H. BRUCE RINKER: Darwin: A Hero for Scientists and Lovers

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H. Bruce Rinker

For all of us, what a happy coincidence that Charles Darwin’s birthday (12 February) and St. Valentines’ Day (14 February) sit close to each other on our annual calendar.

Darwin once observed,” What an utter desert is life without love.” This is a heroic observation by a man too often portrayed by Christian fundamentalists as a godless scientist bereft of feeling and decency! Today, many view Darwin as a great scientist – arguably the greatest – and certainly more influential and far-reaching than Galileo, Newton, and Einstein.

Darwin gave the world a comprehensive explanation about life and geologic principles over the unthinkable expanse of deep time. He has been my intellectual hero ever since my boyhood days growing up on an old farm here in the Shenandoah Valley where I explored nearby fields, forests, streams, and wetlands and collected all sorts of creepy-crawlies, dragging them home often to the dismay of my parents.

I have observed over the decades that most people who condemn Darwin as heretical or irrelevant are often those who know nothing about his life’s achievements. As we peel away the evolutionary layers of this enriching onion, we find a bigger and brighter core.

Valentine, another courageous hero for our day, was a 3rd century martyr, who suffered for his beliefs about love. It makes sense that Darwin and Valentine are official feast day partners for the Western World’s calendar.

I get a kick out of bumper stickers – aside from the mean and vulgar ones, of course. Among my favorites: “Darwin Loves You.” At this time in our calendar and in national politics, we will all benefit from honoring the threads of love that bind us inextricably to each other and those that knit together our diversities and histories.

During this season of love, especially in our celebration of the coming spring, try to find a meaningful way to remind family and colleagues that Darwin Loves Us All!

H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D., is a forest ecologist, science-educator, and conservationist living in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. He is the author of the 2019 book (Köehlerbooks), A Pearl in the Brain: The Cancer Journey of a Scientist in His Search for the Seat of Soul.  Bruce may be reached at [email protected].