Philip Lieberman


On his book The Theory That Changed Everything: “On the Origin of Species” as a Work in Progress

Cover Interview of January 21, 2018

A close-up

The first chapter, “Strawberries,” presents the formative experience: the voyage of HMS Beagle that formed Darwin’s views on the common humanity of all people and set the stage for his life’s work. In a similar, lesser manner, the treks on which my wife, Marcia, and I walked off the map into remote regions of Nepal, was time-travel that changed the way that we viewed life and focused our work.

rorotoko.comWomen working in village field. Inner Dolpo, Nepal. Copyright Philip Lieberman.

The first pages of “Strawberries” demonstrate the mechanism and impact of Natural Selection. The strawberries on your plate are the result of natural selection practiced over hundreds of years; not God’s gift. GMOs are nothing new, suggesting, as noted in the concluding chapter of my book, that Darwin’s reaction to the debate on GMOs and other current issues would not be what many readers might expect. It puts Darwin’s experiences in the Galapagos islands into perspective. Darwin collected birds there but forgot to label where they had lived. An epiphany revealing the theory of evolution did not occur.

rorotoko.comBon-Po lama’s son, Samling. Inner Dolpo, Nepal. Copyright Philip Lieberman.

The chapter also presents examples revealing the process of Natural Selection and how it is tied to environment and culture. It shows why Darwin did not realize that Natural Selection can act rapidly. The germ theory of disease was then unknown and Darwin could not have realized that Natural Selection was acting in a savage manner to preserve people with robust immune systems or who were lucky to avoid infection. Marcia and I found that it still was unknown when we walked to Inner Dolpo, Nepal. Doctors in developed nations disputed the germ theory throughout most of the nineteenth century.

rorotoko.comHome near Tende. Inner Dolpo, Nepal. Copyright Philip Lieberman.

Pages 30 to 44 of Chapter Two, “No Cats, No Flowers “ present the other major elements of Darwinian evolutionary theory in text that avoids jargon. It also presents the theory in George Chambers’ 1844 Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation; a mixture of intelligent design and phrenology. Chambers’s theory, surprisingly, is at the heart of Noam Chomsky’s views concerning the evolution of language, morality, and art. Chomsky, like Chambers, views evolution as a process directed by some vague unspecified criterion. To Chomsky, Natural Selection is a meaningless concept; in his view, language suddenly came into being about 80,000 years ago through an unknown process that is unique to humans.