This questioning spirit is one of the most appealing facets of Darwin's character, particularly where it finds its way into his published work. Reading "The Origin of Species," you feel as though he is addressing you as an equal. He is never autocratic, never bullying. Instead, he is always willing to admit what he does not know or understand, and when he poses a question, he is never rhetorical. He seems genuinely to want to know the answer. He's also a good salesman. He knows that what he has to say will not only be troubling for a general reader to take but difficult to understand—so he works very hard not to lose his customer. The book opens not with theory but in the humblest place imaginable: the barnyard, as Darwin introduces us to the idea of species variation in a way we, or certainly his 19th-century audience, will easily grasp—the breeding of domestic animals. The quality of Darwin's mind is in evidence everywhere in this book, but so is his character—generous, open-minded and always respectful of those who he knew would disagree with him, as you might expect of a man who was, after all, married to a creationist.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Forget Lincoln-Douglas - How about a Lincoln-Darwin debate?
In case you did not see it - it is worth seeing the discussion of Lincoln vs. Darwin in Newsweek (How Darwin and Lincoln Shaped Us). They set up the discussion by pointing out that they had the same birthday. They say Lincoln was more important. Not going to argue but not sure they are right. My favorite section on this article: