Devon Humanists

Devon Humanists


Darwin 200

The year 2009 sees two major anniversaries relating to Charles Darwin, one of the greatest scientists that ever lived – his work on evolution through natural selection provided the foundation of much of modern biology.

His 200th birthday falls on 12 February and on 24 November it will be 150 years since the publication of his book On the Origin of Species. The 12 February is celebrated throughout the world as Darwin Day

We encourage you to join us in celebrating Darwin's bicentenary and the 150th anniverary of the publication of one of the most influential books ever written.

What did Darwin achieve?

  • Darwin showed that evolution – the idea that living organisms change form over time – provides a valid explanation for the origin of the varied species of animals and plants that inhabit the Earth.
  • He explained how natural selection controls the progress of evolution.
  • The implication that humans are intimately related to the rest of the animal kingdom transformed the way we see ourselves.
If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone ever had, I'd give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law.
Danniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
Charles Darwin had a big idea, arguably the most powerful idea ever. And like all the best ideas it is beguilingly simple. In fact, it is so staggeringly elementary, so blindingly obvious that although others before him tinkered nearby, nobody thought to look for it in the right place.… You can pare Darwin's big idea down to a single sentence (again, this is a modern way of putting it, not quite Darwin's): "Given sufficient time, the non-random survival of hereditary entities (which occasionally miscopy) will generate complexity, diversity, beauty, and an illusion of design so persuasive that it is almost impossible to distinguish from deliberate intelligent design."… Darwin's big idea explains all of life and its consequences, and that means everything that possesses more than minimal complexity.
Richard Dawkins The Guardian 9 February 2008.

Principal events of Charles Darwin's life

180912Feb Born at The Mount near Shrewsbury.
1828–31 Studied for Anglican Orders at Cambridge.
183127Dec Sailed from Devonport as naturalist on HMS Beagle under Captain Fitzroy.
183515Sep Beagle arrived for a 5 week stay in the Galapagos islands.
18362Oct Beagle returned to Falmouth after a 5 year circumnavigation.
183929Jan Married his cousin Emma Wedgwood.
184214Sep Moved into Down House, his home for the rest of his life.
185924Nov Publication of The Origin of Species.
186030Jun British Association meeting at Oxford at which T. H. Huxley confronted Bishop Wilberforce to defend Darwin's views.
188219Apr Charles Darwin died and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The legendary encounter between Thomas Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce at the Oxford meeting of the British Association ("he [Wilberforce] begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey?") gave rise to a spate of ape cartoons.

The Gospels actually taught this: Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected.

Kurt Vonnegut

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