Weekend Assignment #255: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, two hundred years ago this week. Both went on to propound ideas that had a lasting effect on the world around us. Have either of them had a particular impact on you personally?
Extra Credit: Where do you rank Lincoln on your personal list of greatest U.S. presidents?
EC first: I would rank Lincoln up near the top of my list of great Presidents, if I had one, especially in the context of the times over which he presided. However, I can't say he's had much impact on me personally - my own forbears didn't even reach this country until about forty years after the Civil War was over. On his father's side, however, my son does have a family tree that reaches back that far and even earlier - First Husband's relations arrived from England in the mid-1600's - but by Lincoln's era, most of them were in Georgia. As citizens of the Confederate States of America, technically speaking, Lincoln wasn't even their President.
Main topic: For some reason, I don't recall that Darwin's theories of evolution were as controversial when I first learned of them in school as they seem to be today. Granted, I was in school in the 1970's, which was a very different social climate, but even so, they were presented pretty matter-of-factly as part of the curriculum - even in my biology classes in Catholic school.
Speaking of Catholic school, part of my freshman English course was a unit on "The Bible As/In Literature." Historically, Catholics have been less likely to take the Bible literally than some other denominations (perhaps because of generations of having it interpreted for an illiterate population by learned clerics?), and as I learned to see the Bible as story and metaphor rather than historical fact, I didn't think the creation account in Genesis - which isn't unlike those of other early civilizations - necessarily conflicted with the concepts of evolution. A "day" in Genesis was a unit of time that people could understand, but didn't have to mean a 24-hour period; couldn't it just as easily be thousands of years? And why couldn't God be what put it all in motion in the first place, and what's continuing to direct it?
The concept of evolution makes sense to me. In some ways, I find it comforting to know that the world hasn't been static in the past, and it won't be in the future, either. It goes along with my belief in the randomness of life in general, and not really believing in "fate" or "destiny." While opponents fight teaching evolution because it's "only theory" and not proven fact...well, I think the same argument applies to the other side, so let's just set that whole thing aside, why don't we? Besides, as I mentioned, I'm not really sure why there has to be a science/faith conflict here in the first place, although I know that's not a popular position.
But no, I don't believe that evolution means that humans came from monkeys, although I have encountered some people who seem to have a lot in common with chimps.