Tools for clear thinking

Waddington's book cover
A little book, but full of ideas

One of the thinkers that has had the biggest effect on me was Conrad H. Waddington. Waddington died in 1975, a few months after his “Evolution of an evolutionist” was published. I remember picking it up at school and starting to read the opening chapter and not understanding a word of it. But I was very intrigued!

Later, at college, I read more Wad, and became interested in how genotypes interact with environments in plants. At that time, studying it in in humans was not possible. These days, it is.

I eventually became Head of Science in the secondary school where Wad was educated and began to discover the extraordinary story of his schooling, which helped to shape his thinking for the rest of his life. I have written about this, and I have two papers coming out in School Science review next year that explore his thinking further.

Waddington’s was revising ‘tools for thought’ when he died. It was published posthumously in 1977.

His tools for thought are partly philosophical and partly scientific. They are ideas that are expressed simply, without a “lavish decoration of technical jargon”. As he said,

“any idea that is going to be really useful…can, after adequate time to digest it, be put into reasonably simple language.” (p.xii)

That is the challenge for this blog – to identify tools that can help us think more clearly about the possible futures that an understanding of evolution and genetics could bring. Then we can decide what our (and society’s) responses should be. We will not agree on these, but may be we can agree on the ideas that are most important to us. Who knows? We shall see.