Saturday, December 26, 2009

150 years of Darwinism

Just over 150 years ago the first edition of Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species was published. It quickly sold out and a second edition was published on 7 January 1860. Although it avoided the subject of human evolution this was, and has been ever since, a major topic of discussion, with the belief that apes and humans evolved from a common ancestor.

Darwin's book has understandably become a kind of 'New Testament' for atheists, some of whom like theoretical biologist Richard Dawkins use it as the basis of a crusade against theists (believers in God). Given the way many religious fundamentalists behave, particularly Islamic extremists and the 'Christian religious right' in America's Bible belt, it is easy to sympathise with Dawkins' views. However, there are major problems with the adequency of Darwin's theories, for example, recent fossil evidence that points to spontaneous mutation. While Darwin's theories are good at explaining how species evolved, they are not when it comes to explaining how species came to exist in the first place. Clearly Darwin deserves a celebrated place in the history of science but his writings do not deserve the holy reverence which people like Dawkins pay them.

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