Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NY Times: Darwinism Must Die So That Evolution May Live

We talked a good bit about evolution last week in section when we discussed the Evolution of Virulence paper. As you've probably heard, Darwin's 200th birthday is this Thursday, and there are all kinds of "Darwin week" events going on right now.

Because of the tremendous influence the idea of evolution via natural selection has had on modern science, we tend to give Darwin a hero's status, both culturally and scientifically. The New York Times had a nice article yesterday that puts Darwin's scientific contributions into perspective, and explains how referring to evolution via natural selection as "Darwinism" may facilitate comparison with "Creationism" and other notions of evolution as a belief system, rather than a well-studied scientific theory. The article is also interesting because it points out some of the previous discoveries and ideas that made Darwin's discovery possible, and even references Louis Pasteur and John Snow.

Finally, if you haven't heard the story of Alfred Russel Wallace, it is a very interesting one as well. He was a naturalist and collector that lived during Darwin's time and hit on the idea of evolution via natural selection right around the time Darwin did. It was Wallace's letter to Darwin that led the theory to be published for the first time (Darwin fearing that he had been scooped, after keeping his idea to himself for twenty years). You can read a cool National Geographic article about Wallace here.

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