Thursday, January 26, 2006

Darwin the Geologist

An interesting review of an even more interesting book by Sandra Herbert on the early years of Charles Darwin's career - when he was a geologist.

As a geologist myself, this article makes very pleasant reading. Geology taught Darwin the need to document observations in minute detail, to recognize that much of the geological record is missing, and to also admit defeat when the evidence overwhelmed against him.

As a student I well remember first being introduced to Charles Darwin, not as the author of Origin of Species but as the geologist who proposed a theory for the development of coral reefs as atolls. This theory was proved many, many years later. Happily the geologist who was able to core deep below an atoll placed a sign next to the borehole that states "Darwin was Right!"

So it is strange at a time when many non-scientists clamor for Darwin's name to be struck off the education curricula that more scientists don't place signs around the many modern proofs that evolution is no longer a theory but a fact. The discovery of DNA and subsequent gene mapping have demonstrated what Darwin could only suppose - that species do indeed have common origins.

I also wonder what Darwin would make of the current religio-political environment surrounding "intelligent design".

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