Friday, February 13, 2009

Enriching the Future...

The reception of Darwin’s ideas has been mixed. On the one hand, almost the entire scientific world accepts the neo-Darwinian synthesis of evolutionary theory. Almost no field of modern science would be able to function in quite the same way without evolutionary thought. On the other, Darwin’s popularity among non-scientists, especially people of faith, has been mixed from the beginning. He had his defenders among Christian theologians from the outset, but also his critics. In earlier generations, most of those theological critics concentrated on the challenge of Darwinian thought to teleological and cosmological arguments for God’s existence, for the goodness of Creation, the uniqueness of humanity and of purpose to human existence. In recent decades, however, these larger questions have been downplayed in favor of biblical literalism and of pseudo-scientific attempts to justify that literalism via such oxymoronic schemes as “creation science,” and “intelligent design theory.”....

Ironically, it was Abraham Lincoln who, even in the midst of our nation’s greatest struggle for survival (both physical and as a nation of freedom and equality for ALL), created our National Academy of Sciences. He sought not only to preserve the Union physically, but to enrich its future through promotion of scientific inquiry. Origin of Species was only published in 1859 and The Descent of Man was not published until 1871, so it is unclear if Lincoln had ever heard of any of Darwin’s researches or theories. (Lincoln was self-taught, but widely read. He won his law license and admission to the Illinois Bar completely through self-study.) Yet, I think Lincoln would be disappointed that the United States today, though in many ways far more advanced than in Lincoln’s day, would take knowledge and scientific inquiry so lightly that only 39% of the public is completely convinced of biological evolution via natural selection.

Many Americans are reading more about Lincoln this year in honor of his bicentennial. It’s a good idea. But take some time out to read Darwin, too. {full post}
[via Levellers]

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