The great Naturalist Charles Darwin was born February 12, 1809. In 1831 he departed on the pivotal voyage of HMS Beagle. Darwin did not have the technology and data of today at his
disposal. The fossil record was fragmentary. The man who concieved radiometric dating had not been born. The idea of continental drift and plate tectonics was a hundred years away. Genetcs was in its infancy. It was 1953 before Watson and Crick described
the helical structure of DNA , and said, "it could be of considerable biological interest".[understatement of the millenium]
So, Charles Darwin used his brain. He was a peerless observor. Once his great idea took shape, he was relentless in
his puruit of evidence. For 20 years he studied his specimens,communicated with colleages,gathered a mountain of evidence.
Then, in 1859, he wrote "On the Origin of Species". Why were there 800,000 species of Beetle? 11,000 species of birds?
250,000 different flowering plants? 50,000 kinds of shellfish? This man provided the answer.
From his book, this masterstroke:
"Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from
whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited
by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful,
is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection".
With the eventual accumulation of masses of data, the Crown Jewel being the technology to copy the genome of thousands of species and so documenting the pathway of evolution from bacteria to
Elephant, it is proven that Charles Darwin, with his eyes and his brain, was "spot on".
So now, some American folks want to honour him. They want to make February 12, 2018, "Darwin Day". I consider it wonderful that this initiative comes from America
in that the US lags behind other western countries in their understanding of Natural Selection.The Senator proposing the Bill has tried, unsuccessfully, before. [several years running.]
From Google search:
House Resolution 67, introduced by
Jim Himes in the United States House of Representatives on February 2, 2015 would have designated February 12 as Darwin Day in the United States. It would recognize Darwin as "a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the
advancement of human knowledge".
The Washington Post commented, "The bill is unlikely to ever pass Congress, given that Darwin, who developed the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection, was British". This prediction has held true, with the
Bill never passing Committee and coming to a vote..Washington Post cynically offered that should it ever reach the house "it would not get a single Republican vote“。
When "On the Origin of Species"was published in 1859, the book was greeted by a
virtual storm of abuse and criticism. Darwin came to observe:
"It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public;
...Freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follows from the advance of science.”
I don't know how "gradual"was the "gradual" Darwin had in mind. Certainly there has been an exponential advance
in science which is totally in support of Natural Selection.
Today, 4 in 10 adults in America believe that humans have existed in our present form since the beginning of time. "Time" for them is about 10,000 years. In many religious groups, the
number with this view is even higher. This is woeful.
Natural selection is indeed a powerful force. but the past 150 years have shown us that the human capacity to deny the obvious is also a force to be reckoned with. It is disturbing to consider the
reasons why Darwin's great idea has been so resisted in the United States.
I recently obtained an American high school Biology textbook; authors are American Professors, published in 2009. It is a very good textbook- the best I have ever seen. There is
a clear and comprehensive presentation of current knowledge on DNA and natural selection.. There are 25,000 high schools in America and graduation is at about 80%. Credits in Biology are required.
So, why is it that 40% of Americans are still in Medeival
times? Sadly, it would appear that American High shool teachers are 1. skipping the chapters on Evolution by Natural Selection 2. teaching them poorly 3. giving them cursory attention 4. substituting their own ideas.
I can close this blog on an optimistic
note, however. The forces of truth and logic are gaining.
According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, Fifty-seven percent of Americans accept the validity of the scientific consensus that human beings evolved from less advanced forms of life over millions
I believe that knowledge and the truth will win. The tidal wave of undeniable facts will eventually establish a great victory for human curiosity and innovation. Those who teach and promote ignorance will die off,
literally. You cannot change their minds; let them exit stage left. Two more generations should do it.