Saturday, January 17, 2009

Turfs and thickets

Reducing to specialists all men of science,
Society commits grave blunders.
While every expert his own tiny turf mines...
Unstudied lie the world's wonders!

Well-trodden paths they repeatedly retrace,
Shunning all unexplored thickets.
Blind to the Unknown that stares them in the face,
Smug they sit in their straitjackets!

A trained eye is not just an eye for detail...
But one that seeks the big picture.
The true Scientist's mind the instinct must entail,
Of hidden truth to conjecture!

Darwin, beginning with the crawling beetle,
To weave Life's story was able!
Experts now must heed his lessons a little,
And look outside their own bubble!

Seeing with new eyes a far-flung island's finches,
He showed how creatures earned their shapes.
Travelling in thought where no man dared few inches...
He revealed Man's descent from apes!

In times when priestly authority was rife,
Sparking debate that still stokes fires;
He brought to light the thread that unites all Life;
A leap of Thought that still inspires!

January 17, 2009
(Times Mirror Conference Room,
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County)

***2009 is the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin and the sesquicentennial of the publication of 'On the Origin of Species'. This year is being commemorated worldwide as 'Darwin Year' in the honour of one of the greatest (as well as one of the most misunderstood, maligned and misinterpreted) scientists of all time whose adolescent studies of beetle populations and pioneering studies of the Galapagos finches, which led eventually to the theory of Natural Selection, are immortalized in the annals as well as the folklore of Science, and need to be revisited and retold urgently to stem the retrogression into unenlightened fundamentalism.

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