The rich life of Darwin

Talking on the Internet to people who consider themselves to be rationalists  makes me realise how much I cherish the irrational. Stories and nature were my first loves and as that phrasing indicates emotion was at the heart of that devotion.

Just glancing again at Ruth Padel’s ‘Darwin- A life in poems- reminds me of the creative mix in Darwin of the irrational and the rational. His worries about his health and deep commitment to his wife and friends, and lifelong wonder at the nature of things, don’t seem to have blighted his intellect but stimulated it and provided him with a secure and meaningful context in which to conduct his researches.

The death of his children and the cruelty of creation in general were greater influences on the loss of his faith than his ‘discovery’ of evolution by natural selection.

The poet describes thus his first encounter, in Brazil, with deep rain forest.

‘Bristle of orchid leaves on every black branch

like green flames over Bibles.

Botanical forms gyrate and pour

through rivers of otherworld bark

and a wrestling musculature of pure

live wood. This church breathing dark…

Imagery which works brilliantly in the present and sounds just for Darwin’s impressions at the time.

2 thoughts on “The rich life of Darwin”

  1. Katy Tattum-Smith

    Ian, do you think that science has taken too much upon itself, having strayed away from the realm of the ‘useful’ and into that of theories which attempt to explain the inexplicable?

    1. Hello Katy! I now have proper internet access back so I can reply. I don’t think science itself is the problem and don’t think that there should be no- go areas for scientific exploration- although techniques should be limited; did you hear the news about the awful experiments undertaken by the USA on Guatamalan prisoners in the 1950’s? But the pronouncements of certain scientists on matters they hardly understand, that is something else altogether. The wonderful neuroscientist and short story writer, David Eagleman- I mentioned him on an another blog- has exercised his joy at possibilities and Russell Stannard has recently written a well reviewed book suggesting that we may soon reach the point when scientists discover that the glass into which they gaze darkly will never become transparent due to the limits on the human intellect and imagination. They both seem to be wise and sane!

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