November 8, 2009

Origin of Species

The year 2009 marks 200 years of Darwin's birth and 150 years since his seminal book called Origin of Species. All of us, irrespective of our backgrounds have heard of Charles Darwin and his theories of survival of the fittest and evolution. The British Council is doing exhibitions to mark the event across the world and in the UK, the HMS Beagle in which Darwin set out in his voyage to Galapagos Islands is being refurbished. The area around Down House is going to be declared a World Heritage Site etc.. to commemorate the occasion.
Yes, there are some gaps in his theory on evolution but nonetheless, its more than accepted as the most plausible of theories of the Origin of Species, to date. There are critics who mainly are from religious backgrounds who oppose his view that our ancestors were primates:-). Yes, its possible that God created all creatures simultaneously. But, what is important is to back your theories with observations. And Darwin did just that. He had amazing depth of observations and more importantly, the art of making inferences from the observations. Most people fail in making the inferences. Thomas Huxley's famous quote on Charles Darwin's theory was, "How extremely stupid not to have thought of that." Now, Huxley was not stupid, just that Charles Darwin explained the theory with his observations so convincingly, that led Huxley to exclaim in this fashion (much like Watson would say after Sherlock Holmes would explain his deductions:-)).
Recently, I was at a talk on "Darwin Now" and it was indeed interesting when the speaker pointed out that the Hindu religion is perhaps more scientific in that we have Hindu Gods appearing in the form of tortoise, fish etc (Dasavatharam). Quite insighful, it had never occurred to me. Nonetheless, the mark of a true scientist is to realise that there can be no Last Word on this subject of Creation.
I was also wondering if Man today is influencing evolution, in the sense that 'natural selection' is hampered due to man made selection and interventions; Man has become so dominant of the species on the planet. Also, I wonder if Modern Biology is going against the theory of Natural Selection. It would be interesting to synthesize Darwin's, Mendel's and Watson & Crick's works, together, and see how we are doing.
I leave you all with two of my favourite quotes from Sir Charles Darwin. These quotes are relevant today as well, in every sphere, meant for everyone. It borders on philosophy and is also used very often by motivational speakers and Management Gurus.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

1 comment:

R Swaminathan said...

I don't know how true Darwin's theory is, and like many other theories, it can never be proved conclusively. However, I like the quote about adaptability -- we really cannot survive if we don't adapt and change.