Today marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin, the co-discoverer of one of the greatest scientific explanations in history: why life is so complex, so wondrous and so diverse. Why life can survive against all manner of odds, and why some forms of life die off, never to be heard of again.
Darwin’s theory, properly called the theory of Evolution through Natural Selection, has not remained constant since it’s publication 150 years ago. Advances in our understanding of heredity, of genetics and of sexual selection have acted to improve our understanding of the ways in which living organisms adjust to the vagaries of nature and each other. The theory is being constantly refined and improved, but one thing is absolutely certain: The supporting evidence continues to flow in. For biologists, geologists, biochemists and a whole class of scientists, it acts like a map, allowing them to better understand what is going on, providing great clues as to the underlying reasons for particular phenomena, and governing the course of research worldwide.
To some, the theory may seem harsh, hopeless and random. It is too far an intellectual leap, directly challenging the core of their beliefs. This is a huge pity, because it’s explanatory power reveals so much about our origins and the diversity in nature that we see every day. It is no more a moral codebook than the theory of gravity. It provides us with an understanding of the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. When we strive to make the world a better place for all of us, surely we are enrichened by this knowledge rather than denying it outright?
So today I celebrate Darwin Day, remembering not just Darwin, but also Wallace and all the scientists who came after him. Thank you for all the efforts you have made.