Charles Darwin Dared to Seek & Interpret the Evidence

Posted on February 13, 2009, 6:50 pm
5 mins

We just celebrated Charles Darwin’s bicentennial birthday (February 12th) and as we’re marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species this year, I cannot shake the disappointment that so many members of our species don’t accept the theory of evolution. Why? Is it because of a conflict between science and religion? Or, is it misinformation and ignorance in this 21st century? Do we really need to know this stuff about our origins?

Science and modernity pose great challenges to traditional societies and their cultures. Culture usually means repetition. The more primitive a society is, the more warnings it has against change. Now, throw into the mix the national myths that make people feel special, elevate certain beliefs onto the level of identity, and indeed change has the speed of molasses. This was more or less expected in the old world with limited knowledge, education and access to reliable information. But, why today?

It is understandable that any challenge to a person’s (or a whole society’s) identity is perceived as a great threat. Well, at least by those who aren’t really confident in their belief system. How many people really re-think, re-evaluate what they “know” ? We know stuff because we were told, instructed, indoctrinated, and by repeating “known” universal truths. Of course, there’s another way, that of critical inquiry, but this would also require a high level of confidence. The latter is necessary for amending views and practices. Swimming against the current can be lonely at times, dangerous, and requires lots of effort. Thankfully, there have been several brave thinkers and bold actors that helped human society progress. Some of them paid dearly for being intellectually honest.

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A self-described Athenian, works and lives in the NYC metropolitan area. Interested in the world of ideas, the human condition & history, and how public policy can foster a progressive culture of life.