Oxford Evolution Debate of 1860


Today in Science History —> On this day in 1860, the 1860 Oxford evolution debate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History takes place.

This is the debate in which Thomas Henry Huxley supposedly bested Bishop Wilberforce with the remark about the ape and the grandfather: “Huxley rose to defend Darwin’s theory, finishing his speech with the now-legendary assertion that he was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth.”

It’s not clear whether that actually was said, but we do know that both Huxley and Joseph Hooker spoke in defense of Darwin’s theory.


Scopes Trial


Today in History —> On May 25, 1925, John T. Scopes was indicted in Dayton, Tennessee for violating Tennessee’s Butler Act that prohibited the teaching of human evolution. (Most people think the law forbade the teaching of any evolution, but that is not the case.) After a weeklong trial, Scopes was convicted on July 21 after the jury deliberated for nine minutes, but the conviction was set aside on appeal because of a technicality: the fine, $100, was levied by the judge, and fines over $50 were supposed to be decided by the jury. Above is Scopes one month before the trial.

Mammal Extinction


Something to think about:

A few years ago, a team of researchers in Europe wanted to figure out the answer to a simple question: How long would it take for evolution to replace all the mammal species that have gone extinct in the time humans have walked the earth?

Some 300 mammal species have died off since the last ice age 130,000 years ago. Their answer: It would take 3 to 7 million years for evolution to generate 300 new species. Humans have been around for about 200,000 years. That’s a blink of an eye in terms of the age of the planet. Nevertheless, in that time, we have caused damage that may well last longer than our species itself.

#Evolution #Extinction

“Scopes Trial” Evolution Speech

“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.”
~ Clarence Darrow, “Scopes Trial” courtroom speech, July 13, 1925

Today in Science: Charles Darwin Dies


Today in History —> Famed British biologist Charles Darwin died 137 years ago on April 19. Often dubbed as the “Father of Evolution,” Darwin provided the world with explanations on the origin and evolution of living things on Earth.

Darwin was born on Feb. 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, England, and was homeschooled with his sister Caroline until the age of 8. He was sent to a boarding school after spending a year at a day school. His father enrolled him to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. There, he began collecting, hunting, and naturalizing rather than studying medicine, according to Charles Darwin Online.

After graduating in 1831, Darwin accepted a job on the HMS Beagle, a vessel that mapped South America’s coast over a span of two or three years. During the job, he took notes and sent samples and specimens to botanist John Henslow in England. After returning to England after five years on the vessel, Darwin found that his specimen collection amazed Henslow and geologists, zoologists, and botanists.

Darwin’s research during his job on HMS Beagle contributed to the development of theory of evolution and natural selection. He, however, took over 20 years to publish the revolutionary theory — in 1858. He was apparently concerned about the acceptance of his idea. However, the theory turned out to be groundbreaking and was eventually widely accepted in mainstream science.

A few quotes:

“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic.”

“We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.”

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world.”

“A man who dares to waste one hour of his life has not discovered the value of life.”

“The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts.”

“It is a cursed evil to any man to become as absorbed in any subject as I am in mine.”

“A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”

“A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, – a mere heart of stone.”

“False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.”

#CharlesDarwin #EvolutionByNaturalSelection #FatherOfEvolution