Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin Is 200 Today


Congratulations to Charles Darwin on the 200th anniversary of his birth today. Shame on roughly half of the peasant population of the U.S., who feel compelled to reject the most basic facts about biology because their baseless religious beliefs might thereby be threatened. Science may not have all the answers to life’s problems, but neither does stupidity.

With Valentine’s Day coming up this Saturday, please take a moment to marvel at the fact that we wouldn’t fully understand the origins of the emotional attraction living things feel for each other without the insights Charles Darwin offered a century and a half ago, about the evolutionary incentives creating the reproductive impulse and the desire to protect kin — malleable though they may be to some extent in creatures as rational as ourselves. (We may get one or two Darwin-bashers at Lolita Bar one week from tonight when Ken Silber and Ryan Sager debate the question “Has the Right Hit Bottom Yet?” so consider that potential learning experience an extra reason to show.)

Take an additional moment to appreciate the hardships scientists endure to perform their research on animal life, whether it’s Darwin traveling to the Galapagos, Dr. Will Marshall (seen in the picture above) traveling to the “Land of the Lost” in an alternate timeline, or the unfortunate Ph.D. student in England whose immense bag of lizard dung was mistakenly thrown out by maintenance people.


Even kids can have an intuitive sense, I think, of what seems evolutionarily-plausible and what does not, just as some of us were nerdy enough to recognize that, say, a cartoon of a spaceship shaped like a tree was probably disregarding engineering efficiency (even if we didn’t fully understand engineering). That hasn’t stopped fantasists from depicting some crazy and evolutionarily-unlikely monsters over the years, though, from the absurdly super-massive Godzilla to the even less-plausible “thought beasts of Krypton” (essentially hippos with TV sets for heads that display the thoughts of people standing nearby), creatures DC Executive Editor Dan Didio would reportedly like to see brought back in the new Superman: World of New Krypton series.

As DC Comics editor Scott Nybakken once said sarcastically to me and professional manga-seller Ali Kokmen, “That’s such a useful evolutionary adaptation, I can’t believe it hasn’t happened already.” Ah, Nybakken, that cynic spawned by (non-Kryptonian) scientist parents — but you’ll hear more about him next month. For now: congratulations again, Mr. Darwin.


Diana said...

No one from the right ever hit my bottom!

Ken Silber said...

Ok, now I’m really ready for this debate.