Happy Darwin Day!
Today is Charles Darwin's birthday (as well as Abraham Lincoln, for those American history buffs), and it's a good day to ask ourselves why Darwin matters. Richard Dawkins has an excellent summary. I just want to note that Darwin was 22 years old when he went on the Beagle trip. That's my age. Amazing.
And to think the man created a theory built upon solid evidence that has stood the test of time for 149 years. I'm jealous, I'll admit. I wish I had that kind of publication right now. Was he right about everything? No, of course not. He had no idea how traits were actually transmitted, as he knew nothing of genetics. Do we know now? Yes. Do we hold up Darwin as a prophet who must be trusted in everything? Definitely not. But he is a very important figure, and most people could really take a page from his book when doing research or writing papers. Evidence! Logical argumentation! Defend your thesis rigorously! Don't extrapolate!
I'm not a biology professor. I'm not currently a biology student. I'm not going to reveal to you any of the really cool stuff about biology, because it's out there and easy to find. Pick up a bio book today. Hell, go buy a copy of The Origin of Species. It's cheap, and while it isn't correct on a lot of stuff, it's a pretty good read for historical reasons. Go see the DARWIN exhibit at a museum! It's well worth it, just for the beetle collections and fossil exhibits! Cool stuff!
Go tell someone that you select them, naturally, for Valentine's Day. Win a geek's heart! We're good people!
Some pretty images and an excerpt from a novel below the fold...
Seriously. Most. Awesome. Picture. EVAH. Darwin rocks. Look at that beard!
I really imagine Darwin getting a bit of a kick out of this:
"Oh, really now lad, not quite like that. Yes, see, bit more o' a straight back. Chip, chip, there! Back to work and all. Got the orchid garden going, you know, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, all that. Cheerio, then!"
Guys, this is D.N.A. D.N.A., this is the guys. Get to know one another. It's kind of a big thing.
Lastly, quoted from George du Maurier's Trilby. in which Little Billee is wrestling with Darwin and God for the hand of a woman he loves (her father is a parson, and is very strongly against evolutionary theory). This is a little late in his considerations, just before he talks to the father, when he finally spells out the real problem he finds with religion:
"It is very wicked and most immoral to believe, or affect to believe, and tell others to believe, that the unseen, unspeakable, unthinkable Immensity we're all part and parcel of, source of eternal, infinite, indestructible life and light and might, is a kind of wrathful, glorified, and self-glorifying ogre in human shape, with human passions, and most inhuman hates--who suddenly made us out of nothing, one fine day--just for a freak--and made us so badly that we fell the next--and turned us adrift the day after--damned us from the very beginning--ab ovo--ab ovo usque ad malum--ha ha!--and ever since! never gave us a chance!
"All merciful Father, indeed! Why, the Prince of Darkness was an angel in comparison (and a gentleman in the bargain).
"Just think of it, Tray--a finger in every paltry pie--an eye and an ear at every keyhole, even that of the larder, to catch us tripping, and to find out if we're praising loud enough, or grovelling low enough, or fasting hard enough--poor god-forsaken worms!
"And if we're naughty and disobedient, everlasting torment for us; torture of so hideous a kind that we wouldn't inflict it on the basest criminal, not for one single moment!
"Or else, if we're good and do as we are bid, an eternity of bliss so futile, so idle, and so tame that we couldn't stand it for a week, but for thinking of its one horrible alternative, and of our poor brother for ever and ever roasting away, and howling for the drop of water he never gets.
"Everlasting flame or everlasting dishonor--nothing between!"
Of course, he makes a mess of his explanation to the father and things turn out badly. Though, later on, the father does actually sit down and consider science and winds up an unbeliever. This makes up for it a little bit. Of course, I'm also not idolizing Little Billee. Kid's a fool in a lot of ways...but that's for another time.
This last bit did remind me of something though. You often hear people say, "Oh, what's the harm?" talking about homeopathy, psychics, and what-not. Or, "well, it gives them something to believe in, so that's good. Why are you going to take that away from them?"
Well, number one, it's not living in reality when it matters most. For another...children die. Let me say that again. Children, among other people, die when alternative medicines are substituted for real medicine. Or when faith healing is substituted for real healing.
That website has a running tally of injury, death, and economic damages incurred by these kinds of practices. If you have a personal story, please submit it. If you still think that these kinds of things are harmless, well...I don't know what to tell you. I guess I hope you're never in the position where you have to choose between real medical treatment and alternative treatments because of your religious or New Age beliefs. And I mean that sincerely.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Happy Darwin Day!