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Charles Darwin – the bi-cententary

The 12th February 2009 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Our member Dan Clery has written his story:


Charles-Darwin-31Charles Darwin, born on the 12th February 200 years ago, came up with what is probably the most important idea in the history of science. He reasoned that plants, animals and all living things are not static and unchanging, remaining as they were made by a divine creator; instead they change subtly from one generation to the next and those that are better suited to whatever environment they find themselves in prosper and reproduce more, while those that are less well suited don’t. In this way, plants and animals gradually change, eventually developing into new species and producing the huge variety of nature that we see today. Darwin’s theory, evolution by natural selection, is at the root of our understanding about life on Earth: it explains why there is such diversity in nature, why we are here, and why we are as we are.

37 million years ago

37 million years agoThe Open University has a neat toy on its Darwin bi-centennial site. If you upload a photo of yourself, you can morph into someone who lived 37 million years ago. This is me. It’s not flattering, but a 37 million-year-old man might think I’m gorgeous.

Blogs to view

MouseDr Tim Jones has blogged about the annual Secularist of the Year Award, which has been jointly awarded to Dr Evan Harris MP and Lord Avebury for their success in getting the blasphemy laws abolished. The fact that Tim’s used my Darwin images for his site banner is rather pleasing.

SH&S webmaster Nathan Nelson has begun a new blog, designed to be run in conjunction with his Open University course. It’s called Big Wide World, and is “trying to make sense of big words like sustainability, technology, environment and development.”

Animal tales at Ipswich Museum

To celebrate Darwin’s birth, Ipswich Museum is offering “funny, exciting and thoughtful tales inspired by animals and Darwin’s discoveries” for children over half term – Tuesday 17th to Friday 20th February.

Jerry Coyne has a blog!

JerryCoyneJerry A. Coyne, Ph.D, is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and a member of both the Committee on Genetics and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology. He wrote “Why Evolution is True”, a book that many ignorant Britons ought to read. Now Jerry has a blog.

No prayers here

Durer prayer handsIn response to letters in today’s East Anglian Daily Times (File Attachment: EADT prayer letters.jpg (185 KB) about the nurse facing disciplinary action for praying for a patient, I’ve sent the following reply:

As an old age pensioner I’ve been around far too long to believe you can change the minds of the god deluded. The sheer implausibility of the supernatural can only be accepted by working it out for yourself, as recalled by the young David Attenborough, now in his eighties, who recently said, “I remember looking at my headmaster delivering a sermon, a classicist, extremely clever … and thinking, he can’t really believe all that, can he? How incredible.”

Battle of the bus ads

The atheist bus ads campaign has led to all sorts of reactions, from the thousands of atheists (and a few Christians) who contributed to the fund that paid for them (far in excess of expectations) to the ultra-sensitive driver who wouldn’t drive, and the sneers of those who accused us of agnosticism with that “probably”.

Now there are new ads from the Christian Party, the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Russian Orthodox Church, asserting that “There definitely is a God”, though they offer no proof, as usual.