Is Darwin’s theory still important?

On Friday, Darwin’s 200th birthday was celebrated at the Vanderbilt Law School with a day of lectures all pertaining to an important aspect of Darwin’s theory. The keynote speaker Michael Ruse talked about the relevance of Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection.  He laid the foundation of Darwin and his work, and how he ended up writing On the Origin of Species, while giving the audience as much background on all aspects of Darwin’s life as possible. Through this information he revealed that Darwin’s work is very important historically because it begun the work of how different species develop and of natural selection and evolution.

Ruse made the audience aware of a key fact of Darwin’s way of coming up with his theory. Ruse said that the way in which Darwin worked was by taking elements of things that had already been discovered and transforming them into totally different ideas. Darwin always brought in information and made a whole new picture out of it. And, by doing this, Darwin was able to read books and look at arguments while combining them into his theory of evolution.

So, after discussing how important Darwin was for the history of science, and how brilliant he was in his time, Ruse finally got to the most important question of the lecture. Is Darwin still relevant today? Ruse answered this with an emphatic “YES!” Ruse stated that although Darwin’s theory has changed completely, it is still in use today. He said that there are many theories today that are still based on the theory of natural selection, but that we take them to a whole new level and transform them into something relevant to our time and our discoveries. Ruse finished the lecture by showing the audience a couple of pictures, one of the VW Beetle during World War II, and one of the VW Beetle now. Ruse said “Darwin is like a the Beetle, not one part in the car is identical in that picture [the newer version of the car], but the Beetle still looks the same.”

I think that what Ruse was trying to make the audience understand is that Darwin not only made us aware of how nature works, but also of our place within nature. Many Scientific discoveries today and many science fields today are based on Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. Therefore, I think that Darwin will always be relevant not only historically, but also in modern times.

Tennant

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~ by Tennant on February 22, 2010.

2 Responses to “Is Darwin’s theory still important?”

  1. I think this post gets at fundamental issues regarding the nature of science. Like Darwin built on the ideas of scientists before him to theorize about natural selection, etc., so too do geneticists and biologists today build on Darwin’s theories to build the general body of scientific knowledge. As for the theories’ relevance in modern times–you’d be hard-pressed to find a biology class that isn’t based on evolutionary biology. I also really like the Volkswagen analogy.

  2. I agree. It was really refreshing to hear someone say how much we should appreciate Darwin. Most people do think his theories are outdated, and yet, they never stop to think of where all of the modern theories came from. I really liked the Volkswagen analogy as well. I thought it was a great way for Ruse to end the lecture.

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