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.

Happy Darwin Day

It’s the good man’s 202nd birthday.

It’s also Lincoln’s 202nd birthday. And he is an important and impressive figure. But not as important or as impressive as Darwin. Not by a long-shot.

Michele Bachmann hates history

I thought it was pretty terrible when I heard about this historical rewriting.

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced today that Thomas Lowry, a long-time Lincoln researcher from Woodbridge, VA, confessed on January 12, 2011, to altering an Abraham Lincoln Presidential pardon that is part of the permanent records of the U.S. National Archives. The pardon was for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army who was court-martialed for desertion.

Lowry admitted to changing the date of Murphy’s pardon, written in Lincoln’s hand, from April 14, 1864, to April 14, 1865, the day John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Having changed the year from 1864 to 1865, Lowry was then able to claim that this pardon was of significant historical relevance because it could be considered one of, if not the final official act by President Lincoln before his assassination.

This is unfortunate. All that makes this any less lamentable is the fact that at least we know the true history of the document and it can no longer have an effect on us.

Too bad that isn’t the case with Michele Bachmann. (Embedding is disabled and WordPress hates embedding CNN videos directly.) She apparently thinks the founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.

The Tea Party fave said that “the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States….Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”

First, John Quincy Adams was not a founding father. Second, no founding father worked tirelessly to end slavery. The one who did the most was Jefferson when he ended the slave trade, but he certainly did not work without tire in order to end the practice all together. Third, virtually all the founding fathers owned black people. Fourth, in case Bachmann or a Bachmann supporter is reading this, let me spell it out: those black people? They were slaves.

Bachmann is said to be looking at a presidential run. As awful as it would be to have such a goof as president, I can’t deny I have a little morbid curiosity. Throw in Sarah Palin and, well, wouldn’t it at least be interesting?

More presidential rankings

This time I go with my top five:

5. T. Roosevelt
4. Jefferson
3. FDR
2. Lincoln
1. Washington

(I generally consider Lincoln and Washington interchangeable on that list.)