Friday, February 12, 2010

Darwin and Lincoln

Happy Birthday Chuck and Abe! Two of history's most consequential lives began this day 201 years ago. When the book on the most important days in human history is written, February 12, 1809 deserves a mention.

Adam Gopnik wrote about Darwin and Lincoln last year in Smithsonian:
"The obvious truths of 1809, the kind that were taught in school, involved what could be called a "vertical" organization of life -- one in which we imagine a hierarchy of species on earth, descending from man on down toward animals, and a judge appraising us up above in heaven. Man was stuck in the middle, looking warily up and loftily down.
...People also believed, using what they called examples ancient and modern -- and the example of the Terror in France, which had only very recently congealed into Napoleon's Empire, was a strong case -- that societies without inherited order were intrinsically weak, unstable and inclined to dissolve into anarchy or tyranny. "Democracy" in the sense we mean it now was a fringe ideal of a handful of radicals."
(image credit: