Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Thursday, February 12, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHARLES DARWIN!


Two hundred years ago today, Robert Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England. Over his 73 years of life, he was an ardent observer of nature and a prolific writer who published tracts on Pollination of Orchids, Formation of Volcanic and Coral Islands, Expressions of Emotion, Phototropism, Ecology of Earthworms and many other subjects, but it was the book he published in 1859, On The Origin of Species, that he'll always be remembered for. Evolution--the changing of organisms over time--had been recognized long before Darwin, but in this book he proposed an explanation of the engine behind the process. Over a century and a half, his ideas have been refined, but the more we learn about evolution, the more his theory of natural selection seems to fit.

Who'd have thought that by his 200th birthday the poor old guy would be as vilified as he is? But blaming Darwin for evolution is like blaming Einstein for gravity. Both fellows only did their best to describe how the phenomena work—they didn't invent them. So as a birthday gift to our good friend Chuck, let's agree to stop blaming him for evolution. To all of those who'd prefer to live in a world where organisms never change, blame Nature instead. She's your real antagonist.

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