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Perhaps the very first Amazing Journey

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the most incendiary book in the history of science, and coincidentally, the 200th birthday of the mild mannered Englishman who wrote it. Charles Darwin did not invent the idea of evolution, any more than Abe Lincoln–who happens to share his birthday on Feburary 12–invented the idea of freedom. What Darwin provided in The Origin of Species was a powerful theory for how evolution could occur through purely natural forces, liberating scientists to explore the glorious complexity of life, rather than merely accept it as an impenetrable mystery.

Contrary to popular belief, Darwin did not visit only Galapagos.  He actually only visited these islands just once in his lifetime.  As indicated from his journal, he visited and researched his evolutionary theories in many parts of the world:

“The day has past delightfully.  Delight itself, however, is a weak term to experess the feelings of a naturalist who, for the first time, has wandered by himself into a Brazilian forest” – Darwin: February 29, 1832

“It is scarcely possible to imagine any thing more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these (Tierra del Feugo, Chile) glaciers, and especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow” – Darwin : January 29, 1893

Geneticist Theo Dobzhansky wrote 37 years ago that “nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.”  That light, which began as a glimmer in the mind of a young naturalist aboard H.M.S. Beagle, today casts a beam so bright we can read the very text of life by it.  Darwin would be overjoyed to see how much he did not know, and how much we have yet to learn.