Monday, February 8, 2010

Darwin Day...

... is set for February 12, 2010. This nontraditional holiday celebrates the 200th birthday of the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882).

Darwin spent five years on board the HMS Beagle, which left England in 1831 for a round-the-world scientific exploration. Wherever the expedition went, Darwin studied the flora and fauna and geology of the lands he visited. What an adventure for the then twenty-two year old naturalist! A keen observer, Darwin collected numerous specimens of plants, animals and fossils, and took copious amounts of notes for further study.

Through his research, Darwin developed theories about the origins and adaptations of organisms over time. He believed that evolution occurred, but on a very gradual scale, flavored by immense periods of time. The process of natural selection was the key mechanism driving a species ability to adapt and evolve to changing environments. His 1859 publication - On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection - set forth his theories that this process occurs randomly and that the ability of an organism to survive or die was determined by that organisms ability to adapt to its environment.

Of course, publication of Darwin's theories widened the gulf between scientific thought and theology. Darwin avoided discussions about the social and theological impacts of his work; he was a scientist at heart.

So this Friday we'll hoist a pint in his honor and embrace his theories of natural selection and evolution.

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