Darwin  

redmustang91 57M  
8725 posts
11/19/2005 5:39 am

Last Read:
3/5/2006 9:27 pm

Darwin


Darwin was a true genius. My admiration for his intelligence and guts to speak honestly when so many would mock or refuse to admit the truth inspires me. I find the obscenely stupid attacks on his explanation for life on this planet too grotesque!

There is a new exhibit in NY on Darwin which highlights the man and his theory:

"In the summer of 1868, Charles Darwin and his family visited the poet Alfred Tennyson and his family on the Isle of Wight. The visit - and the visitor's ideas - troubled Tennyson. "What I want," he later told a friend, "is an assurance of immortality."

This was an astute remark. Many of Darwin's readers, then and now, have tried to find ways to reconcile a divine creator with the clearly secular implications of Darwin's theory of evolution. As often as not, the effort is less a search for a first cause than a plea for assurances of immortality. Tennyson recognized that Darwin's "On the Origin of Species," which was published in 1859, offered no such promises.

What bothered Tennyson wasn't merely the possible loss of eternity. It was also the central observation that underlies Darwin's theory: the fact, first noticed by Malthus, that every species on the planet, including humans, produces far more offspring in each generation than nature can support. Coming as late as we do - nearly a century and a half after Darwin's "Origin" - we have the luxury of seeing at a glance what Darwin saw: that the pressure of so much excess population is a harsh but efficient test of the value of accidental variations in any species.

We can say, with Thomas Huxley, "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that!" But, of course, Darwin did not simply think of it. He prepared for years to be ready to think of it when he did. It is one thing to see the logic in evolution, as stated on the page. It is something entirely different to have pieced together such an astonishingly powerful theory - a word that, as scientists use it, means an explanation of the facts as we know them - from the details of nature itself.

The new exhibition called "Darwin" at the American Museum of Natural History portrays the making of the man and the scientist, and it reminds us how well and how fully evolution explains the life around us. It also captures the way Darwin's theory opened an entirely new window in the human imagination.

It is possible to say, in fact, that humans did not begin to understand their place in nature until 1859. I found myself wondering, oddly, what it must have been like to be alive at such a revolutionary moment. But we live in a moment that is no less revolutionary. "Our ignorance of the laws of variation is profound," Darwin wrote. In our time - the DNA era - the mechanisms of those laws have been revealed in ways that Darwin could only dream of, and in ways that confirm the essentials of his theory beyond a shadow of a doubt.

This exhibition is useful, too, in reminding us that the controversy over evolution - over a true understanding of the human place in nature - has been more or less constant since 1859, though it has reached a peak of political absurdity only in our own time. The basic objections to evolution - the ones trumpeted by the proponents of so-called intelligent design - are essentially the ones Darwin described in the sixth chapter of "Origin." They have been given a new language, and new examples have been adduced. But Darwin did a surprisingly good job of forestalling his critics. He showed that most of the objections to his theory, then as now, were based on a misunderstanding of the evidence or the nature of his argument, or were owing simply to the fact that so much remains to be discovered about the workings of life on Earth.

One comes away from this exhibition with a reawakened sense of Darwin's characteristic honesty and his extraordinary powers as an observer, qualities that are as much an attribute of the scientist as of the man."

Those fools who insist the Bible is literally true in Genesis should recall the Bible was written by men who make mistakes. That information and technology improves over time and people build on the observations and ideas discovered and passed on. That science and progress are evident and clinging to the past is futile and stupid.

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