This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for scientists like Lynn Margulis, who died earlier this week. She took the theory of endosymbiosis from being unaccepted hearsay to strong consensus and approval. This theory and others of horizontal gene transfer were landmark moments in the history of evolutionary biology.
As humanity takes on some of our greatest challenges in the century ahead, we’ll need more people like our brave heroine scholar. She questioned orthodoxy and stuck by her guns through the decades it took to bring change about. That’s a rare and valuable thing in a field like science, whose incentives are perverted soas to reward only research that merely confirms existing notions, however faulty or misguided.
If the bright young minds of tomorrow heed the virtues of Margulis, we’ll be able to see through some of our most entrenched assumptions and mistaken theories, navigating through the dense maze of 21st century problems.
For more information on the life of Lynn Margulis, see John Baez’s obituary here.