Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Lincoln or Darwin? They are Both Important

Newsweek has a nice article online titled Who Was More Important: Lincoln or Darwin? It is by Malcolm Jones.

From the article:

How's this for a coincidence? Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born in the same year, on the same day: Feb. 12, 1809. As historical facts go, it amounts to little more than a footnote. Still, while it's just a coincidence, it's a coincidence that's guaranteed to make you do a double take the first time you run across it. Everybody knows Darwin and Lincoln were near-mythic figures in the 19th century. But who ever thinks of them in tandem? Who puts the theory of evolution and the Civil War in the same sentence? Why would you, unless you're writing your dissertation on epochal events in the 19th century? But instinctively, we want to say that they belong together. It's not just because they were both great men, and not because they happen to be exact coevals. Rather, it's because the scientist and the politician each touched off a revolution that changed the world.

Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day! Wow. A strong case can be made that these two men were the most influential of the 19th century. Lincoln may well have preserved the American Union which has had a major ripple effect on the 20th and 21st centuries. World history would be very different without a United States as a world power. In the case of Darwin, evolutionary theory would have been discovered in the late 19th century anyway. However, Darwin allowed it to advance faster than it would have otherwise. As just about every medical advance relies on understanding DNA and evolutionary thought, we are probably further ahead in health science than if Darwin had not lived.