Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Belated Darwin Day!

Yesterday was Darwin Day. It marked the 198th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. The really big celebration will be in 2009, to celebrate the bicentennial. Among the events we should expect on that day is the culmination of the Beagle Project.

Welcome to the Beagle Project: we aim to provide the most compelling events of Charles Darwin's 2009 anniversary by building a sailing replica of HMS Beagle and sailing in Darwin's wake. The build and Beagle's arrival in the Galapagos in 2009 will be two of the most striking, iconic media events of the 2009 celebrations, aimed at firing the scientific imaginations of a new generation and celebrating the life and work of Charles Darwin, one of the greatest biologists ever.

I encourage everyone who hasn't done so already, to check out their website and donate some money to an incredibly worthy project.

But why did I wait until today to post this? Quite simply, I consider November 22nd to be the true Darwin Day. That was the day (in 1859) when The Origin of Species went on sale; that was the day that changed the world. I've always thought that celebrating the birthdays of important people missed the point. It makes sense to celebrate one's own birthday--or the birthday of one's child or loved one--that date has personal significance. But when you're talking about an important historical figure, their birth is really insignificant. I mean, what really happened on the day that George Washington, or Caesar Augustus, or Martin Luther King Jr. was born? Another baby was delivered. Whoop-dee-doo! It wasn't until later that these people would do what made them "go down in history."

If you're familiar with my blog, then you've probably already smelled the BS. Fact is, I was travelling much of the day yesterday, and when I got home it was late and I was tired and just not in the mood to write the post I had planned. I do however stand by everything I said about important people's birthdays--just not enough to eschew celebrations.

On a final note, I'd also like to encourage evryone to become a Friend of Charles Darwin. That way you can put FCD after your name--just like me.

--Javier Pazos, FCD


Emanuel Goldstein said...

ITs interesting that Darwin has a day. I can see an evolution day, or a science day, but a DAY for an elitist victorian racist (I know, product of his environment...well, so was Hitler) who thought women were intellectually inferior, that vaccination weakended the race, and accepted inheritance of aquired characteristics.

Further, he was an independently wealthy snob who never held an academic post in his life.

He doesn't deserve a DAY.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I disagree with the Science Pundit about birthdays. Would he argue that we should celebrate every day on the calendar that ticks off one of Ben Franklin's contributions to the world? What a full calendar that would be and we would all quickly pass our Franklin-fatigue threashold. Which brings to mind - why don't we celebrate Ben Franklin's birthday? Secondly, I propose we introduce a new holiday - that being "Dick Day"... since calling it "Emanuel Goldstein" day would be honoring an independently lazy snob who somehow finds time at 8:55am on a weekday to dis' Charles Darwin.

Separately, the Science Pundit is a fec.

The Science Pundit said...

Darwin and Hitler? Hmmm, most people who use that analogy cause my blood to boil, but I'm willing to let you slide for the moment. In fact, I'll let you slide on everything except for two tiny details.

First, your Lamarckian (inheritance of aquired characteristics) crack betrays your ignorance: Darwin made a name for himself by debunking that nonsense.

Second, Darwin deserves a DAY a hell of a lot more than most people who've had a DAY for much longer.

Actually, Philadelphia had a pretty big celebration last year for Ben Franklin's 300th birthday. But I agree with you that it should be a national holiday--certainly more worthy than dick day.

Peter Mc said...

Emanuel, have you read The Voyage of the Beagle? I'd suggest chapter 21 settles the racism question. There was no academic tenure in Darwin's Day, and it wa Darwin's work and that of his bulldog which tope science from the grap of the Anglican Church. All Darwin's lecturers in 1828-31 were clergymen and to attend University you had to assent to the Articles of the Church of England. There was no independent academic for him to hold a post in.

Yet despite this, established evolutionary theory, did groudbreaking work in ecology, botany geology, animal and human behavioual biology, invertebrate and vertebrate zoology, soil science, anthropology.

The voyage of the Beagle reports he took ribbing from the crew in very good part, lived a very basic life durng his shore trips. He wass a member of eat-end London pigeon fanciiers clubs. Not something a snob would do. Read his biogs, read his correspondence: he was a nice guy. Oh, and the voyage of the Beagle? He was seasick. Fot all of it: all five years. Have you ever been seasick? I'm a professional sailor and I get it for one day a year. Horrid. Darwin, yes from a reasonably wealthy family, put up with it for five years. He showed more spine, independence of thought and inltellectual courage that a continent full of his critics.

Richard Carter, FCD said...

Emanuel Goldstein, to describe Darwin as a racist is to descibe Pepys as a blogger: the concept simply didn't exist in those days. At the time, all right-thinking people (including non-whites) believed that white people were superior to others, but, by the standards of his day, Darwin was a card-carrying liberal, with vehement views against slavery.

To say that we shouldn't celebrate somebody's birthday because 'he was an independently wealthy snob who never held an academic post in his life' is snobbish in the extreme.