Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Darwin Day...

So, as I'm sure the whole world knows, today is Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. No doubt, the 'net is crowded with tributes to his genius and attacks on those who continue to doubt his theory, all of which is understandable. But I find it all rather bemusing. No one celebrates "Einstein Day" or "Newton Day" or even "Plato Day," despite the fact that all of those men have surely had at least as great an impact on our understanding of how the world works as Darwin has.

I'm sure part of the difference is that there is no concerted effort to deny the insights of those others (well, except maybe Plato!), whereas evolution remains under constant attack. Still, the excessive devotion paid to Darwin the man, and even to his theory, seems quite out of keeping with repeated claims to only be interested in Science™. For a great many people, evolution is clearly perceived as much more than a scientific explanation, however well supported--it forms the foundation for their whole worldview.

So I can't help but laugh at the fuss over Darwin Day, but in the end, I do think his theory is both largely correct and fascinating, so despite my bemusement here's my favorite quote from the man himself. It's only a shame this observation gets obscured by so many of the debates over evolution:

There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

2 comments:

Angel Armstead said...

I like that quote also. In a way I did get caught up in the hype of the day, even wearing one of my pro-evolution t shirts. But yeah we don't have days for all those other great men. It's shame we have to single one out because of all the controversy.

But even with that said I did like that there were lectures in many places on Darwin's theory.

Ken Brown said...

Yeah, I think the huge deal made of it points to the fact that so many see in evolution much more than a scientific theory (e.g. Dawkins' "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist"), but I can't complain about the attempts to dispel ignorance about how science actually works.

The day anti-evolution fundamentalism is put behind us we'll all be better off, though I suspect that day is still a long ways away!