More Recent Comments

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Happy Darwin Day! 2023

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)

Here's the opening paragraph from my next book, Evolution by Accident.

Charles Darwn died in 1882. I can picture the scene on Wednesday, April 26, of that year—a grand funeral attended by all of London’s high society and the leading intellectuals of the most powerful nation in the world. Darwin would not have been pleased. He wanted to be buried quietly in the Downe cemetery with his brother Erasmus and two of his children. Darwin's family was persuaded by his friends Galton, Hooker, Huxley and the President of the Royal Society, William Spottiswoode, that, for the sake of England, Darwin should be laid to rest in Westminster Abbey and Prime Minister William Gladstone agreed.1 As Janet Browne writes in her biography of Charles Darwin, "Dying was the most political thing Darwin could have done."

(Part of this post is from posts that originally appeared in 2018 and 2020)

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

1. Gladstone, who didn't agree with Darwin's views on evolution, was too busy to attend the funeral. He had a dinner engagement in Windsor.


SPARC said...

Looking forward for Evolution by Accident.

Robert Byers said...

Darwin was not the greatest scientist ever, whatever that means anyways, and in fact probably, if scoring, Faraday was the best in Britain in that time. darwin never used scientific methodology for his hypothesis. he never proved it with biological evidence.
You said two points, Hmmm. The first point of documenting evidence of evolution and common decent is not doing that but only gathering data. Iys the second point that is the only point. Not two. He has a hypothesis of how bodyplans change after concluding they did from here to there. This forum/blog exists because darwin failed to prove his stuff. You accurately document the real persuiasion for it amongst the upper classes came from the Upper classes desire to push it and i suggest in opposition to Christian teachings directly. the funeral and being buried in such a place was a Upper class choice and not the people. Evolution was not separate from politics indeed. So a creationist can and do accuse evolution of being accepted and pushed by people unrelated to the evidence and related to greater motivations.
That is why today organized creationism does so well because we attack on the evidence and reject any establishment endorsement. its not the 1800's anymore.
I think Darwin was thoughtful but he would not be happy today as he would find his hypothesis very well manhandled.

Anonymous said...

Nobody working in science uses creationism. Not even creationist themselves.
-César D