A Grand Synthesis

This past weekend while reading Mitchell Waldrop’s Complexity, I came to a passage describing Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as “a grand synthesis.”

“Darwin’s theory of biological evolution had been just such a grand synthesis in the 19th century. It combined evidence from biology, which revealed that different species of plants and animals were clearly related; from the emerging science of geology, which showed that the earth was incredibly ancient and that the past afforded immense vistas of time; and from paleontology, which proved that the plants and animals who dwelled in that immense past had been very different from those alive today.”

I’d primarily considered “On the Origin of Species” as belonging to the field of biology prior to the excerpt above, but I like Waldrop’s refresher* on Darwin’s theory as an interdisciplinary work that pulled from multiple fields to make its inferences about the natural world.

It loosely reminds me of “connecting the dots." The ideas worth pursuing are in between the dots; they emerge from the complexity between disciplines.

*via Murray Gell-Mann.