The obcure origins of the larger groups of animals and plants-vertebrates, arthropods, that sort of thing, are a bit like marmite and cricket. Enthusiasts love them, outsiders don’t. Fair enough, we’re not asking you to drop everything and read the works of Thomas Cavalier-Smith, a biologist of formidable power and intellect. We’ll let Nature tell that story in the link below, should you feel so inclined.
No, gentle reader, our purpose is different. For we think this man’s approach to science, and to life so illuminates that all of us could learn from it, if we could rustle up the necessary humility. Look at these quotes from Thomas Richardson’s article (our bold type)
He gave the infant field of evolutionary cell biology a common language and a set of ideas to either work with or to disprove.
Cavalier-Smith’s ideas were indeed challenged and subject to extensive revision. Nobody championed these revisions more than he ………. The idea that a scientist (indeed any intellectual adventurer) could not completely restructure their understanding, or even destroy their own previous synthesis in response to new data, was anathema to him.
The great plague of the world is people who get hold of an idea and then cling on to it, come hell or high water. Everyone does it, even scientists. Perhaps the best research we could now do would be in psychology, to find out why.Then we might get a few more people like Cavalier Smith and JM Keynes and few less of the religious and political fanatics who currently waste so much time and resources with their trivial little disputes.
|Evolutionary biologist Thomas Cavalier-Smith, who helped to shape our understanding of the tree of life, has died, aged 78. “His ideas were based on the thesis that we cannot grasp evolutionary history without understanding how all dimensions of a cellular system — function, structure, biochemistry, economy and spatial organization — arose,” writes his former student Thomas Richards. Cavalier-Smith’s hypotheses were challenged and subject to extensive revision — often by himself, says Richards. “The idea that a scientist (indeed any intellectual adventurer) could not completely restructure their understanding, or even destroy their own previous synthesis in response to new data, was anathema to him.”Nature | 4 min read|
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