The evolution of evolution

Two interesting related events happened on this day in history. On November 24 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

Then on November 24, 1974, Donald Johanson and Tom Gray discovered “Lucy”, a forerunner of homo sapiens who lived 3.2 million years ago, and the earliest of our known forebears believed to have used stone tools.

The Origin of Species was, in its way, also an evolution of the human use of tools — in this case, the tool of objective evidence based science. The subsequent discovery of Lucy, like many other such discoveries, was solid empirical confirmation of the predictive power of that science.

I think of the publication of Darwin’s book as an event both humbling and exalting. It was humbling because it asked us to set aside cherished myths about our uniqueness in the order of things.

It was exalting because that very humility was a call to evolve into our best selves. We were being asked not to flinch from objective evidence, but rather to embrace it. The courage to embrace truth, wherever that truth may lead, is one of the noblest qualities a human may possess.

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