The Great Man Himself

The Great Man Himself

Two hundred years and it seems like just yesterday. Funny, did you know that you share a birthday with Abraham Lincoln, someone else I admire, but for different reasons.

I’ve spent a lot of time at sea and being seasick is miserable. I know, I get seasick but not for long. You, though were one of those unfortunates that suffer in a more chronic way. I don’t know how you endured the long voyage on the Beagle but maybe the seasickness drove you to spend as much time ashore as possible. Maybe your relief to be on land and dread of suffering mal de mer once again, was a catalyst that helped put the pieces of the puzzle together?

The Galapagos Islands are still beautiful Charles, but, as with most of the beautiful places of the world there is trouble in paradise. Too many people, an oil spill, that sort of thing. You’ll be glad to know that people did realize what an incredible and unique ecosystem the islands were before it was too late. Apart from global warming the biggest danger is that people will love the place to death.

Sorry SCUBA hadn’t been invented when you visited the islands, I’m sure you would have loved to have had a look below. The unique ecosystem of the Galapagos above the sea is duplicated below it. Deep cold water currents, rich with oxygen and the attendant plankton upwell here, attracting tremendous numbers of fish and the bigger creatures that feed on them. Huge schools of Hammerheads are common and indeed there is a species of shark unique to the island chain.

The Finches

The Finches

Your finches are still there with beaks that vary from island to island, and the giant tortoises still roam (maybe one or two who you met on your visit are still alive) just as slowly as they have always done.

So much has happened these last two centuries. You’d be fascinated to know how many wonderful discoveries have come to pass that continue to prove your elegant theory. Just how traits are passed from one generation to the next was a puzzle you were unable to solve but you planted the seed. An Austrian monk was fascinated by your theory and guessed that traits were not blended together but carried by minute bits passed on to following generations, some traits having dominance over others. Mendel didn’t even have a microscope but he discovered the mechanism of natural selection. Watson and Crick with their discovery of DNA; that miraculous collection of four bases (adenosine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine) forming the double helix of creation itself; the a four letter alphabet of endless combinations, the coin of the living realm. They call the entire collection a genome and there are millions parts of code to a genome. Thanks to computers (they would amaze you too, but there isn’t time to go into them here), and more brilliant minds the human genome was mapped recently. Lots of work left here though, mapping is one thing, now they have to visit each place on the map to figure out exactly what it does.

If only we could wake you up and show you the discoveries that have been made all ignited by your elegant theory.

You were right about something else too. I read that you were reluctant to publish your theory because you suspected it would create a bit of controversy. You were right of course, “bit” being an understatement. Bravery isn’t just found on battlefields, sometimes it’s in the halls of academia too. You would be amused to know that among some zealots the same old arguments are getting tossed around, tiresome it is.

As you were, I too am an agnostic. My scientific mind rejects the tenets of organized religion but I remain open to new discoveries, and though I am resigned to the likelihood that this is all there is, I hold a place in my consciousness for the possibility of the unexplainable. If there is an otherworldly place when I get there I would love to invite you over to dinner, Ben Franklin would be there too, along with a host of others whose company you would enjoy. Such a party we would have. Thank you for the work you did Charles Darwin and the courage to tell the world. Happy Birthday!

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