Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin!

So today is Darwin's 200th Birthday, aka Darwin Day.
There are quite a lot of interesting posts up.
John Wilkins adresses the myth that Darwin didn't actually adress the origin of species in his book, and Ed Yong has tackled human evolution in the 6th post of his 8 part series celebrating Darwin's bicentennial.

There's also a lot of discussion on how to assess Darwin's importance in modern evolutionary biology, especially about the usage of the term "Darwinism" (for positive voices see for example, here, here, for more negative assesments see here, here, and here)

Overall, I like the assesment made by John Wilkins in his very nice article "Not Saint Darwin:"

"What we remember Darwin for is a synthesis and the empirical support he brought in its defense. He brought together many ideas that were `in the air', so to speak, reading more widely than almost anyone else as well as doing his experimental and anatomical work, and more importantly, managed to filter out most of the bad ideas.

Darwin's achievement was to identify crucial questions and offer a coherent theoretical account that answered them

So let us remember Darwin not as the discoverer of anything (apart from the cru-
stacean nature of barnacles etc.), but as the guy who set of a fruitful, active, com- plex and ultimately explanatory research program in biology, which continues to become ever more active.
Don't make him a saint, an authority, or a hero. He's just a damned good scientist."

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