Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Talented Mr. Darwin

My business trip this week had been going really well until I started to get sick last night. This is rare for me and I really resent it, but I feel awful and I just need to bite the bullet and get to bed early. But not before writing a quick 200th birthday greeting to a guy I really admire, Charles Darwin (tip of the stovepipe hat to Abe Lincoln, another great guy born on February 12, 1809). If you want to celebrate Darwin Day, you can get some ideas here.

I've read a lot of books and magazine articles over the years on Darwin and evolution, including On the Origin of Species (abridged illustrated version - I've got the full version on my iPod but haven't gotten around to reading it yet). It still amazes me how much he got right about the development of life on this planet, and how robust and useful his ideas have been and continue to be. Now scientists can literally read "the book of life" at the DNA level, providing ever more convincing and detailed evidence that life works pretty much the way Darwin figured it did, and connecting more and more of the branches in the tree of life. I wrote about this last year in a review of The Making of the Fittest by Sean B. Carroll.

So happy birthday, Charles Darwin - you truly done good, even if most Americans don't yet believe that evolution really happens. Except maybe for drug-resistant bacteria.


Giuseppe Albatrino said...

Hi, I always read your very interesting blog. I'd like to know, in your oppinion, if I can only have one book to learn about evolution, what would be its title?
Regards from PerĂº.

FlyingSinger said...

Thanks! That's a tough one. A good possibility is "What Evolution Is" by Ernst Mayr. He does use some technical terminology but I think it is very clear. Also you might download a free PDF from the National Academy of Sciences that I discussed in a blog post February 17, 2008. It's a very good introduction: