Thankful for Darwin

On this 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s publication of “Origin of Species”, I’m thankful for his multi-decade effort to understand one of the greatest questions of human history: where do we come from?

When I asked Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky which 10 books the general public should read to gain a basic understanding of biology, nine of the books were published in the last 10 years. Only one book he recommended was older than 10 years. You know the book – it’s 150 years old today.

In the fast-changing world of science and evolutionary biology, it’s amazing that a 150-year old book is still relevant.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of this great book, reflect onthe example Darwin has set.

Other authors we have read in the Reading Odyssey have set similar examples from different domains. My favorite line in any book comes from Thucydides’ introduction when he says he’s not writing for “applause of the moment but as a possession for all time.”

2500 years later Thucydides’ history still stands as a great possession. When we read Thucydides in the Reading Odyssey we are completing hismission – we are shaking his hand through history. We are telling him that he succeeded. His book has indeed become a possession for all time.

Darwin was also not writing for the short-term. He developed his initial thinking about evolution by natural selection decades before he published. Darwin’s method created Darwin’s greatness. His long-term, patient approach to amassing the evidence and testing his hypotheses stands as a model for all humanity for all time.

Ironically, by virtue of evolution, humans are endowed with a tendency to think and act in the short-term. But, this tendency is not our destiny. Darwin and Thucydides and others show that we can live our lives as if what we do today will matter for decades and centuries beyond us – and for that lesson I give much thanks.


Celebrate *today* 150th anniversary of Darwin’s “Origin”  


We are co-sponsoring two great events today, Tuesday, November 24.

– E.O. Wilson and the British Council at 1pm New York time 

No registration needed but you do need the latest version of Adobe Flash. Go here at 1pm *or later* on Tuesday, Nov 24:

– New York Academy of Sciences at 6pm New York time 

Live webcast with Nobel Prize winners and other leading scientists. Register *free* here: 

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Our Facebook group on Darwin

– 260,000+ members

Please keep spreading the word and go over and write your thanks to Darwin on the wall. 

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25. November 2009 by Arrian
Categories: Commentary, Darwin | Tags: , | Comments Off on Thankful for Darwin