Happy birthday, Mr. Darwin

darwin Today marks 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin, naturalist, formulator of the Theory of Evolution, and owner of one sweet beard. Oddly, it's also the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, president, writer of the Gettysburg Address, and owner of one sweet hat. While both men are worthy of a blog post, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk a bit about my boy Charles.

Darwin has become an iconic, and divisive, figure in modern parlance. He's a lightning rod for the whole evolution/creationism debate, and one of the chief sentinels in the ongoing battle between faith and reason. For those who prefer a somewhat rationalist worldview, Darwin has taken on a sort of mythical hero status. Were he alive to celebrate his 200th, he'd be getting a lot of fist bumps right about now.

All of this is fine, but it sort of speaks past the point. We've made Darwin into a personification of our intellectual ideals. What gets lost in this formula is a recognition of how truly brilliant Darwin really was. Before he scaled the grand heights of pop-cultural significance, he was just a really great scientist. He changed the way we look ourselves and our world, and completely altered the course of human affairs. For good and bad, nothing was the same after Charles got done with it.

So, today I'll be drinking a pint in honor of an incredible thinker. Let's leave all the politics and acrimony out of it, and say, "Here's to you, Charles. You were an exceptional human being." I think he would appreciate that more than anything.