Friday, March 6, 2009

Charles Darwin

If Charles Darwin were still alive today, he would be 200 years old. Many people know Charles Darwin as the person who proposed the evolution theory. However, many are not fully aware of the extent of the impact of this theory. Scientific American dedicated the entire January 2009 issue to Charles Darwin. From the numerous and diverse articles in this issue, one may appreciate the effect of the evolution theory on science. It is not just about species or the origin of mankind. It is a philosophy and a way of thinking that can be adopted in many corners of scientific research.

The following are the titles of these articles found in the website.

** Darwin's Living Legacy -- Evolutionary Theory 150 Years Later by Gary Stix
This article is on the history of Charles Darwin. He was a Victorian amateur who undertook a lifetime pursuit of slow, meticulous observation and thought about the natural world, producing a theory 150 years ago that still drives the contemporary scientific agenda.

** Putting Evolution to Use in the Everyday World by David P. Mindell
The evolution theory has a profound impact on the everyday world. Understanding of evolution is fostering powerful technologies for health care, law enforcement, ecology, and all manner of optimization and design problems.

** The Human Pedigree: A Timeline of Hominid Evolution by Kate Wong
The evolution of the human species is the most controversial aspect of the evolution theory. Some 180 years after unearthing the first human fossil, paleontologists have amassed a formidable record of our forebears. We now have a good understanding on how hominid evolved into present human.

** Evolution of the Mind: 4 Fallacies of Psychology by David J. Buller
Some evolutionary psychologists have made widely popularized claims about how the human mind evolved, but other scholars argue that the grand claims lack solid evidence.

** Testing Natural Selection with Genetics by H. Allen Orr
The understanding of genes is a recent scientific development. Technologies in this area have great improvement in recent times leading to a good understanding of genes in the process of evolution. Biologists working with the most sophisticated genetic tools are demonstrating that natural selection plays a greater role in the evolution of genes than even most evolutionists had thought.

** Diversity Revealed: From Atoms to Traits by David M. Kingsley
Charles Darwin saw that random variations in organisms provide fodder for evolution. Modern scientists are revealing how that diversity arises from changes to DNA and can add up to complex creatures or even cultures.

** The Science of Spore -- The "Evolution" of Gaming by Ed Regis
A computer game illustrates the difference between building your own simulated creature and real-life natural selection.

** The Evolutionary Origins of Hiccups and Hernias by Neil H. Shubin
How biological traits inherited from fish and tadpoles evolved into human maladies.

** The Future of Man -- How Will Evolution Change Humans? by Peter Ward
This is the most interesting article. Contrary to popular belief, humans continue to evolve. Our bodies and brains are not the same as our ancestors' were, or as our descendants' will be. The article speculates on the possible courses of future human evolution, and what could we become.

** The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom by Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott
The greatest impact of the evolution theory is on religion. The first is the evolution of man, not from Adam and Eve; and the second is the evolution of all living things, not from a stroke of creation. This is in direct contradiction with all religious teaching. It is no wonder that Charles Darwin was the enemy of religion from the very beginning. However, Charles Darwin was a religious person. He went to Cambridge to become an Anglican clergyman in his early days. Although he was critical of the Bible as history, and thought of religion as a tribal survival strategy, Darwin still believed that God was the ultimate lawgiver. He had never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God, and he said that “an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.”

After many years of struggle with the truth, the Roman Catholic Church finally admitted that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution should not have been dismissed and claimed it is compatible with the Christian view of Creation. I am not saying that the Roman Catholic Church had been wrong all along and is now right. The point is that she has taken an about turn in religious belief, and interpreted the bible in another way, that Genesis is still right as seen in the light of the evolution theory.

Not all churches are that flexible. Many fundamentalist Christian churches have taken a different view, that the world is created by God as in the bible, period. Under the auspices of religious freedom, every man is entitled to his own religious belief. However, the creationists as they are known, do not stop at religion. They want such religious idea to be taught as a scientific fact in public schools. The first wave of actions was to block the teaching of evolution in schools, claiming that it was an unverified theory. That failed. The second wave of actions was to portray creationism as a scientific alternative to evolution under the disguise of intelligent design. That also failed. The latest tactic was to misrepresent evolution theory as scientifically controversial, and pretend that advocates for teaching creationism would be defending academic freedom. There was a concerted effort in several states of USA in proposing anti-evolution bills in 2008. Five such bills were defeated in May/June 2008. Two more in the state of Michigan are in the committee stage. If you wish to know how the battle is going on, you may go to the Scientific American website to read the article.

1 comment:

  1. It is a neat summary of what has happened after Darwin published his theory some 150 years ago. I share most of the viewpoints in this article. Well done.