Category Archives: darwin

Darwin was a Geologist too!

In an autobiographic note Charles Robert Darwin (February 12, 1809 – 1882) remembered a childhood wish:

It was soon after I began collecting stones, i.e., when 9 or 10, that I distinctly recollect the desire I had of being able to know something about every pebble in front of the hall door–it was my earliest and only geological aspiration at that time.

Darwin today is mostly associated with terms like natural selection and evolution, but his first scientific achievements and publications were dealing – even against his own preconceptions – with geology.

A good history lesson for your Sunday. Well worth reading.

Posted via email from Darwin’s Bulldogs

Remembering Darwin on the Sky Harbor Trail

On Darwin Day 2011, the 202nd birthday of Charles Darwin, a group of about 20, students and faculty, members of Tri Beta Biology Club and the Fresno State Nature Club, participated in a celebratory hike along Sky Harbor trail above Lake Millerton just north of Fresno, on the San Joaquin river. It was a glorious day, with the impossibly blue skies typical of this part of the world (although too often obscured by what we pump up into the central valley air these days). Signs of Spring well under way were everywhere: in the songs of the Oak Titmouse and the Towhees, in the drunken bees buzzing about the flowers dotting the lush green slopes everywhere, and in the warm afternoon sun that set everything ablaze with a wonderful light. This was a hike good old Charlie would surely have enjoyed. As it is, my hat is off to you Charlie, on this your day and everyday, for so thoroughly deepening my appreciation of nature’s tangled banks and my own wonderful place within. Thank you. And Happy Birthday, Mr. Darwin.

Posted via email from Darwin’s Bulldogs

Hanging with Mr. Darwin @ Fresno State

As part of Darwin Week at Fresno State, the local chapter of the Tri Beta Biological Honors Society organized Darwin Hour at noon on Feb 9, 2011. Dr. Paul Crosbie of the Biology Dept. dressed up as a youngish Mr. Darwin, circa 1961 to talk about how he came to write his most famous book, and answered questions about what his theory means for us.

[Pictures taken on an iPhone 3Gs, hence the low resolution]

Posted via email from Darwin’s Bulldogs

An evolutionary retrospective on 2009 from rapper Baba Brinkman

Our favorite evolved rapper, Baba Brinkman, who had us rapt in Fresno last February with his Rap Guide to Evolution, offers his retrospective of the just concluded year when we celebrated Charles Darwin’s Bicentennial, and the sesquicentennial of a little book he wrote:


In the final hours of 2009, let us take a moment to reflect on this: up until 150 years ago, no one had the faintest idea why we look like we do, why we act like we do, or where we came from. Now we know, and we have Charles Darwin to thank. Three cheers!

Posted via web from a leaf warbler’s gleanings

Tonight on NOVA: What Darwin Never Knew


Just getting ready to watch this 2-hr documentary on PBS NOVA tonight. But in looking for this clip on YouTube, I found a British series titled “What Darwin didn’t know” – sounds intriguing, and I may share it here later.

Posted via web from leafwarbler’s posterous

Darwin’s Brave New World – Extended Trailer

Does this look exciting, or what? That trailer sure sucked me in much more energetically than either of the trailers for Creation or Darwin’s Darkest Hour. Hopefully the whole thing delivers on what the trailer promises. Too bad, therefore, not to see any US air dates at the end there, although our neighbors to the north will get to see it, having helped produce it. I hope it does get here eventually. PBS, are you paying attention?

Thoughts on “The Origin Cycle”, or why does the Darwinian vision evoke darkness?

evt_541_150w.gifMust the struggle for existence necessarily be a bleak experience? Can we not exult in the wonders produced by natural selection without despairing over “nature red in tooth and claw”? Why do Darwin’s own words about the “grandeur in this view of life” invoke a contrary view in so many, that this evolutionary view of life must necessarily lead to nihilism and despair?

I’ve wondered about this for some time now, especially since the Darwin Day discussion panel we hosted on our campus last spring, when the philosopher on the panel brought up the not uncommon view that Darwin somehow displaced morality and left us morally and ethically adrift! And how many in the audience agreed, with even evolutionists on the panel nodding sadly to acknowledge the loss of moral innocence engendered by Darwin. (And I’m apprehensive about the new Darwin biopic “Creation” for it too may be too bleak.)

These questions disturb me again now since last night’s performance of “The Origin Cycle ” a musical performance of eight selections from “On the Origin of Species” at Stanford University. Let me state first off that I am no music critic (even my iPod listening tends towards spoken word podcasts/books rather than music), and that this particular genre of music is rather outside my normal listening sphere (and don’t even ask me what this genre is!). So consider this more a response to the emotions evoked in me by the music, and my subsequent intellectual response to those emotions. I found the concert and performances quite wonderfully evocative – even though our 9-yr-old Darwin fan fell asleep after failing to track the words being sung by the soprano Jane Sheldon; she was still impressed enough to want to meet the musicians and get their autographs on the program! As the friend who invited us to the concert remarked, the compositions were quite complex musically – and appropriately so, I thought, given the subject. So the music did capture the chosen text quite well (I’ll share the passages featured later tonight when we return to Fresno), but – and I can’t quite put the finger on the role of any particular element in this – I felt the general emotional tone was on the darker side, with melancholy washing over me far more than joy. No wonder then, that the one upbeat composition in the middle, set to a passage about the “Tree of Life” really lifted me up, but all too briefly, before the mood became sombre again. I was hoping for more uplift towards the end, with the final two pieces revolving around Darwin’s immortal words about the “Entangled Bank” and the grandeur in this view of life (Floreana) – but those compositions were darker too. The conductor, Jeffrey Means, later told me that “Tree of Life” was the ensemble’s favorite too – but I didn’t get the chance to ask him about the darkness of the other pieces. So I am left with the sense that the composers of these creative pieces too share a darker view of the meaning of Darwin’s work even as they celebrate it. I, for one, would prefer more joy, and more thrill at the sheer intellectual adventure of Darwin, as seen in this week’s Nova special on “Darwin’s Darkest Hour, which was less dark than the title suggested – but perhaps I should leave that review for a separate post.

Darwin on American Public TV and in Theatres this fall!

As the Darwin Bicentennial year winds down and we approach the Sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species” on Nov 21, we will get two promising televisual/cinematic treatments of the torment Darwin underwent while sitting on the horns of the dilemma of whether or not to share his theory with the world! The recent drama about whether the movie Creation was going to be distributed at all in the US has now been settled as we get word today that Newmarket, a small Indie company (whose previous hit, intriguingly, was “The Passion of the Christ”!!) has picked up the US rights for the film and plans a year-end release! Hooray – although some of us are apprehensive about how “even-handed” the film will be in trying to “balance” between religion and science! The National Center for Science Education’s executive director Eugenie Scott (who has just accepted my invitation to speak at Fresno State this fall as well – but more on that soon!) liked the film, describing it in her early review as “a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public — for the good.

Meanwhile, NCSE also alerts us to another treatment of Darwin’s Darkest Hour – a 2-hour television special airing on PBS stations next week courtesy of NOVA and National Geographic. Here’s a preview: