If Charles Darwin was still alive, he would be 200 years old today. Who knew that even more than a century after his death, the man could still incite the wrath of people who reject his theory of change over time whilst still being enamored by Puggles? Despite my Jewish upbringing, I largely discounted the whole "G-d1 created the world and every single living organism on it in seven days" in favor of the decidedly more accurate, not to mention interesting, "I bet that's way too much work, even for a deity, for a mere week's time."
Perhaps my favorite aspect of Darwin's Theory of Evolution is all the people who refute it based on grounds that have nothing whatsoever to do with it. The theory is extremely valid with the exception of one thing: it does not, and cannot, explain how the universe, and the earth we inhabit, came into existence. But oh, that's right! His book is called On the Origin of Species, not On the Origin of the Universe. And by "origin of species," he clearly meant that because humans have fingers, and use them to pick their noses, other species who have similar digits and use them for similar purposes likely share with us a common ancestor on their own multi-million-year-old family tree.
I am also particularly fond of the naysayers who suggest that the sheer complexity of Nature (read: our own bloated sense of superiority over other inhabitants of this earth) means that no mere "chance" got us here, and that clearly there was some intelligent design behind this. I have no problem with this statement (I support everyone's right to believe whatever it is they want to believe) until someone actually denies the fact that we change over time. Within my own lifetime, a shift in the average human body has occurred: our jaws are getting smaller in size, and it's becoming increasingly common for individuals' wisdom teeth to simply not grow in. Long before Darwin ever introduced the idea of evolution, humans have domesticated animals: taking wild animals and creating new breeds for the sake of a companionship many of us now take for granted. Make no mistake about it, the breeding of pets is simply a controlled application of the theory of evolution. So the next time anyone refutes Darwin's theory in your presence, feel free to make an ass of them by pointing out that they own a teacup poodle.
Despite the times and the advancements, there are still those who would like to add their personal religious beliefs into our educational curriculum. They're proponents who used to promote an idea known as "creationism," which has simply been renamed "intelligent design" to thinly veil the fact that their god (and no one else's) is the mastermind behind the diversity of life. They hide behind what they're calling "Academic Freedom Day", which is their new politically correct way of trying to preach a specific set of religious beliefs in a place where a variety of religions converge. I take some comfort, however minimal, in the knowledge that, were this the early 1630s, these same people would be shouting that Galileo is a heretic and must be imprisoned for supporting Copernicus's notion that the the sun does not revolve around the earth. Heaven forbid the idea that our tiny corner of the universe is not, in fact, egocentric geocentric, because that contradicts the book that grants the power to those in control to maintain their position as the sole purveyors of all knowledge.
On this February 12, celebrate Darwin Day. Celebrate evolution, celebrate diversity, celebrate the wonders of the planet Earth, and above all, celebrate life. L'chaim!2
1 I told you I'm Jewish. 2 See? Still Jewish.