The Norman Transcript

Local news

February 13, 2009

Weighing in on Darwin

Scholar says Darwin didn't invent evolution, but he did explain it

Charles Darwin may have been wrong about some things, but when his ideas are viewed within the concept of scientific history they are still revolutionary, a visiting scholar said Thursday evening at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

John Lynch, honors fellow at Arizona State University's Center for Biology and Society, gave a lecture titled "Was There a Darwinian Revolution?" to an audience of a few hundred on Darwin's 200th birthday.

His conclusion? Yes, there was, "if only because there has been a push-back against" Darwin's theories, he said.

That push-back comes from some scientists, but also because of religious and social reasons, Lynch said.

It has been seen in the legislation that's been proposed in many states, including Oklahoma, that would encourage the teaching of Intelligent Design and the questioning of evolution, Lynch said.

He encouraged members of the audience to oppose Senate Bill 320 which is making its way through the Oklahoma Legislature this session.

Oklahoma, however, has a long history of opposition to the theory of evolution. Lynch said it was the first state to pass legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the 1920s.

But Darwin's theories didn't start out so controversial.

In his hour-long lecture, Lynch gave a brief history of the reception of Darwin's theory of natural selection. It certainly doesn't seem like what we would think of as a revolution, Lynch said, because it took about 70 years -- in the 1930s -- for it to become widely accepted by the scientific community.

In fact, Darwin first presented his theory of natural selection as a mechanism for evolution in 1858 at a conference. No one seemed to pay any attention, and the leader of the group said in his address at the end of the year that 1858 was marked by its lack of innovation and discovery, Lynch said.

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