February 12th is Charles Darwin’s birthday (Feb 12, 1809 – April 19, 1888). And people world wide are celebrating his life and remembering his achievements. Unfortunately the average person seems to know very little about Darwin and his work. Creationists systematically slander the man without actually having read any of his books. And public school teachers are forced to expose their students to dry factoids and poorly written textbooks. But there is much more to the fascinating history of evolutionary biology and its founder. Countless resources are available online for those who have an interest in learning more about Charles Darwin the man, the explorer, the naturalist, and, of course, the scientist. Here are just a few:
The Darwin Day Page
About Darwin: Dedicated To The Life And Times Of Charles Darwin
London Natural History Museum: Charles Darwin, the Young Explorer
University Of California Museum Of Paleontology
The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online
Talk Origins: Exploring the Creation Evolution Controversy
Darwin Day: Stony Brook University 2008
Darwin Day at Cal UCMP
University Of Wisconsin-Whitewater: Darwin Day Lecture
Check the web and see if a university near you is hosting an event.
HAPPY DARWIN DAY TO YOU ALL!
For X-Mas, I was delighted to recieve a copy of the new book by Donald Prothero, titled Evolution: What The Fossils Say and Why It Matters. Being unfamiliar with Prothero’s previous published works, I mistakenly took the book to be a pretty coffee table book about fossils. How wrong I was.
Donald Prothero is a professor of geology at Occidental College in Southern California, and he has written a whole list of books, from After The Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals to The Evolution Of The Earth.
His latest book is a stimulating read. I’ve only just finished chapter 3, but I’m too excited to wait to review the whole thing. His style of writing to clear and to the point. And he knows how to introduce technical terms without overwhelming the reader. In the first chapter he explains the philosophy of science, which is very often misunderstood by the general public, especially creationists. Here is an excerpt in which he writes about science as a method and the meaning of the word theory:
…Science is not about final truth or “facts”; it is only about continually testing and trying to falsify our hypotheses, until they are extremely well supported. At that point, the hypothesis becomes a theory (as scientists use the term), which is a well-corroborated set of hypotheses that explain a larger part of the observations about the world. Some well-known and widely accepted theories are the theory of gravitation, the theory of relativity, and, of course, the the theory of evolution.
You can read a sample chapter (PDF Format) or view some of the color plates (PDF Format).
Here are a few of the other chapter titles: Life’s Origin, Cambrian “Explosion”… or Slow Fuse?, Spineless Wonders Of Evolution, Fish Tales, Dinosaurs Evolve and Fly, The Ape’s Reflection.
I’ll be back with more on this great book, because Prothero does a wonderful job crushing creationism with science, and he deserves to be applauded.