How to celebrate Darwin Day

In 1838, an unmarried teenager named Victoria ascended the throne of Britain. By then, Charles Darwin was already an adult, in his late twenties. If by “Victorian” we mean the period of Victoria’s rule the exploits for which Darwin is famous—the voyage on the Beagle and his coming up with natural selection--are “Pre-Victorian.” He had no talent for mathematics or philosophy, usually thought essential for a great scientist. He is a figure from such a distant past, and so ill-prepared for the role of great scientist, why does it occur to anyone today to celebrate his birthday?

The reason is, because we celebrate not him but something in ourselves.... By celebrating Darwin’s victory we in effect choose  to turn back and celebrate his victory rather than to face forward, deal with our fears, and move on. Fears? What else could account for criticisms of Darwinism being greeted, today, with fingers-in-the-ears chants of “Creationist! Creationist!”?

I have a proposal. Let’s regard Charles Darwin, like his Grandfather Erasmus, as a pre-Victorian pioneer in evolutionary thinking, while we turn to constructing new theories that can account for what we know is true of at least some evolved creatures—us: we can be conscious, creative, and experience exercising free will. More...

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