It’s hard to escape the glaring irony that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, in the same year, Feb 12th 1809. However, when we consider the facts, Lincoln is fondly lauded as an American icon who managed to preserve the Union and end slavery, while Darwin is still thought by 40% of the American population as “the British villain whose egregious discovery (The Theory of Evolution) seems to attack the very core of their religious beliefs”. In my humble opinion, Feb 12th 1809 was a great day for our country and our planet due to both of these men, one of them becoming an emancipator of humanity while the other became an emancipator of science.
Lincoln and Darwin were sober men of great character and commitment, with an unyielding passion for the truth and whose ideologies were to profoundly change our modern world. Lincoln’s heroic role is forever imbued in our history books, but what about Darwin’s contribution to modernity, should we owe him any of our gratitude or was his theory of evolution by natural selection, merely another meaningless scientific statistic?
It should be a sobering thought for all of us to imagine where the human race would be today without Darwin’s amazing discovery and the gigantic advances in science that discovery perpetuated. Understanding the theory of evolution through natural selection has helped us to live longer by enabling us to find cures for diseases and to alleviate pain and suffering. It has allowed us to interact with and understand people of other cultures and recognize what makes us similar as well as what makes us all unique. It has allowed us to gain a vital understanding of our natural world and has provided us insight into the complexities of all life. It has forced us to respect our environment and the multitude of species that we are now inter dependent upon. Darwin’s theory gave birth to bio diversity which in turn is reflected in agriculture, human health, business and industry and even includes our leisure and cultural activities.
For those who consider Darwin’s theory an attack upon their personal religious convictions, I can only suggested that many main stream religions see little threat from evolution and perhaps any perceived problems may stem from a lack of scientific or theocratic enlightenment. As Darwin once said “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little who positively assert that some problems will never be solved by science”
Charles Darwin bestowed our world with a marvelous legacy and arguable his theory of evolution gave rise to one of the most profound changes in scientific and cultural history. Weather we wish to accept that legacy, or to consider if the world would have been better place with or without him. The inescapable fact is, that all of us now live in “the age of Darwin”.