The Great Trick Charles Darwin Used To Better Understand The World

Here’s how to apply Charles Darwin’s Golden Rule.

Peter Burns
Mind Cafe
Published in
6 min readFeb 13


Photo by Misael Moreno on Unsplash

More than two millennia ago, Plato compared the ordinary person to a prisoner living in a cave. Chained, looking straight at the wall in front of them, they can only see shadows.

What Plato didn’t mention is that this chained existence in a dark cave is one of their own making. It’s pretty easy to unchain yourself, but most people don’t want to.

They have one view of the world, and stubbornly keep to it. The brain is great at discarding facts that don’t fit into this narrow window. Ignorance is bliss. And ego is ever powerful.

Plato’s teacher, Socrates, saw right through this. Rather, his prescription to a good life was to acknowledge your own ignorance.

“I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” — Socrates

Charles Darwin, the unassuming hero

When you think of the scientific geniuses of history, which names come to mind? Galileo Galilei? Isaac Newton? Albert Einstein? I am pretty sure if you were forced to make a list, one name would surely appear on it. Charles Darwin.

Yet, what most historians agree on is how average Charles Darwin really was. He wasn’t particularly good at school. Nor did he stand out among his peers. Even Darwin himself acknowledged this in his writings.

I have no great quickness of apprehension or wit which is so remarkable in some clever men.” — Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, while smart, was no genius. His strengths lay elsewhere.

A hint of this can be found in Janet Browne’s description of him in her biography of the man:

“Darwin was the most unspectacular person of all time, a man known to his contemporaries as a quiet, methodical worker, devoted to his family, hard to prise out of his house in the country, averse to ostentation, utterly conventional in his behavior, modest and unassuming about his results.” — Janet Browne

Methodical worker. Modest. Unassuming. These words show us where Darwin’s strengths lay. It was not his powerful…



Peter Burns
Mind Cafe

A curious polymath who wants to know how everything works. Blog: Renaissance Man Journal (