Professor John H. Lienhard of the University of Houston has been narrating episodes of this radio series for NPR since 1988. Broadcast by KUHF FM at UH, the show is simply one of the best on public radio. As the website describes it, “… Engines of Our Ingenuity is a radio program that tells the story of how our culture is formed by human creativity.” But it’s more than that; it’s a vehicle for Leinhard himself, who is a sage and a poet as much as he is a scientist and engineer.
This morning’s episode, # 2206, is Leinhard’s thoughts after reading Mankind So Far, a critical review of the origins of man and the theory of evolution by William Howell, written in 1944. Leinhard is full of praise for the meticulousness of Howell’s approach, noting:
A theory it is, of course, but in the true scientific sense. It is no mere supposition.
What’s fascinating in Howells’ book is how squarely he looks at holes in the prevailing account of our evolution. Most of his questions have since been resolved. The hallmark of any science is that it’s driven, not by what we presume to be true, but by pin-pointing what we don’t yet know.
That’s typical of Leinhard – to always invoke the context of science. And no episode of Engines would be complete without his final insight; in this case, he masterfully turns the modern-day controversy on its head:
[Howell] wonders what we’ll evolve into in a million years. While we cannot know, there’s no shred of doubt that we’re far from finished — that the creation continues. And there lies the great beauty behind the hard fact of evolution.