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Darwin's 200th anniversary

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Paolo
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Darwin's 200th anniversary

#1 Post by Paolo » September 16th, 2008, 8:33 am

I thought I'd have a go at starting a thread about Darwin since there is going to be a massive amount of information and discussion about him over the next year or so (perhaps even a forum's worth?).

I'm going to be heavily involved in events for next year and I am really interested to find out what elements of Darwin are of the greatest interest to intelligent people who are interested in more than the standard evolution vs creation debate (here I use the word debate in the context of shouting at a brick wall).

So, what (if anything) are people interested in when it comes to Darwin?

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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#2 Post by Maria Mac » September 16th, 2008, 10:34 am

I'm going to move this to the Social Club where it should attract more attention though I'm just about to dash out to work so don't have time to answer at the moment. See you later.

Zoe
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#3 Post by Zoe » September 16th, 2008, 3:50 pm

Paolo wrote:
So, what (if anything) are people interested in when it comes to Darwin?

I'm more interested generally in his life and times than in the evolution stuff. I can't be bothered to read a biography but was interested to hear that he married a Wedgewood and I'm still unsure as to the extent of his religiosity. I presume he came from a privileged background and wonder how his ideas were received. I enjoy exhibitions and events about historical figures so will definitely make a point of attending some.

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Paolo
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#4 Post by Paolo » September 16th, 2008, 5:15 pm

Zoe wrote:I'm more interested generally in his life and times than in the evolution stuff. I can't be bothered to read a biography but was interested to hear that he married a Wedgewood and I'm still unsure as to the extent of his religiosity. I presume he came from a privileged background and wonder how his ideas were received. I enjoy exhibitions and events about historical figures so will definitely make a point of attending some.


Cheers Zoe, that's a great start. I must admit that the more I look into Darwin's life the more interesting he becomes as a person. It is remarkable how likable Darwin seems to have been compared to other "great minds".

He was very into family life - particularly playing with his children, which was unusual for a Victorian gent. His wife was trained on the piano by Chopin and apparently Charlie-boy used to enjoy relaxing of an evening, listening to Emma play the pianoforte.

Darwin came from a family that was not particularly religious (his brother was an atheist, his grandfather Erasmus was a free-thinker and his father considered religion to be "for women"), Emma however was very religious and it is documented that prior to their marriage in 1839 she held concerns about Darwin's faith due to his scientific training - which she thought abraded his faith due to critical reasoning and scepticism. As it was she was right. Darwin was never very fond of Christianity and between his studies and the death of his daughter Annie he lost any belief in a benevolent creator, although he remained agnostic rather than becoming atheist. Unsurprising, since Darwin was fanatical about finding evidence to support his opinions (which is why his theory was hard to refute - the evidence he gathered was comprehensive and incredibly thorough), but it is hard to find evidence of there not being a God (see Russell's teapot).

Oops, got carried away there!

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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#5 Post by Nick » September 16th, 2008, 5:37 pm

Living in London, you are not far away from Darwin's home, now in the hands of English Heritage, Down House, in Downe, Kent. It has been restored to how it was in Darwin's day and is well worth a visit.

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Ninny
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#6 Post by Ninny » September 16th, 2008, 5:45 pm

The poet Ruth Padel will be publishing a sequence of poems based on Darwin's own writing, to coincide with his birthday.

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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#7 Post by Maria Mac » September 16th, 2008, 8:46 pm

I agree with Zoe about the life and times part though I'm not too lazy to read a biography and have already done so but would be very interested in visiting Down House and any exhibitions about him. The historical context of what he achieved is particularly interesting, I mean things like where science, medicine, culture and philosophical thought were at. Even small things like how a career in the Church was considered very suitable for someone of his class even though the family wasn't particularly religious.

I have Janet Brown's book of Origins (how he came to write it and how it was received) as an audiobook and found it so interesting that I have now bought it in paperback. I'm planning to do something special on this website to celebrate the bicentenary.

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Alan C.
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#8 Post by Alan C. » September 16th, 2008, 9:04 pm

I found this 1 hour video, recorded last August.
E.O. Wilson & James Watson on Charles Darwin.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Felicia
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#9 Post by Felicia » September 16th, 2008, 9:48 pm

I was particularly pleased to find that the first author on our reading list for Child Development was an account by Darwin of watching his baby son.... the start of the noble and fascinating discipline of infant observation that informs so much of our knowledge of the human mind today.

I also loved Adam Phillip's book on Darwin's Worms, drawing an analogy between Freud, dredging through conscious memories to the unconscious to bring about a new understanding, and worms which recycle waste to fertilize the soil.

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Paolo
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#10 Post by Paolo » September 16th, 2008, 10:13 pm

Nick wrote:Living in London, you are not far away from Darwin's home, now in the hands of English Heritage, Down House, in Downe, Kent. It has been restored to how it was in Darwin's day and is well worth a visit.


I was actually over there not long ago talking with the guys at Down - hopefully we will be collaborating with them for an exhibition at the Horniman next year. English Heritage have been slow on planning events for next year (they're so big they tend to overlook what they have) and there was even a possibility that Down would be closed for a chunk of 2009 so it could be used as a film set. The guys actually based at the house are keen to do stuff though, so Down should be open and provide a fantastic experience for the public in 2009. I'd recommend a visit!

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xman
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#11 Post by xman » September 17th, 2008, 7:44 pm

I'm wondering how I can find out what's going on in my city, Vancouver BC and how I might be able to participate.

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Paolo
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#12 Post by Paolo » September 18th, 2008, 10:43 am

Charles Darwin to receive apology from the Church of England for rejecting evolution

How did I miss this!? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/2910447/Charles-Darwin-to-receive-apology-from-the-Church-of-England-for-rejecting-evolution.html
--------------------------------------------

By the way, xman I'm not sure if there's a Canadian equivalent, but http://www.darwin200.orgis supposed to be the international hub for celebrating Darwin's bicentenary. Events in BC may well come up in the news section, but their events section is very UK orientated.

I'll ask around some BC biology mates to see if any of them know of a central resource that might help.

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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#13 Post by kbell » September 18th, 2008, 1:07 pm

Yes, I heard about the apology a few days ago and how Darwin's great great grandson called it pointless. I'm not sure I agree that it's pointless...if taking a public stand on evolution like this offends some creationists then I'd say that it was well worth doing. :D

Love the way they apologise Darwin directly as if he's still floating around somewhere and can hear them. LOL!

An article to be posted on the Church’s website will say: ‘Charles Darwin, 200 years from your birth [in 1809], the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.

‘But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests.’


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Alan C.
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#14 Post by Alan C. » September 18th, 2008, 11:38 pm

Church marks Darwin’s contribution to science.
The material concludes that a healthy balance between the mystery of faith and the wonders of scientific discovery is essential - as the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown writes: “There is no reason to doubt that Christ still draws people towards truth through the work of scientists as well as others, and many scientists are motivated in their work by a perception of the deep beauty of the created world.”
My bold.

So scientists are guided by Jesus, right?
They just can't let go, can they?
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#15 Post by Nick » September 19th, 2008, 9:52 am

Autumn wrote:
An article to be posted on the Church’s website will say: ‘Charles Darwin, 200 years from your birth [in 1809], the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.

‘But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests.’


[my bold]

This really is ludicrous. How, if one accepts evolution, can man be created in god's image? How can there be any scope for divine intervention or divine intention? The only thing they have left is the creation of the Big Bang itself, and "goddidit" is hardly sound science is it? And what are the 'interests' of atheists? The truth perhaps?

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Paolo
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#16 Post by Paolo » September 19th, 2008, 3:32 pm

Nick wrote:This really is ludicrous. How, if one accepts evolution, can man be created in god's image? How can there be any scope for divine intervention or divine intention? The only thing they have left is the creation of the Big Bang itself, and "goddidit" is hardly sound science is it? And what are the 'interests' of atheists? The truth perhaps?


Last point first, there are people who use their (mis)understanding of natural selection as a justification for some pretty abhorent view points ("Social Darwinism" is by no means extinct, for example). I don't think atheists are really the target of the quote:
‘But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests.’


The C of E do not follow a literal interpretation of the Bible (nor do the Catholics), so they can simply say that the human "soul" is what was actually created in God's image. That way Adam and Eve can have evolved from primate stock, but still be made "special" by being invested with this "soul". I may not buy it, but I think their befuddled middle ground is far superior to full-on creationist clap-trap, since at least the beginings of rationality are being demonstrated. Polarising arguments are not very constructive and it is fair to say that reigion/spirituality are a fairly common feature throughout humankind, which suggests that they fulfill some purpose (I'm not suggesting that they are in any way accurate, but they seem to confer an adaptive advantage otherwise there would not be so many convergent aspects of different religions).

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Alan H
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#17 Post by Alan H » September 20th, 2008, 1:36 am

From the Vatican News Agency:
********************************************************************************
ZENIT - Official: Bible and Darwin Could Both Be Right
http://www.zenit.org/article-23664?l=english
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Official: Bible and Darwin Could Both Be Right

Vatican Plans Conference to Study Evolution Theory

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- There is no a priori incompatibility between the Bible and Darwin's theory of evolution, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, also president of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, affirmed this Tuesday when he presented an upcoming international conference that will gather theologians and scientists to discuss Charles Darwin's theory.

The March 3-7 conference, to be held in Rome, marks 150 years since Darwin publicized his findings in "Origin of Species."

The conference is organized as part of the Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest project, a venture sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture. The Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Notre Dame are also sponsoring the event.

According to Archbishop Ravasi, the congress aims to establish dialogue between philosophy, theology and science.

Theologians, philosophers and scientists move in "different terrains," he said. What is important "is that the line of demarcation not be turned into a 'Wall of China' or an 'Iron Curtain,' which looks upon the other with contempt. [...] The distinction is not separation. The distinction is necessary.

"Hence, an act of humility is also necessary on the part of the theologians who must listen and learn; on the other hand, the arrogance of some scientists must be overcome, [people] who slap those who have faith, and regard faith and theology as a heritage of a Paleolithic intellectual."

Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a professor at the Gregorian University, added that "the debate on the theory of evolution is ever more heated, both in the Christian as well as in the strictly evolutionist realm."

Explaining the motives that led to convoking the congress, the Jesuit priest said, "We think it is our duty to try to clarify some points, given that Christian scientists, philosophers and theologians are directly involved in the debate, along with colleagues of other confessions or those who have no confession."

The conference is an attempt to have "an ample exchange of opinions from the rational point of view, to foster fruitful dialogue between experts of different areas," Father Leclerc added. "The Church is profoundly interested in this dialogue, fully respecting each one's field."

[Retrieved: Sat Sep 20 2008 01:34:22 GMT+0100 (GMT Daylight Time)]

###################
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#18 Post by Nick » September 20th, 2008, 10:58 am

I'm afraid I am one of those who cannot accept the co-existence of science and "faith". In fact I'm not afraid, I am convinced, by reason. If scientists cannot provide evidence, then they hypothesise, they do not adopt a scientific theory as an article of faith. That's a complete contradiction in terms. And all this guff about "respecting each others field". Perleease! If it is worthy of respect, then respect will be given. Until then, I will continue to ridicule the whole idea. They are only offering 'mutual respect' to try to hoist their pathetic theological 'science' to the same level as real science and to try to prevent scientists exposing 'faith positions' for the sham they are.

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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#19 Post by Paolo » September 22nd, 2008, 7:57 am

Nick wrote:I'm afraid I am one of those who cannot accept the co-existence of science and "faith". In fact I'm not afraid, I am convinced, by reason. If scientists cannot provide evidence, then they hypothesise, they do not adopt a scientific theory as an article of faith


If only that were entirely true. I have encountered many scientists (whilst I was studying for a PhD in Animal Physiology) who seem to have utterly lost sight of that - to the point of "tweaking" results to fit their ideas.

I personally think that people should be free to hold whatever set of beliefs they want as long as they are not forced upon others. I personally stand behind the scientific method, but part of that method involves keeping an open mind. Scientists like Richard Dawkins irritate me with their vendetta against religion - it is not for him or others like him to dictate what people should not believe, however ridiculous it is. My personal problems with religion stem directly from the fact that many religions are evangelical and they do try to impose their opinions on others - I see scientists doing the same thing as being just as bad. Provide information and evidence, let people make up their own mind. Telling people what to think fundamentally undermines the scientific method.

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Alan C.
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Re: Darwin's 200th anniversary

#20 Post by Alan C. » September 22nd, 2008, 8:59 pm

Paolo
Scientists like Richard Dawkins irritate me with their vendetta against religion

I think you're being a little disingenuos there Paolo, Richard Dawkins only gripe with religion, is that is force fed to children as factual information, and I share that view.
I personally think that people should be free to hold whatever set of beliefs they want as long as they are not forced upon others.
Myself (and I'm sure R D) would agree with you, but they are being forced onto children, while they are still too young.
Richard Dawkins has said many times, "there is no such thing as a Catholic child or a Muslim child, only a child of Catholic parents, or a child of Muslim parents"
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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