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So today happens to be the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and also of Abe Lincoln.

I think tristero nicely captures Darwin's spirit with this passage from his autobiography:

[O]ne day, on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare beetles, and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas! it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third one.

...I was introduced to entomology by my second cousin, W. Darwin Fox, a clever and most pleasant man, who was then at Christ's College, and with whom I became extremely intimate. Afterwards I became well acquainted, and went out collecting, with Albert Way of Trinity, who in after years became a well-known arch├Žologist; also with H. Thompson of the same College, afterwards a leading agriculturist, chairman of a great railway, and Member of Parliament. It seems therefore that a taste for collecting beetles is some indication of future success in life!

The Origin of Species, incidentally, is a pretty good read; almost all of Darwin's works are available online as text and scanned pages (so you can see the pictures).

Lincoln was a gifted orator and made a great many excellent speeches, but the one most relevant to today isn't his most famous: his words in the Cooper Union Address could be delivered today, with just a few words replaced, when speaking of the unreasoning right wing of today's politics as well:

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

Also, today is my roommate Adele's birthday. But to the best of my knowledge, her great speeches and world-changing books are still in the planning stages.

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"The Origin of Species, incidentally, is a pretty good read"

Wow I just said this, elsewhere...

Tell Adele to get crackin'! ;)

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on February 12, 2009 3:00 PM.

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