Simon Kelner: Twitterspeak evolved too late for Darwin, thankfully

Kelner's view

Share

Our world is a frantic, intellectually combustible place. Opinions are 10 a penny in the age of Twitter. Mature reflection does not play a major part in public discourse. Knee-jerk reaction?

That'll do. Of course, we have great thinkers today, but they are often drowned out by the general cacophony of soundbites and tweets in a world where we value pithiness over argument, where the ability to be smart, or funny, or controversial in a sentence is prized and envied. It does make you wonder what sort of intellectual legacy this generation will leave.

What triggered these thoughts was a news story I read recently about the campaign to save for the nation the childhood garden of Charles Darwin in Shropshire. This was where the scientist had his formative experiences of nature, and where he began to form his ideas about man's relationship to the natural world. He would walk. And he would think. He called the trail through the garden his "thinking path"; he would go gathering thoughts in the way that other, lesser mortals would gather mushrooms. And, of course, these were not ordinary thoughts.

Darwin's mind wouldn't content itself with the 19th-century equivalent of "Bad hair day. Who cares? LOL." He was more concerned with revolutionising the way we felt about human evolution. It conjured an interesting image for me: this great man having the time, the patience and the inclination to take his brain for a walk. There is a proven link between patterns of movement and the way we think, and Darwin's "Thinking Path" is seen as proof that gentle perambulation inspires the brain to be more dynamic.

I'm not saying it doesn't happen these days, but how often would we step out for a walk without being accompanied by our mobile phone? I have noticed this in myself, the need to feel connected (to what, I can't really say) even when you purposefully set out to free your mind. Most of what goes on around us – in the Twittersphere particularly – is, let's face it, rubbish, so why do we find it so hard to liberate ourselves from this din?

Yes, we have the Large Hadron Collider, and our lives are made so much easier by a wealth of technological developments. But the pace of life seems to take its cue from the particle accelerator, and the chance to stop, look and think is an all-too-rare one. Events occur, the public reacts, everyone moves on.

A well-known figure, who has had more than his share of opprobrium delivered by our popular newspapers, said to me recently that the cycle moves so fast these days that, hardly is he in the eye of a storm, with thousands of voices all raised in indignation, than the caravan moves on and everyone's gaze is diverted elsewhere.

He said he was rather pleased by this lack of public attention span, but I'm not so sure. It's as if Darwin, about to discover the secrets of the Universe, suddenly saw a butterfly and forgot what he was thinking.

We can only be grateful that, in those days, they were made of sterner, more intellectually rigorous stuff. And, of course, Twitter hadn't been invented. On the Origin of Species in 140 characters? I think not.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The truth about kids on holiday

Rosie Millard
 

August catch-up: Waiting on the telephone, tribute to Norm and my Desert Island Discs

John Rentoul
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home