To say that Darwin gave us the foundation of modern biology is accurate, but it only begins to convey his significance through the ages. In fact, such a statement seems to imply that Darwin's contribution was primarily historic. And yet, his work continues to have great relevance today.
Here's how Jobsanger put it in his Darwin Day post:
Today, more than a century after his death, Darwin remains one of the most respected and revered scientists of all time by those who respect science and reality -- and one of the most hated men of all time by fundamentalist theocrats who refuse to accept the reality of evolution.That sums it up pretty well, doesn't it. For those of us who live in the real world, Darwin is a hero. For those who prefer to live in fantasy, he is someone to demonize, even though those who do so never seem to want to live without his contributions.
Dr. Coyne (Why Evolution is True) reminds us of Darwin's primary contributions to modern biology:
- The idea of evolution itself: the transformation of populations
- The idea that evolution was gradual rather than instantaneous involving the replacement of types in populations through differential reproduction rather than change of the individuals themselves
- The idea that all species have common ancestors, however dissimilar they are
- The idea of a branching tree of life, whereby one original species gave rise to all of life’s diversity today (this is simply the flip side of common ancestry)
- The idea that adaptive evolution is the result of a blind, and mindless process: natural selection, which accounts for the appearance of “design” that was previously imputed to the wisdom of God.
While Darwin's work is widely accepted and praised throughout much of the world, the hyper-religious United States has had a more difficult time with it. Our ignorance has retarded our progress in some ways, and if this bothers you, I'll suggest one thing you might do today in honor of Darwin: consider supporting the National Center for Science Education.