Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blawgosphere Comments on Darwin's 200th Birthday

As many readers know, today marks the bicentennial of the birth of English naturalist Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

The blawgosphere has not been silent, especially in the U.S.:
  • Book news on a Nixon tapes controversy, Darwin books, Sugrue review, and more (Legal History Blog, February 1st, 2009): "Two arresting new books, timed to co­incide with Darwin’s 200th birthday, make the case that his epochal achievement in Victorian England can best be under­stood in relation to events — involving neither tortoises nor finches — on the other side of the Atlantic. Both books confront the touchy subject of Darwin and race head on; both conclude that Darwin, despite the pernicious spread of 'social Darwinism' (the notion, popularized by Herbert Spencer, that human society progresses through the 'survival of the fittest'), was no racist. According to Benfey, Desmond and Moore 'set out to overturn the widespread view that Darwin was a 'tough-minded scientist' who unflinchingly followed the trail of empirical research until it led to the stunning and unavoidable theory of evolution. This narrative, they claim, is precisely backward. 'Darwin’s starting point,' they write, 'was the abolitionist belief in blood kinship, a ‘common descent’' of all human beings.' "
  • Books Examine The Origins of Darwin's Scientific Explorations and the Persistent Antipathy Toward Evolution (First Amendment Law Prof Blog, February 8, 2009): "As the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth approaches on February 12, the man and the controversy that continues to surround the teaching of evolution are examined in a number of new books."
  • Darwin's beautiful mind, still not fully appreciated (Jurisdynamics, February 9, 2009): "That serious scientists — let alone the American public — continue to debate The Origin and The Descent of Man testifies to the extent to which Darwin was able to accomplish four intellectual breakthroughs that evidently still elude some contemporary scientists ..."
  • Celebrate Darwin Day at the Univ. Library (CM Law Library Blog, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, February 11, 2009): offers links to works of Darwin online, resources on evolutionary theory, as well as material relating to the legal controversies in the US over the teaching of creationist doctrines
  • Origin Of The Specious: AU Attorney Comments On The Evolution Of Creationism (Americans United for Separation of Church and State, February 11, 2009): " 'The creationists won’t admit it, but the debate is over, and they lost,' writes Katskee [Americans United Assistant Legal Director Richard B. Katskee in a U.S. News & World Report opinion piece]. 'Every time creationism has been brought into public schools, the courts have found it unconstitutional. It doesn’t matter what label is used – ‘creation science,’ ‘intelligent design’ (ID), or ‘the theory of abrupt appearance’ – all are cut from the same unconstitutional cloth.' Katskee is eminently qualified to comment on this matter. He played a crucial role on the legal team that stopped the teaching of ID in Dover, Pa., public schools in 2005. Americans United and the ACLU brought that legal challenge on behalf of local parents, aided by the Philadelphia law firm of Pepper Hamilton. "
  • PBS - Nova Program - "Intelligent Design on Trial" (, February 11, 2009): "... PBS in Buffalo/Toronto broadcast last night a documentary called 'Intelligent Design on Trial.' The documentary can be viewed in clips at the foregoing link where there are also transcripts and extra video clips and links. The show was a documentary on the attempt by the Dover Area School Board (in rural Pennsylvania) in late 2004 to enforce a policy that its high school science classes be obliged to teach 'intelligent design' (ID) as an alternative theory to Darwin’s theory of evolution (...) The controversy culminated in a 6-week trial brought by concerned parents and other parties (...) In thoroughly decimating the expert evidence of the defendant School Board that ID was somehow a scientific theory, the court ruled that this intelligent design policy was largely religious creationism in a new guise and therefore 'unconstitutional pursuant to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution'."
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has produced a general overview of The Social and Legal Dimensions of the Evolution Debate in the U.S.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:38 pm


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