Had Charles Robert Darwin had access to the Internet, he would have been a blogger. The prolific 19th century naturalist–and father of evolution–eagerly shared his ideas and observations with the world around him through 16 books and pamphlets and more than 5000 letters to the scientific and cultural luminaries of his day. He covered everything, from the formation of mold or the perception of ants, to the movement of leaves.
2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 150 years after he published On the Origin of Species. As part of its celebration of these two anniversaries, Science will be blogging, with Darwin as our inspiration. On this site, our writers and editors, as well as guest researchers and blog readers, will share their thoughts, not just about the origin of species but also about key nodes throughout the evolution of life, just as Darwin did.
Turn to this site for discussions related to a monthly essay series on “Origins” that Science is publishing as part of its Year of Darwin. January’s essay by Carl Zimmer examines the origin of life on Earth. Our bloggers will be introducing the people and processes behind the research, as well as other “Origins” themes. We welcome your comments and your feedback.
The following excerpt from Science‘s editorial this week describes Darwin’s enduring contribution and Science‘s plan for this Year of Darwin:
Darwin’s gift was to sense the mystery of the diversification of living organisms, and his achievement was to make sense of it. Remarkably, he revealed the mechanism and process of evolution without having a clue of how variation was generated. He developed his arguments based on painstaking examination of paleontological and biological evidence, and the emergent properties of organisms, but with no knowledge of the underlying genetics. Evolutionary biology has been much transformed and enhanced since his time, but at its core remains Darwin’s electrifying idea: natural selection and descent with modification as the agent and manifestation, respectively, of evolutionary change.
As The Times (London) wrote in 1909 in honor of his first centenary, “To no other man has it been given to effect a revolution in human thought so large, so pervading, so sudden, and yet so enduring. Darwin taught mankind to see all things in a new light, not only the mysteries of nature, great and small, the mysteries of existence and the innumerable objects of research, but the common things of everyday life.”
[This week in Science], a review article by Peter Bowler analyzes the originality of Darwin’s contribution. We also feature an essay by Carl Zimmer on how life might have begun. This essay is the first in a monthly series about “Origins” that takes a broad look at key developments in evolution and in human culture. In February, we will feature a special issue on speciation and diversification, still major themes in evolutionary science. Evolution is also woven into the theme of the AAAS annual meeting, which starts in February, on Darwin’s birthday. In July, the AAAS will be supporting the Darwin Festival in Cambridge, UK, which will echo, on a grander scale and with more public outreach, the prominent festival of 1909.
Beyond laying the foundations for evolutionary biology, Darwin built a home that biology could furnish with the concepts and findings from paleontology, ecology and population genetics, and more recently, molecular biology, developmental biology, and genomics. In marking his bicentenary, we reaffirm the values and practice of science, and the generous spirit of enquiry, observation, experiment, and discussion that Darwin himself exemplified.