Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for June 17th, 2012

The amiable credulity of Charles Darwin

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A contemporary biologist has commented on Darwin’s “amiable credulity.” It is a character trait which he shared with Tycho, Kepler, Freud, Pasteur, and a large number of other great scientists. Ernest Jones remarked in an essay about Freud that creative genius seems to be a mixture of skepticism and naïveté: skepticism regarding the dogmas implied in traditional modes of thought, combined with the willingness of a wide-open mind to consider far-fetched theories. Darwin himself, as one of his biographers remarked, “was able to give ultimate answers because he asked ultimate questions. His colleagues, the systematizers, knew more than he about particular species and varieties, comparative anatomy and morphology. But they had deliberately eschewed such ultimate questions as the pattern of creation, or the reasons for any particular form, on the grounds that these were not the proper subjects of science. Darwin, uninhibited by these restrictions, could range more widely and deeply into the mysteries of Nature….It was with the sharp eyes of the primitive, the open mind of the innocent, that he looked at his subject, daring to ask questions that his more learned and sophisticated colleagues could not have thought to ask.”

Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation

Written by nevalalee

June 17, 2012 at 9:50 am

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