Did you know Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were both born on February 12, 1809? Lincoln’s birthday was once highlighted on the calendar, but this year Governor Jack Markell designated Feb. 12 as “Charles Darwin Day” in Delaware “for all of [Darwin’s] achievements in the field of science.”
“Charles Darwin is recognized for the development of the Theory of Evolution *** [which] is the foundation of modern biology, an essential tool in understanding the development of life on earth *** the anniversary of Darwin’s birthday is a time to reflect and celebrate the importance of his scientific achievements; and *** the State of Delaware is proud of its commitment to scientific research.”
This action was reportedly taken at the request of the Delaware Atheist Meetup group and the American Humanist Association. Delaware is the first state to have declared Darwin Day, but similar action has been proposed in other states and also at the federal level.
Sixty plus people gathered at a Newark Marriott on February 12 to celebrate Darwin’s legacy and also lament the fact that his conclusions about “natural selection” and “the survival of the fittest” have sparked a lot of opposition over the years. Thus, according to Professor Richard Hanley (UD, philosophy), “Darwin gets blamed for every eugenics program over the last 200 years.” Darwin gets his day, The News Journal, 2/13/15.
However, Darwin supporters have given as good as they got. Conservatives are sneered at in today’s society for holding religious beliefs while supposedly rejecting the tenets of science. Anti-evolution (creationism), anti-vaccine, denial of the manmade global warming theory, it’s all of a piece and time to put this rubbish aside!
Consider how the media jumped on Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), a potential presidential candidate in 2016, for ducking when he was unexpectedly asked about his beliefs in the theory of evolution. That was dumb – a serious person? – boldly uninformed – wow.
Walker subsequently issued a statement: “Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith & science are compatible, & go hand in hand.” But the criticism continued, including comments about his uncompleted college education. Scott Walker’s evolution punt shows media’s love for scientific “gotchas,” T. Beckett Adams, Washington Examiner, 2/13/15.
Is there anything to the claim that conservatives reject science? Certainly some of them may, e.g., “creationists” who profess that the details of the creation story in the Bible - God created the cosmos and all that it contains in six days - are literally true. By this logic, the theory of evolution is not merely wrong, it is heresy. The unpersuadables: Adventures with the enemies of science, Will Storr, 2014.
There is also some extreme thinking and rhetoric on the other side, however, e.g., from those who interpret the theory of evolution as proving existence is a random occurrence, devoid of meaning, and triumphantly dismiss beliefs to the contrary as delusional. What the media don’t want you to know about what evolutionists teach, godfatherpolitics.com, 2/16/15.
Although Darwin was himself a religious skeptic, there is no reason one cannot believe in a supreme being (why we exist) and also view evolution and other scientific theories as showing how the cosmos works. Evolution is not an undeniable fact, moreover, but rather a theory subject to continuing examination and refinement.
Thus, one issue with Darwin’s theory is that biological adaptations in a changing environment take place a good deal faster than might be expected if the only factor at work was the survival value of random genetic variations. Recent studies have confirmed the suspicion that other factors may be involved, e.g., by demonstrating that variations in the beaks of finches noted by Darwin while he was visiting the Galapagos Islands are related to a genetic molecule that tends to produce beak variations on an as needed basis. How Darwin’s finches got their beaks, William J. Cromie, Harvard Gazette Archives, 7/24/06.
As for other tenets of science that conservatives have been accused of rejecting, consider the following.
•Vaccines – Although the media tends to attribute anti-vaccine sentiment to conservatives, many of the holdouts are on the other side. Not only is this a liberal fringe issue, but one that is said to be heavily financed by lawyers suing drug companies and high-profile Democratic fundraisers. Scott Walker’s evolution punt, op. cit.
*Global warming – Some scientific theories are sounder than others, and it’s hard to see anything “anti-scientific” about questioning a theory that seems illogical on its face, has not been proven, and is apparently being pushed for political and/or rent-seeking purposes. As for the asserted scientific consensus that the planet is warming in a dangerous way due to the combustion of fossil fuels, remember that it was once considered heresy to assert that the Earth rotated around the Sun rather than the other way around. As though to confirm the analogy, the pope recently jumped into the argument on the side of the global warming alarmists.
Keep the global warming research and debate going by all means, but based on what is currently known it would be foolish to invest huge amounts of money in more costly, less reliable energy sources. Ironically, it is the global warming alarmists who are in a lather to stop talking and take action. Do they realize, at some level, that their theory is in trouble after 18 years without any appreciable global warming?
Summing up, I see nothing wrong with celebrating the scientific achievements of Charles Darwin, but if the real purpose is to take a shot at the beliefs of others or make a political point, the government should stay out of it.