This is a repost combining two posts noting Darwin Day in years past
Charles Darwin was born 204 years ago today, and the International Darwin Day Foundation uses February 12th each year to celebrate Darwin, Science and Humanity. It’s 154 years since the publication of his paradigm-shattering work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
Wikipedia gives a summary of the book’s changing influence over the decades:
The book was written for non-specialist readers and attracted widespread interest upon its publication. As Darwin was an eminent scientist, his findings were taken seriously and the evidence he presented generated scientific, philosophical, and religious discussion. The debate over the book contributed to the campaign by T.H. Huxley and his fellow members of the X Club to secularise science by promoting scientific naturalism. Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During the “eclipse of Darwinism” from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit. With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin’s concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, now the unifying concept of the life sciences.
A theory which many had thought was overblown and outdated 100 years ago came to receive a proper appreciation of its relevance and accuracy when new discoveries in genetics supported it, and kept on providing more and more supporting data by showing how natural selection actually worked. Every organism alive on the planet today is a mutant.
Congratulations, Charles Darwin, on your diligent observation, open-minded analysis and perspicacious insight. It’s not only scientists who can learn something from your example, as these examples of fun and games on the internet show:
Hints to anyone thinking of reading it: you want the second edition, which fixed the typos but doesn’t contain all the refutation of arguments people came up with which aren’t very interesting now (Darwin’s instincts about the important parts of the argument were right). And watch for the bit where he invents ecology, only there is no ecological vocabulary yet. The “tangled bank” last paragraph which often gets quoted refers back to that.
On twitter just now: