Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The Life and Times of Charles Darwin

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In 1825 a father became

so infuriated by his son's lackluster performance

at school he roared at him: "You care for nothing

but shooting and dogs and rat catching!

You will be a disgrace to yourself

and your family!" If you said that sort of thing to a child today

you'd have social services knocking at your door and furthermore

Dr Robert Darwin could not have been more

incorrect with his prediction.

His son Charles went on to live an extraordinary life.

Charles Darwin has been considered by some historians to be in the top

20 most influential people have all time.

He changed our world. How did this

aimless rat-catching kid change

the course of history? Did he have extraordinary talents?

Did he have extraordinary luck or extraordinary influence?

He had none of these things. What he had was an extraordinary thinking system.

His thinking system acted like a machine

to find the truth and the truth is a very precious commodity.

If you can discover the truth not only can you understand the world around you

but it can give you an invaluable tool; the ability

to squint into the future.

Hi my name is Chris Darwin. I'm one of the great great grandsons

of Charles Darwin and this is where I live in the Blue Mountains.

I come out here every morning to feed the Easton Yellow Robins,

Which are these delightful birds just here. I haven't brought you down

here because I love it, I brought you down because Charles Darwin loved

nature and he particularly loved rainforests.

They intoxicated him with delight - so what better place

to come than a rainforest to tell you over the next 20 minutes

about the life and times of Charles Darwin.

I believe if Charles were here giving us a masterclass on

how to think, he might open by suggesting

that his thinking system may be more valuable to us

in the fast-changing world of the 21st century

than it was to him in the leisurely 19th century.

Fortunate for us Charles Darwin wrote about his thinking system

in a short book which he called his autobiography.

It has so many great tips you may like to read it.

I'd like to focus on the suggestion that he described as his "golden rule".

I was dumbstruck

when I read about the thinking technique that Charles said contributed more than

any other

to his success. It was so simple, so clever

and yet so easily replicated. It is this;

"Pay special attention to evidence

that contradicts your beliefs." I'll say it again.

"Pay special attention to evidence

that contradicts your beliefs." Why would you want to collect evidence that

contradicts your beliefs? Surely your time would be best spent

collecting evidence to supports your beliefs?

To explain how Charles use this golden rule to change the course of history

but also to gain himself a happy family

and a handsome fortune, I'd like to take you

on a voyage around the world and a voyage into the world of ideas.

At the age of 19

Charles had decided on his calling in life; he wanted to go into the church.

Ironic considering that in those days the Church of England believed the Bible


God had personally created every animal

and every plant in their present form.

And finally in god's greatest moment a blissful creation

he had made man in his image. Charles left Cambridge

confident in his faith but he was offered an opportunity he could not


a voyage around the world. Imagine you are Charles Darwin

as you sale around the world it would have been so easy to just see

everything in terms of what you'd just been taught at Cambridge.

But he kept stumbling across evidence that contradicted Genesis.

He found a skeleton of an extinct

giant sloth. Why would God create an animal

to only let it become extinct?

At first he thought that this giant had died in the biblical

great flood, but there was no evidence this animal

had died in the flood. In the South American rainforest

he discovered animals that was so vicious that Charles could not imagine

that a benevolent God could create them. In the Galapagos Islands

it was explained to him you could tell by looking at the giant tortoise

which Island it was from. Why would God create

15 distinct subspecies of the giant tortoise?

Why not create one species

and put it on all the islands? In Australia Charles sat beside a gentle river

examining a dead platypus.

Why had god created the platypus in Australia

and the water rat in Europe? Both live in rivers,

both eat insects, but both are so very different.

Why had god not created one species

for both places? It was then that Charles

penned in diary his first real indication that he was beginning to question

whether the almighty was the creator

of species.

This was a monstrous thought.

After arriving back in England Charles decided that biology

not theology was his passion life.

He also found his true love; Emma Wedgwood.

And there's little doubt that Charles would never have been so successful without


With Emma's help Charles spent the next 20 years compiling evidence

that animals and plants can change, little by little,

over many generations through a process

called natural selection. We'll talk about this extraordinary process during the


But suffice to say that Charles was sitting on this terrifying theory

too frightened to publish it until his hand was forced.

A letter arrived from a certain

Alfred Russell Wallace. As Charles read it

he realized to his horror that Wallace had come up with exactly

the same theory. On the 24th

of November 1859, Charles was forced

to detonate his meticulously constructed bomb.

The book On the Origin of Species by means of natural selection

was published. The polemical impact

of the Origin is softened for us by a hundred years of post Darwinian


But at the time these shock-waves ripped through

the intellectual world. Although Charles

did not mention the origins of humans his book

the inference was clear. He was saying we are not

made in the image of a God, he was saying we are a very charming,

very intelligent ape. The belief

of most westerners was that man was made in the image of God.

Charles' is theory represented the most humiliating demotion

to a mere naked ape.

Anger and denial erupted as all corners of society waded into the fray.

Charles was described as the most dangerous man

in England. Queen Victoria was not

amused. It is said she went a little red. "If this theory is found to be true

I trust it will not become widely known!"

It did become widely known. And while it is not universally accepted

this theory changed the course of history. It fundamentally changed how we view our

place in universe. It encouraged humanity to think of ourselves as part

of the natural world and not above it. Furthermore

Charles helped change the way we think. He elevated

evidence, rather than belief, as the best way

to find the truth in the world. Whether you believe Charles' theory is right

or wrong is important but it's not

really the point I'm trying to make. The point I'm trying to make

is that Charles became hugely successful, not only professionally,

but also personally. He'd a happy marriage

and his children reported he was a fun and loving father.

He claimed that his success

was largely due to the way he thought, particularly

his golden rule. A golden rule I believe could bring you

equal rewards. Pay special attention

to evidence that contradicts your beliefs.

You might be thinking if this system is so great

has this Chris Darwin used it to get himself

happiness, a fortune and success?

I'm nowhere near as successful or rich as Charles Darwin,

but I'd like to tell you how it has helped me and could help you

squint into the future. We know from history that people have clung to beliefs

long after the verifiable evidence has indicated that they are wrong.

For example in the time of Galileo the evidence was clear;

that the earth orbited the sun and yet most people believed

that the earth was the center of the universe. It was clear in the time of the


that the evidence was that slavery was a monstrous practice

and yet the Western world encouraged it. It was clear in the time

of Charles Darwin that animals and plants can change

and yet most people believed they could not change.

It was clear in the time the suffragettes

the verifiable evidence was that most women

were more than capable of making an informed decision

at the polls, and yet most people, including many women,

believed that women should not get the vote.

If in the 17th century, the i8th century, the 19th century

and the 20th century humanity has clung to beliefs

well after it was clear they're wrong,

is it possible that in the 21st century

we are clinging to beliefs that the verifiable evidence

shows are wrong. If history

is anything to go by as these belief systems slowly change over the next 100

years or so

society will change profoundly, permanently,

and I suspect for the better. Had we stumbled

upon away of squinting into the future?

I thought you might be interested if I told you

one of these belief systems I think will change.

For most of our history humanity has lived with confidence

in the "mighty earth belief". It states the planet is so mighty

and so bountiful we cannot damage it.

Consequently we can to as we wish. Which is pretty much

what we have done and are doing.

However, since the nineteen sixties verifiable evidence has been flooding in

that the mighty Earth belief is incorrect we are profoundly

damaging the planet and denuding resources.

This behavior will have a negative impact for future generations.

If we continue for long periods of time we may even render

large areas of the planet uninhabitable.

Climate change, the mass extinction of species, the hole in the ozone layer,

top soil loss, desertification, depletion of fish stocks,

nutrient loss, resource depletion,

the pollution of air, water and land

are just a few the consequences of the mighty earth belief.

Today all countries

and all governments, with the possible exception of Bhutan,

operate under the unquestioning devotion

to this belief. So here is the protection;

Over the next 100 years or so the mighty earth belief

will be replaced by a new paradigm,

a fragile Earth belief,

and I believe there are signs this change has already started.

So as this belief changes society

will change profoundly and I think

for the better. For most of my life

I accepted the validity of the mighty

Earth belief. But because of Charles Darwin's golden rule

when evidence started to appear that it might be suspect

I investigated it and found that the mighty earth belief

is baseless. So I'm changing

the way I live my life because in the final analysis

a good planet is hard to find.

I can only suspect that Charles' is golden rule

could change your life, but I do know for certain

that as a young man Charles traveled around the world

when he stumbled upon evidence that led him

to a dramatic conclusion; that maybe

the natural world was not god's

creation after all. He never

meant to rock our world,

But he did.

Thank you very much and I'll see you again later on in the course.

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