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Feb 12 2012

Happy 203rd Birthday, Charles Darwin!

Celebrate! I hope you all skipped church, and are planning on a nice dinner with a little dessert and a little wildness after.

56 comments

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  1. 1
    Glen Davidson

    Just going to do some hatin on God, denying “obvious design,” and trying to cause spontaneous generation.

    Because that’s what Darwinists do.

    Glen Davidson

  2. 2
    Eurasian magpie

    How long this time before the godbots come along to accuse atheists of worshipping Darwin? Any guesses?

  3. 3
    Rip Steakface

    A beard we should all aspire to emulate.

  4. 4
    petejohn

    I’m sure many Pharyngulites know this already, but it’s also Abraham Lincoln’s 203rd birthday today. Kind of a weird coincidence. One guy played a major role in the defeat of a wannabe slave empire, the other helped destroy the case for God’s existence. Lincoln was of course murdered, and I’m sure many Christian lunatics wish Darwin had been too.

  5. 5
    Glen Davidson

    the other helped destroy the case for God’s existence.

    I can’t recall that there ever was one.

    Glen Davidson

  6. 6
    alektorophile

    Just had a lovely octopus and squid salad. Does that count?

    Not sure about the wildness after. I was thinking along the lines of a good book and some port. Too wild?

  7. 7
    'Tis Himself

    It’s also the 203rd birthday of the first American Jewish president, Abraham Lincohen.

  8. 8
    myeck waters

    Hey, this is also my late father’s birthday. He did not work in the sciences, sadly. He also didn’t free the slaves.

    His middle name was Merlin though, which I, growing up Catholic, thought was wicked cool.

  9. 9
    Zugswang

    “Skipping” would imply that I regularly attend in the first place. :P

    I’ll just hope to avoid any arguments with the creationist that works in our craniofacial development lab. (Yes, she does not understand the irony of that; like a vegan working at a slaughterhouse)

  10. 10
  11. 11
    llewelly

    “mygrapefruit” ?

  12. 12
    petejohn

    @Glen

    Well people have tried anyway. Perhaps I should have written “case” for God’s existence.

  13. 13
    conradbebbington

    Fish pie filled with all kinds of unidentified wild things for tea (I asked for skinless white fish, the guy on the fishcounter gave me a bag of something).

    And now I’m having a soco and lemonade.

    To Darwin.
    Cheers!

  14. 14
    Art Vandelay

    The Lincoln thing really is a cool coincidence. Probably the two greatest emancipators of our time.

  15. 15
    earlycuyler

    Lincoln was cooler as he was also a vampire hunter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Lincoln,_Vampire_Hunter

  16. 16
    ibyea

    Today I ate chocolate. The best thing plant evolution had to offer.:)

  17. 17
    machintelligence

    Glen@5
    Actually, the argument from design was a pretty strong one, until Darwin blew it out of the water. A lot of creationists still insist on using it. (See Daniel Dennett: “Darwin’s Strange Inversion of Reasoning”)

  18. 18
    ibyea

    @machineintelligence
    “I can’t explain it, therefore Design” is an extremely lame argument.

  19. 19
    ibyea

    What I mean by that is that it has never been a strong argument. The only difference is that back then, people were able to be more convinced by such faulty reasonings.

  20. 20
    Lynna, OM

    I went down to the river and skipped some rocks. It was raining, no wind, and the rock skips made interesting patterns in the rain-drummed surface.

    Lots of goose traffic overhead, and lots of waterfowl in the eddies along the shore. Mallards, family Anatidae. The Brits call these waterfowl “wildfowl,” but mallards look like the placid suburbanites of ducks to me. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life tells me that up to 65-80% of ducks die in the first year, with slightly higher survival rates after the first, dangerous year. That survival rate means most ducks don’t get to breed, since breeding begins at 1 or 2 years old for most ducks.

    I did see one very nice evolutionary feature, webbed feet.

    Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin.

  21. 21
    lizdamnit

    “I hope you all skipped church, and are planning on a nice dinner with a little dessert and a little wildness after.”

    Check and mate, PZ…I know what Mr. Lizdamnit and I have to do now :P But only a little wildness, though, I wouldn’t want to unnerve the neighbors. Then maybe a nice walk to observe local fauna and their adaptations – huzzah!

  22. 22
    Sili

    These old pictures always make me wonder just how cold Victorian times were. People always seem to buried in tonnes of layers.

  23. 23
    Rey Fox

    Yes, “wildness”. Only if you count drawing and watching “Sherlock” on DVD to be wildness.

  24. 24
    anuran

    Of course, there’s the inevitable party song It’s a Long Way From Amphioxus

  25. 25
    brett

    Damn it, I forgot it was Darwin Day! Now I need to make a cake.

  26. 26
    Alley B

    I’m celebrating by making a plankton net. Beer will be involved.

  27. 27
    Trebuchet

    The Sibley Guide to Bird Life tells me that up to 65-80% of ducks die in the first year, with slightly higher survival rates after the first, dangerous year. That survival rate means most ducks don’t get to breed, since breeding begins at 1 or 2 years old for most ducks.

    That’s a good thing, when it comes to mallards — we’d be up to our necks in them — or perhaps I should say even more up to our necks in them — otherwise. Canada Geese, on the other hand, are excellent parents — if they hatch six, they often raise six. And yes, we’re up to our necks in them.

    Happy B-day, Charles and Abe.

  28. 28
    Glen Davidson

    “I can’t explain it, therefore Design” is an extremely lame argument.

    If it were otherwise, abiogenesis would still be a good argument for God, as many IDiots claim.

    It’s not.

    Glen Davidson

  29. 29
    Glen Davidson

    If it were otherwise, abiogenesis would still be a good argument for God, as many IDiots claim.

    Fixed that.

    Glen Davidson

  30. 30
    Nick Gotts

    …and he doesn’t look a day over 202!

  31. 31
    Lynna, OM

    Just in time for Darwin’s birthday CBS News has posted a story about some samples collected during the Beagle voyage resurfacing after 165 years.
    Link.

    …”I held it up to the light and tried to make out the words on the slide and there was the signature: C. Darwin, Esquire,” Falcon-Lang says, adding he could “hardly believe it. My heart was pounding all around my body.”

    They were actual samples collected by the Charles Darwin during his five-year voyage in the 1830s on HMS Beagle, where his observations of wildlife and fossils, particularly on the Galapagos Islands off South America, lead to the development of his theory of evolution that shocked the world.

    Most of the evidence Darwin used has been well documented, but the samples Howard Falcon-Lang accidentally found had been lost because Darwin entrusted them to a fellow scientist, J.D. Hooker, perhaps the original absent-minded professor.

    Hooker committed the cardinal sin of failing to number his fossils, and as a consequence this collection has just been stuck in drawers for 165 years….

  32. 32
    anuran

    I’ll be making Primordial Soup for dinner

  33. 33
    scottlesch

    I Blogged about Darwin using toy figures….

    http://ilikethethingsilike.blogspot.com/2012/02/notable-birthday.html

  34. 34
    nemothederv

    If I dress up as Charles Darwin can I use a Basset Hound instead of a Beagle? Is that close enough?

    I’m fresh out of Beagles.

  35. 35
    RFW

    #16 ibyea says:

    Today I ate chocolate. The best thing plant evolution had to offer.:)

    What about vanilla and chili peppers?

    It’s really surprising, when you look into it, how many important crops are native to the New World and were unknown in AfroEurasia until post-Columbian times: chocolate, vanilla, and chili peppers of course. But also potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins and squash, corn (maize), beans of all sorts except fava beans, tobacco, allspice, tapioca (cassava), and I don’t know how many else.

    Strawberries were known in the Old World, but today’s lovely, succulent beauties are complex hybrids derived primarily (if not exclusively) from Fragaria chiloensis and F. virginiana, both New World species.

    And turkey, though it’s livestock, not a crop.

  36. 36
    RFW

    #20 Lynna, OM says:

    …up to 65-80% of ducks die in the first year, with slightly higher survival rates after the first, dangerous year. That survival rate means most ducks don’t get to breed, since breeding begins at 1 or 2 years old for most ducks.

    A high mortality rate seems to be pretty common among birds. Several years ago I spent way too much time engrossed in the webcammed goings-on in a bald eagle nest near Sidney, BC. The parents there have a good track record, many years raising three eaglets right through to fledging and departure for the wild blue yonder.

    But the hazards to young eaglets are many. A particular problem is falls from the nest, particularly in the period shortly before fledging when they cavort around the nest flapping wings like crazy to strengthen them. Sometimes there’s a mis-step. Ooops! The year I watched, two of the three chicks fell, though both survived without human help.

    Other nests and other years at Sidney have revealed such risks as a raven as an egg thief, and an eaglet in another nest suddenly dying of fungal pneumonia just prior to fledging. Getting entangled in binder twine or fishnet mistakenly brought into the nest by the parents is a notable risk, too.

    Mature eagles are at risk from airplanes and wind turbines, the latter because the tips of the blades are moving too fast to be avoided in time.

    The survival rate post-departure seems to be surprisingly low, too, in part because the young ‘uns don’t really know how to hunt yet. Fortunately, the west coast bald eagles all fledge around the end of July when the salmon runs are starting further north, so if they can get that far, there’s food galore.

    For all that, since chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides (e.g. DDT) were taken off the market and have gradually been purged from the biosphere, the bald eagle population has expanded southwards from Canada so that now there are bald eagles all over the US, including quite highly urbanized locations.

  37. 37
    Part-Time Insomniac

    Pfft, I skip church as much as possible. Sundays have been much more enjoyable since that became an option. A good dinner and an eclair just makes it better.

    Getting hungry again though, so will have to find something other than soup to eat. Of course, if that mission fails, soup it is.

  38. 38
    A. R

    I’m going to do some science tonight. Probably the best way to pay tribute!

  39. 39
    dogmeat

    I’m rather fond of today above and beyond the ties to Lincoln and Darwin, tis also the day I was born. ;o)

  40. 40
    Rick

    Here’s a thought, it’s been 152 Years,2 Months,and 19 Days since publication of “On the Origin of Species”. That’s 55597 days.

    Has there ever been another idea that stood the test of science this long, yet took so long to be accepted as fact? At least here in the US the general public remains grossly ignorant.

    I think to properly celebrate, i will begin reading anew, On the Origin of Species.

  41. 41
    mackenga

    I played a gig tonight, and wore my Darwin fish t-shirt in honour of the great man. You talk to fewer people wearing a Darwin fish, but they’re a better class of people :D

    @Rick: Same plan here. Overdue a re-read.

  42. 42
    Cupcake

    I think it is a good time to get our my copy of The Voyage of the Beagle and read a few more chapters :)

  43. 43
    jpgoldberg

    We’ve been trying to figure out what kind of cake to have.

    It should be multilayered, and the recipe should be the result of a long process of trial and error.

  44. 44
    ChasCPeterson

    gah!
    Colorized Darwin.

    Well, Happy Monkey!

  45. 45
    joefogey

    Plymouth Humanists met at an Indian restaurant to commemorate the Origin of Spices and the Descent of Nan.

  46. 46
    birgerjohansson

    Darwin and Lincoln both were born 102 years after Carl Linnæus, alas the month is off as are two years. It would have been cool of they had had their births staggered an even 100 years

  47. 47
    audiolight

    …and thanks for giving us a present this year!

  48. 48
    alektorophile

    Didn’t Time Magazine a few years back compare the achievements of Darwin and Lincoln and declare the latter the more important of the two? That always struck me as strange, given the rather limited, geographically speaking, significance of Lincoln, when compared to Darwin’s contributions to human knowledge.

    @46
    Benito Juarez of Mexico was born almost exactly 3 years earlier, in 1806. He makes for an interesting comparison to Lincoln, and was, in my opinion, a rather more interesting and inspiring character, not least for his indigenous background and for his anti-clerical reforms.

  49. 49
    The Sailor

    I hope you all skipped church

    I never miss church … it’s almost 1/2 a century since I’ve been and I don’t miss it a bit.

  50. 50
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    I’m pretty sure the modern wind turbines, the really big ones, have blades that don’t move that fast. Early ones were a problem, as were the early masts that provided spots to perch. (wrt Eagles)

  51. 51
    julietdefarge

    The Fredericksburg branch of the Drinking Skeptically Meetup had a phylum feast at Red Lobster. Molluscs were consumed but no cephalopods. Topic of the day: How to get the vinyl from our billboard (currently at exit 136 on I-95 S,) up to DC for the Reason Rally.

  52. 52
    woodsong

    I enjoyed Darwin Day appropriately, without being aware of what day it was!

    Skip church? I got caught up on sleep.

    Most of the afternoon was spent reading up on solar system formation and planetary evolution. Not Darwin’s field, I know, but the husbeast and I are preparing some displays to have at a planetarium lecture we’re doing on meteorites next month. Cool stuff, and I did learn a few things. Among other things, I read in the Wiki article on the Late Heavy Bombardment (subheading “Geological consequences on Earth”):

    More recently, a similar study of Jack Hills rocks shows traces of the same sort of potential organic indicators. Thorsten Geisler of the Institute for Mineralogy at the University of Münster studied traces of carbon trapped in small pieces of diamond and graphite within zircons dating to 4250 Ma. The ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-13 was unusually high, normally a sign of “processing” by life.[13]

    Three-dimensional computer models developed in May 2009 by a team at the University of Colorado at Boulder postulate that much of Earth’s crust, and the microbes living in it, could have survived the Bombardment. Their models suggest that although the surface of the Earth would have been sterilized, hydrothermal vents below the Earth’s surface could have incubated life by providing a sanctuary for heat-loving microbes.[14]

    [13] Rachel Courtland, “Did newborn Earth harbour life?”, New Scientist, July 2, 2008
    [14] Steenhuysen, Julie (May 21, 2009). “Study turns back clock on origins of life on Earth”. Reuters.com. Reuters. Retrieved May 21, 2009

    Talk about something to make the jaw drop…

    After reading up on that, we went for a short hike at Buttermilk Falls State Park, followed by a good dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant.

    After dinner, we spent the rest of the evening looking for black inclusions in the meteorites we’ve collected. This was inspired by an article the husbeast found on the possibility of carbonaceous inclusions (potentially originating in the Kuiper Belt) being found in more common types of stony meteorites. We found several possibilities, including one that, to my eye, looks just like our Murchison fragment under the stereo microscope. Now we just have to find someone who can analyze the chemistry…

    Catching up on science and indulging curiosity is an appropriate way to spend Darwin Day, isn’t it?

  53. 53
    DLC

    Skipped Church ? been ‘skipping’ church since the 1980s.
    Belated Happy Birthday, Darwin.

  54. 54
    jakc

    35 % would be a good one year survival rate for most raptors. And I think power lines are a greater problem.

  55. 55
    David Marjanović

    I prefer to celebrate the day on which Darwin and Wallace read their paper before the Royal Society in 1858.

    …Of course, I have a personal reason for that. :-}

  56. 56
    'Tis Himself

    Of course, I have a personal reason for that.

    I didn’t realize you were that old.

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