On this 204th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, U.S. Rep Rush Holt of New Jersey introduced House Resolution 41 to express support for recognition of February 12th as Darwin Day and for scientific thinking. Watch this rare and rational moment from Washington take place.
"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.“
- T. H. Huxley
Thomas Huxley bio
Paleontologist Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang found the 314 slides while searching through the vaults of the Survey headquarters near Keyworth, UK. Each slide contains a polished thin section of a fossil plant, prepared for viewing under a microscope. But the best thing about the discovery is that some of the slides are of specimens collected by the young Charles Darwin during his legendary voyage on the Beagle. Darwin’s theory of evolution and subsequent book On the Origin of Species resulted from much of what he discovered during the five-year voyage. Among the specimens collected by Darwin is a piece of petrified wood from an island off the coast of Chile in 1834.
Falcon-Lang figures the collection has been languishing unregistered in the cabinet for 165 years. Joseph Hooker, a botanist and close friend of Darwin, worked briefly for the Geological Survey in the early 19th century, and given the job of cataloging the collection. But before Hooker could properly register the fossils, he left on an expedition to the Himalayas and the collection was soon forgotten. In the passing years the cabinet got moved several times until it reached its current storage place deep in the recesses of the Geological Survey where it was found in April of last year.
According to Falcon-Lang the lost fossils, some of which can be viewed on line, will add greatly to current science, and he expects some great scientific papers to result from the collection.
Courtesy Public domainToday marks the birthday of naturalist Charles Robert Darwin, born February 12, 1809. Darwin's most important work On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, and laid out his theory of evolution through natural selection. The publication caused an uproar in religious circles at the time, because evolution went against the prevailing biblical notion that all life on earth had come into existence in whole form rather than evolved.
If you'd like to learn more about Darwin's accomplishments, what better way to do so on his birthday than to read his obituary that appeared in the April 29, 1882 issue of Scientific American. Happy birthday, Mr. Darwin!
Darwin's obituary as pdf.
Philosopher Denis Dutton presents a very convincing and entertaining Darwinian perspective on why humans perceive something as beautiful, and why we make art. It's evolutionary! Beauty and art convey unspoken ideas and emotions, aid in sexual selection, and ultimately promote the continuation of the species. This could explain all the hoopla today about Apple Computer finally including the Beatles music catalog on iTunes. "You say you want an evolution..." (cheesy pun added to impress females).
I should add that Dutton's Ted.com talk is greatly enhanced by animator Andrew Park's clever illustrations.
Courtesy University of OsloPerhaps taking advantage of the Darwin publicity last year (200th birthday), a scientific paper was published revealing Ida, a 47 million year old fossil classified Darwinius masillae.
The study's lead author, Jørn Hurum of the University of Oslo, variously called the fossil the holy grail of paleontology and the lost ark of archeology. A two-hour documentary called "The Link" was on the History Channel and a book with the same title hit bookstores.
How big money became mixed with science is described in the Guardian post titled Deal in Hamburg bar led scientist to Ida fossil, the 'eighth wonder of the world'.
Now that money has been made, it is time for the scientific process (peer review).
John Fleagle, a professor at Stony Brook University, in New York state, who reviewed the paper for the journal, agrees that the fossil is not a lemur. But Ida's full significance would not be known until other scientists had seen the paper. "That will be sorted out, or at least debated extensively, in the coming years."
In a paper in the Journal of Human Evolution, Chris Kirk strongly argue(d) that Darwinius is not one of our ancestors. Science blogger, Brian Switek, also explains why ... That "Ida" is Not Our Great-Great-Great-Great-Etc. Grandmother. Dissenting scientists are awaiting a response from Jørn Hurum.
I am reminded of another case where the media was used to hype a story before it was properly reviewed by others. I wrote about it here: Jesus and family found in tomb? What moral is to be learned here?
Don't announce discoveries through the media, but through the tried and tested peer-review process.
Courtesy Public domainNaturalist Charles Robert Darwin was born this day in 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. His groundbreaking book titled On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, and laid out his revolutionary theory of evolution through natural selection. Want to learn more about this great scientist? Go here.
NOVA is presenting a new 2 hour program tonight titled What Darwin Never Knew that details the advances science has made since publication of Charles Darwin's revolutionary book, On the Origin of Species, 150 years ago. Check your local listings for times.