How to sell a new-fangled idea

Asa Gray

Watch a master teacher first empathize with the struggling skeptic, then cajole him/her with the inevitably of an hypothesis that is merely carrying on the traditions of physics and chemistry.  Brilliant.

“We cling to a long-accepted theory, just as we cling to an old suit of clothes…New notions and new styles worry us, till we get well used to them, which is only by slow degrees…

Such being our habitual state of mind, it may well be believed that the perusal of the new book “On the origin of species by means of natural selection” left an uncomfortable impression…

[But] surely the scientific mind of an age which contemplates the solar system as evolved from a common, revolving mass,–which, through experimental research, has come to regard light, heat, electricity, magnetism, chemical affinity, and mechanical power as varieties or convertible forms of one force, instead of independent species, –which has brought the so-called elementary kinds of matter, such as the metals, into kindrid groups…the mind of such an age cannot be expected to let the old belief about species pass unquestioned.”

Happy Darwin’s Birthday!  And on November 18th, tilt a glass to Asa Gray, Darwin’s American Bulldog.

Asa Grey, Atlantic Magazine (6 ) No. 33, 109-116

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