Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin & Lincoln

On February 12, 1809, two men --- one near Hodgenville, Kentucky, the other in Shrewsbury, England were born. Two men who would change the world forever.

On this, the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, I am deep in thought. Which man has had a greater impact on the world --- and 100 years from now, which will be more significant.

By way of press coverage of their birthdays the answer seems quite obvious. Lincoln has had all kinds of press, while many do not even recognize that Darwin was born the same day.

Lincoln has always been a hero of mine --- that is probably the product of growing up in Illinois, and also being a student of Civil War history. I have read numerous biographies on Lincoln, including Carl Sandburg and Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln's bodyguard). I am currently reading Team of Rivals and am loving it.

Darwin, on the other hand, has always been an enigma. Sure, I learned about his theories in school, and I grew up in a church that had no problems with evolution. But other than watching Inherit the Wind, the rather inaccurate movie about the Scopes Trial, I really know nothing about him.

I keep abreast of the new, and i think ridiculous debate about Intelligent Design (Creationism in sheep's clothing), but I have never read Origin of Species, or any biographies about Darwin. I think it is probably time . . .

What difference does it make? Evolution vs. Creationism is one of the litmus tests for conservative Christianity. The fear that if we begin to believe in evolution, the whole religious house of cards will cave in is a huge fear for many. I don't get the debate because religion and science are not incompatible for me, like it is to so many.

Lincoln will always be revered for his role in the emancipation and the elimination of slavery in America. But as we all know, racism persists even to this day. Getting rid of that taint is a much deeper problem. I am not sure Lincoln would be possible without Darwin and his understanding of our interconnectedness. Slowly, ever so slowly, we are understanding that we are all connected to each other: white, black, brown, yellow, red --- we are all children of the same God.

100 years from now I think we will look back on Darwin as the one who ushered in the new age that is emerging. He has opened our eyes to realities that seemed impossible only a few years ago.

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