largest effect on the atmosphere. Tyndall also used his research to find out the equation for energy radiation of a black body.

The gradualism following Fourier’s catastrophism was met with Max Planck, who represented a new error of catastrophism. Planck realized that the model for total emissions did not allow for theory and actual results to match up, and so he threw out all of the physics that he knew and started from scratch. He hypothesized that radiant energy is quantized in discrete packets as opposed to the prior hypothesis that it was continuous. Planck did not fully understand his theory, but in coming up with the idea, created quantum physics.

While gradualism and catastrophism are so different, they are both extremely important in the context of climate science revolutions. We would not have seen the progress that has occurred if it had not been for the two effects playing along with each other. The big breakthrough would not have as revolutionary of an effect if it was not followed by the scientists who were gradually building and improving upon the theories set forth by catastrophism.

What Drove Darwin to the Spur the Darwinian Revolution

Although Darwin wasn’t sure about his proof of his theory, although he caused a religious controversy, and although many people didn’t accept that Darwin was right until nearly 100 years later, it is undeniable that Darwin had a huge contribution to modern-day thinking and modern-day biology. While Darwin was doing his research, many other scientists were also exploring similar topics yet did not get the same research done or credit as Darwin. This raises the question, what made Darwin different? Was it his unique family life and the way he went about his  life in general?

The first notable detail of Darwin’s life that likely contributed to his success was that he ddi not have a job, but instead lived off of independent wealth that was left to him by his parents. He married his cousin who also came from a successful family, growing his personal wealth further. Because Darwin did not need to be going to a job and focusing time on job-related issues, he was able to spend time doing what he truly enjoyed, science. This may have set him apart from other researchers at the time as he not only enjoyed science for the joy of it, but also that he had so much time to pursue scientific topics of his own interest.

Another part of Darwin’s life that may have contributed to his success was his wife and family. Many documents show that Darwin and his wife were very happy and that they had many children that also added to their happiness (although in his marry/not marry list, children were at the top of both lists!). This may have made him be able to focus more on his work and less on marital or general family life issues. Darwin needed to have a comfortable family life to be able to even make the voyage on the Beagle.

Darwin’s family was supportive of him during his life as well as after his death, making the Darwinian revolution possible. Starting from having his funeral and being buried in Westminster Abbey with other revolutionaries. From there, his children also helped transcribe his books and were instrumental in crafting the record of Darwin himself. At the time that they were doing this, Darwin’s theory was not widely accepted, and many people thought that it went against their religious views. If his children had not pushed his popularity and theories throughout their lives, his work may have not surfaced to the extent that it has, and we would likely not think of evolution in the same way, or would have heard it from someone else.

The extent to which Darwin’s family was important can be seen in that Darwin was able to do other things that he was interested in, such as classifying barnacles, breed pigeons, observe differences between humans and apes, work on hybridization and still become one of the most well know men in modern science, easily surpassing other evolutionists such as Herbert Spencer, Robert Chambers and Alfred Russell Wallace. He was able to follow his interests on his own time line and have his theories become revolutionary after his death. If the other evolutionists had come from the same type of background and same type of happy family, maybe things would have been different.

Young People as Revolutionaries

As social media becomes more important in revolutions, it is natural that young people (the people who most frequently use social media) are the revolutionaries. We can draw parallels today about social media use in the revolution of the Arab Spring and what we could call the “Bernie Revolution.” As one may expect, these are very different events, so the uses and reasons for use of social media will be very different, but both revolutions use social media to spread their messages and are mostly conducted with young people as the revolutionaries.

Social media was vital in the Arab Spring. It was difficult to find a place for people living through the Arab Spring to talk openly until the internet came about. The internet opened many doors, the government didn’t realize the freedom they were giving the people that they governed and they assumed that the internet would never be utilized in the way that it has been. The government pushed newspapers to not publish any negative press and proceeded to bombard the public with propaganda. When social media came about, the people who had once been suppressed were able to easily communicate with each other on popular social media platforms and start a revolution.

We can see social media as being important in the “Bernie Revolution” as well. While Trump dominated the media, the other candidates were left struggling to find air time. Bernie supporters and Bernie himself took to the social media to portray ideas and his platform. This type of campaigning was likely part of the reason that Bernie has such a young support group. It is important to acknowledge that the “Bernie Revolution” was very different than the Arab Spring before we highlight any further similarities between the two revolutions. These two situations are very different for two main reasons, the differences in privileges and rights in the two places that these revolutions are occurring. Americans don’t need to be thinking radically in the same way as those people who lived through the Arab Spring because they do not have the same type of ceiling (regarding rights and what they can and can’t do) as other countries around the world.

Another similarity between these two revolutions is the age of the revolutionists. In both revolutions it seems to be the younger people looking for change, likely because they will have to live with the government decisions for the longest amount of time, as well as because they are on social media and can share ideas and opinions on the revolutions occurring around them. Once again, important differences need to be mentioned. In America, young people flocked to Facebook and Twitter to post their opinions on Bernie and to read what others had to say and to find Bernie’s own opinion pieces. During the Arab Spring, recent college graduates demonstrated their anger by setting themselves on fire, which would later be posted on social media as a protest.

In conclusion, we can see that current revolutions are driven by social media, and by what would seem to be a consequence, young people.

The Tambora Revolution

In 200 years, the world has experienced two sever sustained weather incidents that caused not only revolutions but also climate shock responses from the people experiencing the extreme weather. One revolution occurred following the 1816 Tambora eruption and another revolution as well as extreme sustained weather occurring now. The main difference that we are seeing now comes from the causes of the extreme weather. In 1816, a volcanic eruption caused a smog and weather that persisted for a few years, leading to most memorably, the year without a summer. The weather we are experiencing today comes from human-caused problems. Unfortunately, this extreme weather will likely last longer than the Tambora revolution weather and will not be fixed in an easy way. Even with this notable difference, there are tangible similarities between the two revolutions. We can examine these by looking at the stages of climate shock response, creative sympathy, proto-revolutionary violence and “flight into hell”.


In 1816, there were many forms of creative sympathy in response to the extreme weather that people were experiencing. Some examples of the creative sympathy that occurred after the Tambora eruption include emergency government programs that later morphed into progressive programs, artwork and other technological, artistic and administrative innovation. Some of the most influential creative sympathy examples include the book Frankensteins Monster, the book The Vampire, the path to the birth of modern meteorology and the invention of the bike. This parallels creative sympathy today in similar ways, there are many books and movies made predicting the effects of climate change and showing the people who inhabit the earth what they are doing to destroy it. Many technological advances have been made in response to the extreme weather changes and the much needed change to energy consumption. Some examples of this are solar panels and wind energy. While these examples of creative innovation seem very different from time period to time period, it is important to consider that they do follow the common themes of technology and art.

The proto-revolutionary violence portion of the response can also be seen in both 1816 today but once again, in somewhat different ways and in different magnitudes. In 1816, prices of food were doubling and tripling as the shortages increased and conditions for everyone, particularly peasants, worsened. As the famine intensified, peasants resorted to extremes such as killing young children as opposed to watching them die slowly from starvation and selling themselves and their families into slavery. Many riots also erupted during this time period. We see the proto-revolutionary violence not so much today, but we do see a response. These responses are non-violent, but are somewhat in (1816) riot form, as they are generally groups of protestors stating what they believe and what they want changed.

The last “flight to hell”, unfortunately, can not only be seen in the Tambora revolution, but can also be seen today as we experience it firsthand. In the Tambora revolution, people literally “walked” to hell, as they fled the rural areas where they were living and headed into more populated areas looking for help where they were viewed as parasites, and those who helped them were viewed as something close to the devil. Today, we experience a “flight to hell” as we try to convince people to fix our actions and save the environment but to no avail and watch the world “go to hell” around us.

The Scientific Revolution WAS Actually Scientific

Arguments have been made that the Scientific Revolution is not actually very scientific. Whether or not the changes in sciences were actually revolutionary has been brought into question and whether revolutionary changes were scientific has also been examined. As a quantitative minded human being, I argue that the Scientific Revolution was certainly scientific and that the concept of science was revolutionized from an art form as a form of explanation for what we see around us to an experimentally and math based explanation for the description of the world that we observe.


As Aristotle said, “All people by nature desire to know.” Many early scientists certainly desired to know but did not have the tools to mathematically or experimentally describe what they were seeing. For this reason, the concept of science at the beginning of the scientific revolution is very different from the concept of science now. Early scientists used analogical reasoning, and aspects of the world such as beauty or other reasons that seem absurd as explanations today, to describe what they were seeing and to support their hypotheses. Because the notion of science is a moving target, we need to be understanding that what may be considered superstitions or a crazy line of reasoning today may have been perfectly acceptable truisms in the past.

It is also extremely important to note that this should certainly be viewed as a revolution as many people would argue against that fact. Many parallels can be drawn between the Scientific Revolution and political revolutions. In both cases, an establishment is ousted, there is generally a radical break and then a new system put in place. There are also some differences between the two, such as the Scientific Revolution lacking violence and was not as sudden as many political upheavals.


I don’t think that a revolution needs to be sudden, I believe that as long as something was revolutionized in the process, the period of time should be characterized as a revolution. During the scientific revolution, Aristotle’s way of characterizing and thinking about the natural sciences was questioned, and ultimately he was replaced by three new scientists, Descartes, Galileo and Bacon. While Aristotle’s understanding of the natural world is still important even today, most of his thinking was ousted or improved upon by the three previous aforementioned scientists, giving each of the three a portion of the importance that Aristotle’s name had originally borne.


The scientific revolution is particularly interesting because it also revolutionized our definition of science in general as well as the way that we prove and describe findings. Science, which was originally closer to an art form, was transformed by revolutionary thinkers to a provable, quantitative subject that allowed us to further characterize our world past simple observations such as the beauty of the solar system or assumptions regarding the heavens. In short, the scientific revolution was revolutionary in so many ways. The contributing thinkers were revolutionary, the definition of science was revolutionized and the applications of science were also revolutionized to be more advanced and explanatory.