12 February is the birthday of one of the greatest scientists to have ever lived. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection changed the world. It radically shifted humanity’s grandiose view of itself, showing that we are not separate from animals, we are animals. Darwin demonstrated that we are related to every other living this on the planet; all of life is one huge family tree.
This is such a profound and simple realisation and should affect all of us. If we understand our connection to all other life, surely we should treat it with more respect than if we believe ourselves to be given a divine right to dominate and subdue all creatures?
Theodosius Dobzhansky said that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’. I would extend that sentiment and say that nothing in psychology, sociology, anthropology, ecology, ethics, environmentalism and just about every other field of human knowledge makes sense except in the light of evolution.
The British Humanist Association gives a list of ten reasons to celebrate today as ‘Darwin Day’. For me the most important one is recognising the importance of science and understanding in a world where religion, superstition and pseudoscience seem to be gaining ground.
So have some Evolution Ale, watch some nature documentaries, read the Origin of Species, or Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, visit a zoo or zoology museum, and celebrate the idea that changed everything. Happy Darwin Day to all my fellow apes, mammals and all life forms!