Darwin v Lincoln

As many may have noticed, today is the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Each was born in 1809 and each made a massive impact on the world. For Lincoln, he maintained the United States and freed millions. Darwin, however, had a much more worldwide impact. His theory of evolution proved to be the cornerstone of one of the most important branches of science; as Theodosius Dobzhansky said, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. Of course, this wasn’t all his theory did. Indeed, Darwin’s most emotional critics came from religious camps. If man evolved right along with all the other animals and organisms, they said, then we are no longer special. Unique, perhaps, but not special. On that point I believe they were and are right. Unfortunately, far too many people believe such a point is a valid basis for dismissing fact.

It’s no secret that most scientists are not religious. This includes biologists, in large part due to what Darwin had to tell us all. In fact, one reason many lay people reject religious dogma is because of evolution (amongst many other areas of science); science is a part of our culture and it influences our fundamental views about the world. This is huge.

With the importance of both Lincoln and Darwin in mind, I have to wonder who had the bigger impact. Surely most Americans will automatically say Lincoln, whether they be creationists or rational, but this isn’t a popularity contest. In terms of changes to world views, to the day-to-day lives of individuals, and to world cultures as a whole, my money is on Darwin.

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5 Responses

  1. You have a point. Lincoln was speaking out in favor of something that was already well known and understood: abolition of slavery. He’s become a symbol of that, but limited primarily to America. (Which is fair, that’s the only society he was able to directly affect).

    But Darwin operated in the area of science, which knows no national boundary. And his theory was something most of society had never heard of before–something truly revolutionary.

    Moreover, the end of slavery in the U.S. had fairly straightforward consequences: reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, the civil rights movement, etc. But the consequences of evolutionary theory ranged from vast leaps forward in biology and medicine to all kinds of interpretations in other areas: literature, secularism, social policy (right or wrong), business practices, and so forth. A lot of that was misguided and misapplied, but it shows what an impact the idea had on people.

  2. Dude, sentence fragment.

    “Indeed, Darwin’s most emotional critics from religious camps.”

    assume you meant to add “came”

    no complete sentences in my post either. with you man!

  3. That’s what I get for making a post during my break at work.

  4. […] Darwin v Lincoln (forthesakeofscience.com) […]

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