Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Darwin Day

That's tomorrow, February 12. Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day in 1809. We're a long way, obviously, from having an official holiday recognizing Darwin's birth, but in my view, that might be the best way to frame the 21st Century Kulturkampf. You can read about organized efforts to celebrate Darwin Day here. Sponsors include the usual suspects -- Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, and the gang -- but there's an impressive, long list, and you can join it.

What is the meaning of Darwin Day to me? The single most important is the power of inquiry -- the fundamental principle that the universe is out there to be discovered, and that our astonishing, wondrous minds and senses can journey into the unknown and find the truth. How liberating and joyous to break the chains of ancient myth and shatter the cramped, dank cell door of received belief, to walk out into the light of reason.

But it's not just the spiritual intensity of reason that makes Darwin Day special; it's necessity. We have not much time left to save ourselves from unimaginable disaster, and our only hope is fearless acceptance of truth, wherever it takes us. Let's celebrate Darwin day because it feels good, but also because we must.

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