Charles Darwin achieved the most important breakthrough in the annals of scientific thinking with the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. But Darwin did not see himself as a great intellect or even a particularly clever person.
His self-awareness was not the product of humility, as Shane Parrish points out in a short but insightful article on his blog Farnham Street. Rather, it came from a devotion to understanding reality.
He had possibly the most valuable trait in any sort of thinker: A passionate interest in understanding reality and putting it in useful order in his head. This “Reality Orientation” is hard to measure and certainly does not show up on IQ tests, but probably determines, to some extent, success in life.
Parrish highlights Darwin’s way of looking at the world, his method of knowledge acquisition, and his attitude toward himself as the reasons for his ability to achieve the scientific breakthrough of natural selection.
Darwin, with a passion that was extraordinary, sought information that would challenge his beliefs and impressions. He welcome evidence that would change his mind or refine his beliefs.
Parrish’s article takes about six minutes to read and is well worth it. If you read it, you’ll be thinking about it for a while.