, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 36-41
Date: 21 Nov 2007

What’s So Special About Science?

This is an excerpt from the content

Just south of Tanzania’s border with Kenya, the teeming Serengeti Plains are sundered by a 30-mile long and 300-feet deep gash. This dramatic erosional feature is Olduvai Gorge, an iconic name in human prehistory. Seen from the air in the clear evening light, and especially on those occasions—not rare—when its rim is touched with gold, the Gorge exudes a soft, magical aura that approaches the mystical. During the height of the day, in contrast, this rugged ravine is a hell-hole of hot, rough rock, whose variegated colors are almost bleached out by the scorching intensity of the sun. This is not a place where most rational people would choose to tarry any longer than absolutely necessary. Yet, if you carefully approach the Gorge’s dizzying edge at certain times of year, you will sometimes see, far below, some tiny figures delving into the hot earth at the Gorge’s bottom. These are paleoanthropologists, scientists involved in uncovering evidence of the human past. For the rocks exposed i

This essay is modified from a chapter in Tattersall, Ian: The Monkey In the Mirror (New York: Harcourt), ©Ian Tattersall 2002.