Evolution Evolves

Photo courtesy Ben Fry, The Preservation of Favoured Traces

Thanks to SEED for shining the light on this gigacool visualization showing evolution evolve.

That is, for illuminating the exploration of scientific thought as expressed in the many edits and revisions of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

First published in 1859, Darwin’s Origin has since become the unifying concept of the life sciences.

Ben Fry, director of Seed Visualization and the Phyllotaxis Lab, has released this new tool, The Preservation of Favoured Traces, allowing us to watch the book evolve through six editions as Darwin reconsidered his arguments and responded to criticisms… including from his ultra pious wife, Emma, who may have been the reason he delayed publishing for 21 years.

Launch Fry’s visualization to see how scientific theories are not static truths but living ideas likewise perpetually evolving under the selection pressures of new evidence.

Suggestion: run the visualization in the Fast mode… 150 years on and we’ve got about a tenth the attention span of Darwin’s orchid-gazing times.


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  • Julia Whitty is the environmental correspondent for Mother Jones. Her latest book is Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. For more of her stories, click here.