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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Happy Darwin Day! 2020

Charles Darwin, the greatest scientist who ever lived, was born on this day in 1809 [Darwin still spurs tributes, debates] [Happy Darwin Day!] [Darwin Day 2017]. Darwin is mostly famous for two things: (1) he described and documented the evidence for evolution and common descent and (2) he provided a plausible scientific explanation of evolution—the theory of natural selection. He put all this in a book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection published in 1859—a book that spurred a revolution in our understanding of the natural world. (You can still buy a first edition copy of the book but it will cost you several hundred thousand dollars.)

Modern evolutionary theory has advanced well beyond Darwin's theory but he still deserves to be honored for being the first to explain evolution and promote it in a way that convinced others. Here's one passage from the introduction to Origin of Species.
Although much remains obscure, and will long remain obscure, I can entertain no doubt, after the most deliberate and dispassionate study of which I am capable, that the view which most naturalists entertain, and which I formerly entertained—namely, that each species has been independently created—is erroneous. I am fully convinced that species are not immutable; but that those belonging to what are called the same genera are lineal descendants of some other and generally extinct species, in the same manner as the acknowledged varieties of any one species are the descendants of that species. Furthermore, I am convinced that Natural Selection has been the main but not exclusive means of modification.
Here's a quotation that explains the title of this blog. It's from Janet Browne's excellent biography, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (p. 10).
Although his Beagle experiences were still important to him and always carried due weight in his writings, and his particular insight into nature remained undimmed, these home-based researches were the hidden triumph of his theory of evolution. His family setting, his house and garden, the surrounding Kent countryside, and his own sense of himself at the heart of his life he had created and the property he owned provided the finely crafted examples of adaptation in action that lifted his work far out of the ordinary. His thinking path, the path he called the Sandwalk that skirted the edge of a copse at the bottom of Down House garden, became the private source of his conviction that his theory was true—true if only he could show it. (My emphasis - LAM)
(Part of this post is a copy of a post that originally appeared in 2018)

Photo credit: The photo of Charles and me is from a Darwin Day 2009 article in the Toronto Star [Darwin still spurs tributes, debates].


Robert Byers said...

Charles Darwin was not the greatest scientist ever. Everybody says this about everybody. In fact I think for the 1800's in Britain faraday was the best due to many enduring accomplishments in what is called science. Obviously creationists think darwin was very wrong and thus did not do biological scientific evidence gathering but gathered instead after the fact data and drew lines to figure out origins.
its segregated here about 1, describing/documenting evidence for evolution/common descent and 2, the hypothesis. Hmmm.
Instead I say he gathered data, and to figure out origins of biology heritage he made a hypothesis. Only one thing.
the great point is he was rejecting Christian teaching from the bible, creating a hypothesis, and then not proving it but instead having a highhanded, arrogant, upper class English society embracing it. Plus moving in very, very, small circles, who ONLY had the right to judge if it was true. Not much better today but better.

from what I read about Darwin, and some commentary by stephen gould, I see darwins idea as simply a extension of his observation of how tiny corals acting together brought a great result of islands he saw. that was his eureka insight. he simply said AHA biological heritage/species are from tiny steps acting together to bring great results. Likwise he extended this into non evolution subjects and the last one being about how worms acting in tiny movements churned up the entire english landscape below the surface.
It was all one equation. Small steps/actions leading to great culmative results.
Yet in biology it was wrong because the missing ingredient needed was something to change bodyplans. Selection on traits would not create the complexity and diversity of biology. Today evolutionism is based on mutations and not natural selection on traits of offspring. its not good enough.
Thats why Darwin was wrong and that he didn't prove his hypothesis by biological evidence. there was none. Still isn't.
in our time evolutionism is now coming to a end or within a decade or so.

Larry Moran said...

"Everybody says this about everybody." Now you're making me feel bad. I know that some people think Michael Behe is the greatest scientist who ever lived but I don't know of anybody who says that about me. Can you give me a link to those who say that about me?

Ted said...

Please Byers, learn basic English composition, please. As Henry Higgins said: you will get on much better with the Almighty if you learn not to offend His ears.

Robert Byers said...

Well yes its not everybody. however its a long, fairly long list. Newton, Einstein, some of the old Greeks, . I think inventors have a better claim. however there is no one who is number one. its about different subjects. I score these things from the biblical way. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge.
Wisdom is the greatest, Solomon said. its the origin of invention or manipulation. yet it does not mean its smarter then understanding. i see Darwin TRYING to understand biology origins. Its not wisdom even if it was true. Edison had wisdom. I think Faraday did.
i think in the future someone will come along and do oniology origin mechanisms better. its there but not by Darwins idea. yet something is going on.

dean said...

" I score these things from the biblical way. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge."

The biblical way, if you read carefully, is "kill anyone who disagrees"

Gandolf said...

Charles Darwin never had the chance to claim fame and to convince others to the same extent that Michael Behe now might

Jass said...

Thx Bob,
If it hadn't been for you, I would never visit this blog. You make me feel alive among the dead.
Keep doing what you are doing, whatever it is...��

Jass said...

This blog is so full of junk DNA that I feel I'm developing it while reading it? Is it possible, according to population genetics? 😉

Unknown said...

The internet seems to be the next evolutionary advancement. This time, in thought. We humans must now endure the natural selection of ideas and fight among ourselves for the understanding our the environment which allows us to advance into the future.
Ironically, we may produce a new species to prove to the religious that evolution exists...that the new comes from the old (not like their belief that a creator made an imperfect "us") and then that AI will supersede David Bowen in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Unfortunately the debate will continue about whether a god or devil was made. Life is interesting.

DAK said...

The "corpse" at the bottom of Down House garden should probably be a copse.

Larry Moran said...

Thanks. Fixed.

Joe Felsenstein said...

I don't know. We need to know where the bodies are buried.

Larry Moran said...

The corpses are in the copse.

in the copse

rich lawler said...

I was wondering if you are convinced by this study about the adaptive value of stripes?

Palermo R said...

Profesor Moran
What do you think about this paper?

Larry Moran said...

The paper focuses on the variability of transcripts in different inbred lines of Drosophila melanogaster. It assumes that all of this variability is biologically significant, especially that which affects unknown transcripts not previously identified as having a function.

The paper does not discuss the possibility that they are dealing with junk RNA and spurious transcription and how their results could be interpreted if that were true. I dismiss all such papers because it demonstrates an adaptationist bias that could easily affect the design of their experiments and how they interpret the results.