Thursday, February 12, 2009

Charles Darwin: 200th birthday

Today, Charles Darwin would celebrate his 200th birthday. Yes, he is only seven on this picture.

One of the greatest scientists of all time was born to a rich doctor and financier, Robert Darwin, and his wife, Susannah née Wedgwood, on February 12th, 1809. Mysteriously enough, Abraham Lincoln was born on the very same day, so we celebrate his 200th anniversary today, too. Happy birthday, Abraham!

As everyone knows, Darwin refined some pre-existing memes about the gradual development of life by finding the crucial mechanism, natural selection, that allows Nature to ramify its diverse tree of ever more viable life forms.

Today, his discovery sounds as an obvious theoretical idea: we view it as the only possible scenario that can reconcile the origin of life with the geological and cosmological history of the Earth and the Universe that we learned by other methods.

But Darwin had to do a lot of phenomenology to find evidence supporting his idea. So he studied the differences between birds and tortoises on the Galápagos Islands and elsewhere. He was also a practician: largely because he knew that good genes were important, he married his cousin. ;-)

At any rate, the qualitative gap between humans and animals has evaporated, to dismay of believers across the world. Humans have evolved from creatures that we would surely call "monkeys" if we saw them, even though they were not identical to the existing monkey species - our distant cousins such as chimps, gorillas, and global warming alarmists.

His discovery didn't make religion impossible but it helped to make irreligion possible. Miracles were no longer needed to explain the beauty and diversity of plants and animals and the unity of all living forms was revealed in its naked entirety. Happy birthday, Charles.


  1. Charles Dawin is dead! What is the difference between humans and animals? Humans are able to reflect/think about things. We can think about thinking about something... Animals cannot do this... Surley this means that we did not evolve?

  2. Dear Pete, thanks for informing me about the sad news about Darwin's death. ;-)

    To repay my debt, let me tell you a happy news: his ideas are more alive than ever.

    With all my respect, when I read your comments (including the grammar), my belief about the exceptional nature of humans among mammals is somewhat undermined and your thinking about thinking looks like a rather uninspired brain activity stuck in infinite loops.

    To see some better ways to use the gray power of brains, of our mammal friends, see your namesake, Pete the skateboarding dog.

    Here is a smart pig. Can you do at least some of the same things as the pig does? Yes? So it surely means that you did evolve, doesn't it? ;-)

    More seriously, there are much more serious arguments to show the common origin of life than similar contests.

  3. Hi. A comment on your joke - Darwin didnt't know, that good genes were important, because he didn't know something like genes exist. Although the joke was good ;o) Yeah and I strongly recommend a documentary The Genius of Charles Darwin (made by Richard Dawkins) to everybody, all three parts can be found on Google Video, it's worth watching!