Today is Charles Darwin Day, in honor of the person whose insights on evolution helped us make sense of the biological world. Evolution remains the backbone of biology, 200+ years after Darwin’s birth. In addition to evolution being a scientifically robust theory, many also find it to be an inspirational idea. At the end of “On the Origin of Species,” Darwin wrote what is one of the most cited passages in science:
“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
It is a wonderful world, and Darwin’s ideas help make nature’s diversity comprehensible to us. Like many others, I definitely have found inspiration in his ideas, which I’ve tried to put into words in various posts on this site (below are a few examples). Happy Darwin Day, everyone.
“To me, this is the proper way to view life. It is temporary. It is not guaranteed to anyone. It is sometimes painful. But it is also a heroic struggle to exist against the odds. As Darwin wrote, “there is grandeur in this view of life.” He was right. Life is - above all else- beautiful.”
“Out of nature’s pressure cooker comes many examples of species behaving altruistically toward kin, fellow conspecifics, or even individuals from other species. The bad news is that nature is indifferent… But the good news is that it’s not sadistic. Sometimes, nature may even want to hug you.”
“Like Tyson, I often look up at the night sky… I think of my connections and the people I know on the other side of the country, or on other continents, and wonder what the sky looks like to them at that moment. I sometimes think of our early human ancestors looking up at night and how they might have felt under that canopy of stars. Other times I think of my brother, how ephemeral life can be, and how those connections are inherently finite. I too find it astounding that the atoms in our bodies can be traced back to the stars. It makes me reflect on that feeling of connection with other lives, and with matter and energy. Even knowing those connections are ultimately temporary, I am grateful for them. They are among life’s highlights.”
“If you’re looking for meaning in life, science is not a bad place to start. One can even look to the man himself, Charles Darwin. In an 1836 letter to his sister Susan, he wrote: “A man who dares to waste one hour of time, has not discovered the value of life.” What else is more precious?”
“As social animals, we need to be around others. Virtually everything we do is social – trade, eating meals, watching sports in stadiums or movies in theaters, religious services, education, the internet, etc. Even war is a social activity. No human being on the planet is completely self-sufficient. Being social is more than utilitarian, however; it is also biologically and psychologically necessary.”