Darwin Day

It would be a grave omission not to record the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose insight into the power of natural selection to effect evolution and speciation did so much to enlighten human beings over the last 150 years. Personally, I have taken a difficult journey into rationalism and humanism, having been very religious as a teenager and young man and absorbed some unhelpful ways of thinking about the world which have taken some shaking off, and are still being discarded as my learning continues.

I can still remember reading some magazine aimed at teenage Christians – Buzz it was called – which repeated some of the usual fallacies about evolution and promoted one of the standard Christian Creationist views of the origins of the universe and life – and believing it because I wanted to believe it, rather than looking rationally at the evidence all around me and deciding for myself.

It must have been around that time that we were taught evolution at school and, little prig that I was, I proudly and emphatically wrote “The Theory of Evolution” in my exercise book. Just goes to show, that with five years of a good public school science education, magical thinking still got in the way of looking critically at the world and drawing rational conclusions.

The whole business of wanting things to be true because you want that version of truth to be true is a powerful driver in human thinking about the world. We are not at all good at cutting through myths and magical thinking to find rational truths, but, for all our sakes, we must evermore do so.