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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lights In The Sky

Today we take a break from our usual litany of grievances against PERS to honor two of my heroes in the pantheon, both celebrating their 200th birthday today. It is probably no coincidence that both of these people were born on the same day in the same year several thousand miles away. Each profoundly influenced the world in different ways. One grew up to become the 16th President of the United States who was the first to recognize the malignancy of slavery and proposed emancipation of the slaves in the US. This was neither a popular view nor a dominant view, and it nearly resulted in the destruction of a relatively young United States. Ultimately he was assassinated for his "radical" views. Nevertheless he was one of the most progressive Presidents in United States history. Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809.

On the other side of the Atlantic, my other great hero was born on the same day in 1809. He too was constitutionally opposed to slavery, but his upbringing taught him the folly of enslaving people. He was a quiet, pathologically shy person, who wrote extensively about nature. He eschewed his training as an country parson to go on to become the first naturalist to actually put together a theory based on hundreds of thousands of observations that would explain not only how all life forms were related, but also to develop a mechanism that would explain this. Contrary to popular belief, he never used the term "evolution" to explain his mechanism. This was not because he didn't believe in evolution, but because evolution didn't mean what it means today. He used the phrase "descent with modification". Charles Darwin, born February 12, 1809.

When I think about people who had profound influences on the way I think, the political stances I find myself taking, and my grab-bag collection of knowledge, I can identify no two more influential people in my life.

Happy birthday Chuck. Happy birthday Abe. You changed my life for the better.

1 comment:

TruthSeeker said...

Totally with you on those two, Marc!