Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Lincoln Darwin Day!

by Pa Rock
History Major

Jim Schmidt is wishing us all a happy Lincoln Darwin Day. Jim states that he has been privately observing Lincoln Darwin Day for years, but began to publicize the idea in 2003, going so far as to make some Lincoln Darwin Day cards. His current collection may be accessed from his web page:

Not only did these two famous individuals, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, share the same birth date, February 12th, they were also born in the same year: 1809 - exactly 200 years ago today. Lincoln was born in Kentucky, and Darwin was a native of England. As Schmidt compares the significance of their lives, he notes:

"One freed the mind of ruinous and crippling superstition. The other freed the people from the ruinous and crippling institution of slavery. One slew superstition. The other slew slavery."

Abraham Lincoln, regarded by many, myself included, as America's greatest President, saw the country through its most difficult period and guided the repair of the most significant flaw in the Constitution. But slavery was quickly replaced by Jim Crow laws and lynchings as poor White America tried desperately to keep poor Black America "in its place." Only today, over a hundred and forty years after the end of the Civil War, is a post-racial American landscape finally appearing on the horizon.

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of the Species in 1859, a treatise on how species evolved over time through a process of natural selection, he was immediately labeled as a heretic by the religious community, and regarded as naive by most scientists of the time. The scientists eventually came to see the sense of Darwin's ideas, but that enlightenment was much slower to follow in religious circles. Indeed, some communities in America today still angrily decry science and demand the inclusion of a Hebrew fairy tale that they call creationism in science books. Many people keep their kids out of public schools solely for the reason that they do not want them exposed to the concept of evolution.

Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin ventured beyond the safety of old ideas and the status quo. They braved public scorn in order to advance the lives of those struggling to free themselves from the chains of slavery and the irrationality of religious dogma. Today we are a better people living in a better world because of these two individuals - who were born on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean two hundred years ago today.

Happy Lincoln Darwin Day! (Next year expect a card!)

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