Darwin’s Bicentenary

Richard Dawkins writes in his fascinating book about a unique interpretation of evolution, The Selfish Gene:

If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: “Have they discovered evolution yet?” Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them. His name was Charles Darwin. To be fair, others had had inklings of the truth, but it was Darwin who first put together a coherent and tenable account of why we exist. [Emphasis mine.]

Today marks the 200th birthday of the revolutionary scientist, Charles Darwin. It is also the 150th anniversary of the day on which his famous book On the Origin of Species was published. It is surprising to see that, one and a half century after the discovery, in a developed nation such as the United States about 45% people still believe that God created man in his present form. (source)

This resistance is rooted mainly in religion because the Darwinian concept of evolution stands in stark contrast with the Creationism theory propagated in the Bible. This is another glaring example of how religious dogmatism can make an otherwise rational human being deny a fact that is backed by science and reason. It is reminiscent of the controversy that surrounded Galilio’s discovery that the Earth was not the center of the universe.  Today, one of the most basic scientific discoveries about our existence, overwhelmingly supported by evidences – as most scientists and biologists agree, is still being taught as “just another theory” in schools. Darwin must still be turning in his grave!

An additional source of opposition (about evolutionary concepts) is the fact that the desire of Nazis and Marxists to reshape the humanity borrowed some justifications from Darwinism (and genetics, in general). This resistence is, of course, scientifically irrelevant. Their shared ideology that “history is a preordained succession of conflicts between groups of people”, and that “improvement in the human condition can come only from the victory of one group over the others” (quotes taken from Blank Slate, Steven Pinker) do have a glib association with Darwinism and genetics, but we should not make a mistake of confusing an association with a causation. Hitler did not commit mass murder because he believed in (a bastardized version of) Darwinism. Just as Hitler did not commit mass murder because he had a “toothbrush mustache”! An association doesn’t necessarily imply causation.

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