Thursday 13 February 2014

I missed Darwin Day

With all the flooding drama these days, I missed an important day to commemorate yesterday: Darwin Day, the birthday of Charles Darwin. Say what you will about my country of adoption, about how backwards some of its institutions are (yes I am thinking about this one), this country remains in many ways the birthplace of modernity and progress, and we owe it a lot to Darwin. He did not only revolutionize science, but the way mankind looks at itself. It is a shameful thing that some schools here and elsewhere in the Western world still teach creationism. But anyway, every time I see his face on a £10 bill, I remember why I admire England.


Mantan Calaveras said...

I find myself believing less and less in the concept of "progress" as time goes on. The question becomes, "progress towards what?" and the answer, evidently, is progress towards wiping out the few remaining indigenous peoples around the globe who actually know how to live their lives functionally in harmony with nature.

While we lionize technology, and canonize science as the contemporary equivalent of the church as ultimate moral and intellectual authority, our use of technology further atomizes society and brings us closer and closer to ecological destruction.

But don't worry, the scientists will surely find a way to reverse global warming, and undo the pollution that their technology creates. I mean that's just logic in'nit?

But Darwin himself? I don't know if he really did enough good in the world to be worthy of a holiday. Origin of species is certainly a clever and influential piece of sci-fi, but what good did he really do? I mean tangible good. To me he was too typical a white man at the height of empire, living too much in his head and concerned only with his ideas, and not with benefiting people.

Sorry for the rant, I'm in a grumpy mood.

Cynthia said...

Pas mal d'avoir mis Darwin sur un billet!

Guillaume said...

Mantan-Whether or not scientists can save the planet from ecological destruction is non sequitur here. Science in itself is not moral. Although I would note that it is scientific discovery that made us aware of the dangers environment faces, including of course dangers created by mankind. I don't buy what you say about arboriginals being closer to nature either, this is the myth of the "Bon Sauvage" and had never equivalent in reality. Closer to nature, surely, but respecting it, I am far from convince. Aboriginal populations in Canada can go whale hunting because of religious traditions, even if the whale is an endangered species, for instance.

That said, it is partially Darwin's theory that made us discover that we are from the same family as said aboriginals, furthermore, it is because of Darwin's discoveries that we know that mankind is not the owner of this earth and its species out of divine right, but a primate that made it. The Origin of Species is NOT sci-fi, it explained how living creatures developed and adapted, it also explained at least partially the nature and origins of mankind... While in the same time destroying at its core the religious claims the empire you mention found parts of its legitimacy on. Yes, he was a product of a white, Western society, the dominant culture and civilization at the time. He probably wouldn't have discovered evolution if he hadn't come from it. Just like Pasteur wouldn't have discovered the theory of germs had he not come from a wealthy society, capable of educating and funding researchers. That does not detriment in any way the intrinsic values of their discoveries. Darwin's theory has had applications in pretty much all the fields of medicine, in history, linguistics, anthropology, zoology, etc. What good did he do? Just for making us understand this world better is good enough, but try to treat any illness with prayers and you'll see what good he did.

@Cynthia-C'est mieux qu'avoir la Reine.