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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
Sun February 12, 2012
NPR Science: A Darwinian against Darwin Day
Originally published on Sun February 12, 2012 9:36 am
Personally I plan on celebrating Darwin Day because when I contemplate the enormity of his insight into the physical world I am awed. But it's interesting to note that not everyone who feels that awe thinks there should be a "Darwin Day".
Here is a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Michael Ruse, who has certainly thought a lot about Darwin (he signs his emails "Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.") For Ruse it's the politics that turns him away from the idea of Darwin Day,
"Whatever the implications, and I agree that many are there, I don't want Darwin's achievement caught up in America's Culture Wars, to the extent that it is part of that and nothing else."
It's the science above all else that Ruse wants to celebrate.
"I want to celebrate a theory that tells us why the worker ants are always female and never male. I want to celebrate a theory that tells us why there are so many different little finches on the Galapagos and why they look like the birds of South America and not of Africa. I want to celebrate a theory that tells us why our DNA is in major respects identical to the DNA of the fruit fly and why nevertheless we humans don't have wings and live just on bananas. I want to celebrate a theory that tells us why the Stegosaurus has those daft plates all down its back (they are for heat control). I want to celebrate a theory that tells us why sex selection in humans in places like India and China tends to favor boys over girls. I want a theory that tells you why when you have VD you might be rangier than you were before. I want a theory that does all of these things and, like the goose, promises to go on laying golden eggs day after day, year after year.
It is that theory that Charles Darwin gave us in the Origin of Species, and it is for that reason that tonight I will be raising a glass of very good wine in his honor."
It is a sad commentary on the state of our nation's engagement with science that folks use Darwin everyday for their health care but then allow their politics to reject an idea that (as even the Catholic Church has shown) need not affect one religious inclination at all.
But politics or not let us celebrate Darwin in whatever way we think best.