Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today--in History

How about this double whammy bi-centennial birthday? Today is February 12th. Both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on this very day, exactly 200 years ago!

Check out their respective (Lincoln, and Darwin) bicentennial celebrations across the nation. Not only that-- in a twist of irony that underscores the need for more men and women of progressive thought and action, February 12 is not only the 200th birthday of Lincoln and Darwin, but the 1st anniversary of the classroom killing of 15 year old Lawrence King for being gay.

200 years later, Lincoln's United States are still together but the roiling rage of a brother vs. brother divide persists. And Darwin's theory of evolution still has a long, long way to crawl.


Tony said...

OK Jesse, you asked for it:

A very good, concise, but comprehensive book I found on Evolution (The Rough Guide to Evolution, Rough Guides Limited, London, ISBN: 10-1-85828-946-5) has a quote from Sigmund Freud:

“Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was when it realized our earth was not the center of the universe ... The second was when biological research robbed man of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world.” (Think Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and “Descent of Man”)

Old Sigmund may have something there. How many times have you heard or read the outraged anti-evolutionist cry: “ I refuse to believe that man is descended from the apes,” or more commonly, “I ain’t descended from no damned monkey?”

Jesse says that “Darwin’s theory of evolution has a long long way to crawl.”

In terms of intellectual acceptance, especially here in the US, you’re right, Jesse. The intro to the Rough Guide to Evolution says:

“According to a poll in May 2007, nearly half of all Americans, and two-thirds of Republicans, do not believe in the theory of evolution.” (YIKES!)

The intro also says “Two centuries after his [Darwin’s] birth, most people still only have
a hazy and distorted view of how evolution works.”

For me, that’s an indication of an egregious failure of our educational system: not just to teach evolution, but to teach what science really is, and to teach the values and skills of rational thought.

In no small measure that’s because militant “creationists” have scared many school boards into submission.

Fortunately, there are signs of hope.

In the 2005 case “Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District,” a Federal Appeals Court, in the strongest terms, ruled against the introduction of “Intelligent Design” or creationism into the science curriculum. The Court said it was unconstituional to:
“thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis [to evolution] grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions....”

In another sign of hope, our new President has said “We will restore science to its rightful place...”

Darwin’s theory says all humans are evolved from a common ancestor, who according to the work of later scientists, like Louis Leakey and many others, most likely came from the plains of East Africa.

President Obama has said that he’s where he is in large part because of Abraham Lincoln. How fitting it is that Lincoln and Darwin (an ardent abolitionist) share a birthday in the first year of an African-American’s presidency.


Don said...

The killing of anyone for being Gay should never be forgotten! On this anniversary schools across the country should be providing educational programs to advance the ability of all human beings to be tolerant!