February 12, 2009 will mark the 200th birthday for Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. These two great mens names are rarely mentioned in the same sentence but one of the few comparisons between the two other than their shared birthday is that both Lincoln and Darwin opposed slavery at a time when slavery was a popular occurrence.
Lincoln is quoted as saying, "Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally". He then, on January 1, 1863, issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared freedom to slaves within the Confederacy.
For Charles Darwin- in the book "Darwin's Sacred Cause"- the case is made that it was his strong opposition to slavery the helped form his theories on human evolution. He believed in a connection between all living things. He concluded that all life might share a common ancestry. He then went on to write "On the Origin of Species: by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" which became the most widely accepted scientific model of evolutionary biology.
One demanded that man be equal and fought a war within his own country based on that very ideal. The other proved that all men are equal and that the only difference between us and the fish in the sea is degree not type. Neither of these men were afraid to stand up for what they believed in even though there ideas weren't popular. We now look back and realize that it was fear that fueled ideas such as, "...the freedom of the white man is insecure unless the negro is reduced to a state of abject slavery..." and the non-belief of what we can now deem as scientific fact.
The historical presidential run of Barack Obama drew many comparisons to Lincoln as well as John F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King. President Obama being a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln took his oath on the very bible that belonged to Abraham Lincoln.
A friend of mine who worked on the campaign for Barack Obama knocked on many doors in Pennsylvania registering people to vote. He recounted for me of one such time when someone opened their door, saw all his Obama buttons and said profoundly, "It's okay, I'm voting for the nigger".
Evolution? uh... yeah.
It's only been 146 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. With that said there are much older countries than ours who still view women as second class citizens. And Stem Cell research is going through the same hurdles that Darwin went through in concluding that organisms were infinitely variable.
Yet it is hard to see the accomplishments of these two notable men in history and not question whether we've outlived the greatness of human thought. Will there ever again be those whose ideas and strength of character advance our collective intellect? Might we again begin to champion the importance education and intellect?
wait... excuse me, The Hills is on.