It always makes me a little sad to see folks dis Darwin. It doesn’t matter from which side of his evolutionary coin the disser shows no respect, that’s what dissing means, be it the one who calls him a Blasphemer (I know a guy who would use that term, a freaking scientist) for suggesting that Humanity was not laid down Perfectly Intact by the hand of White God (on day 6 I guess, since 7 was rest day), because we’re so special, that fool I can actually forgive more readily than the one who uses Darwin's name in connection with any aspect of evolutionary theory with which the disser disagrees.
Often something for which Darwin carries little or no responsibility, that particular aspect.
Darwin put forth a few pretty basic ideas, not perfect, no, but damned good. He knew nothing of DNA, or genes, or heredity beyond the same thing lots of folks knew about selective breeding, but he was also well read, and did tons of freaking field work, I mean, the Dude totally earns my respect for the Voyage of the Beagle, and the rigorous lab work that followed, it’s always less fun than the field work, even if it was kind of a rich kid’s natural history dream job, it weren’t no easy job, and no matter what anyone says about anything, what he inferred from those data and the reading he did was bloody brilliant.
Brilliant, over the top, super simple, great ideas usually are. All hail Darwin (and Wallace, not now).
Now, again, his ideas weren’t perfect. He was lacking in so much data, it isn’t even funny. But the thing is that One Big Idea, and no, he did not invent the idea of evolution, he came up for ONE of SEVERAL mechanisms by which it might occur, all basically about what works and what doesn’t and who has sex and who doesn’t, and proposed them as just that, ideas, mechanisms that might explain an alternative to the hypothesis of divine (White God) creation and also explain the unity and diversity and biogeography of life on earth.
We won’t get into non-white god creation right now. I think Darwin would like the ideas emerging around it.
What happened to Darwin's ideas over time, with new data, is really quite cool, lots of it, we’ve learned a lot, we know how important diversity, we get endosymbiosis and horizontal gene flow, we know the importance of behavior, we’re even starting to understand the sentience of the earth, at all levels of scale, throw in some community ecology and Gaian theory and the evolution of the planet is like, way wicked cool, exciting, unless of course it turns out to mean wiping out humanity because we’re such pains in the Gaian butt.
So I started listening to a thing about evolution, and the guy was attributing gradualism to Darwin, and saying it’s so wrong, it’s all about punctuated equilibrium, both those ideas pretty post Darwinist, and the thing is that both of those ideas are right, it’s just a matter of scale, that equilibrium part is where in the gradual happens, Darwin's time scales were still in question, just like in many ways Dawkins and his memes are as correct and brilliant even if his selfish genes aren't so much, still, the meme is as great a concept as Darwin's natural selection and reproductive success, both super contributors to the knowledge pool, but neither one the guy with all the correct answers.
And I hear the same dissing happening by the same crowd talking about genes and Darwin in the same sentence as if Darwin had any knowledge of genes, and what they are. He didn’t. And if anyone wants to argue that reproductive success (or at least sex) is not one thing (not the only thing, no, but one), the safety and security and survival of one’s offspring, or species, or population, that it is not important to every living thing on earth (except maybe some people), well, I’d argue that one all day long.
Please, don’t dis Darwin. He rocked.