Friday, February 12, 2010

Darwin Day


Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin.

Darwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.  

A couple of years ago, watching a late night PBS broadcast of The Charlie Rose Show interviewing James Watson and EO Wilson, both eminent and respected biologists, I heard Wilson make the comment that there have been two great, unmatched leaps in biology:  first, Darwin's publication telling us WHAT happened, and later, the paper by Watson and Crick telling us HOW it happened. 
Just as Carl Sagan opened my mind to the wonders of the cosmos, Thomas Lewis, scientist, poet and philosopher, in his essays, The lives of a cell:Notes of a Biology Watcher, (in the New England Journal of Medicine) , opened my mind to the awe-inspiring depths of biology.  EO Wilson has involuntarily taken up the torch carried by Darwin and Lewis Thomas, and has become the inspiration for bio-scientist the world over.  
Wilson is one of the great minds of our time; the Guardian has a nice summary of Wilson's life and contributions to knowledge.  Not surprisingly, he has provoked some controversy.  You can watch him talk and accept an honor as he gives a TED Talk.  You can watch a much longer Wilson interview discussing the science of the mind as a guest on the UCSD "Guestbook" series in the Philosophy Department.