Thursday, February 12, 2009
Abraham Lincoln/Charles Darwin
Happy Birthday to both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, each born on February 12, 1809, and each of whom celebrates the two hundredth anniversary of his birth today!
If you had to name the two men who made the greatest contribution to their species in the 19th century, these two would be the most likely candidates. What a delightfully curious coincidence, then, that they should have been born on the very same day.
Is it not surprising that Darwin's meticulously researched study that resulted in what some still like to call the "theory" of evolution--now no longer considered theoretical by any reputable scientist--should still be considered controversial, even heretical by so many of our fellow-countrymen today? That there are still those amongst our fellow-citizens who cling to the irrational, anti-scientific belief that the dinosaurs roamed the planet contemporaneously with Adam and Eve and that Noah sheltered them aboard his ark speaks poorly either of their imaginative faculties or of our educational system, or both. I find it sad that the elegant, inspiring logic of evolutionary science should be so threatening to those who evidently believe that the God they worship as all-knowing and all-powerful is incapable of so grand a plan. If God there be, who orchestrates this magnificent universe, I myself would like to believe that his vision extends further in time than a handful of thousand earth years, and in space than our little solar system or galaxy.
And Lincoln...! Last night I watched the American Experience documentary, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and was moved once again to sadness and outrage that this great man, like others of his kind, was not allowed to live out his full lifetime. That one small, narrow-minded man saw fit to take history into his own hands and deprive the world of his victim's potential is a measure of the arrogance of prejudice and hatred of which our species is capable. I was amazed how close that history still felt to us, with shots of the Ford's Theater loge and the very stage the assassin leapt down upon to proclaim his famous cry of triumph: Sic semper tyrannis!
Like most of us, I think, I am awed by the many faces that come down to us of this President, but mostly by the evident ravages wrought by the years of his presidency and the agony of the Civil War. This was a man, as I understand his story, who struggled both with powerful inner demons and the external forces of history itself, the outer winds of change; he became himself, as it were, the field in which the battle for America's future was fought. Seen in this light, his assassination was perhaps the tragic and necessary fulfillment of the myth.