Charles Darwin’s birthday (today is his 199th) is one of my favorite days of the year (coming as it does two days ahead of VD- yeah, I said it- on which, unhappily, there will probably be more at some other time… read: when I’m in a mood to have other people laugh at my misfortunes).
Like all scientific genius,
1. Random mutation of genetic material occurs in all organisms.
2. Organisms with the attributes which give them an advantage in their environment survive.
Obvious, no? Ridiculously obvious. So ludicrously obvious that it’s laughable that anyone even bothered to articulate them.
So obvious no one even realized them. Or thought about them. Or followed through on their logical consequences.
From those consequences and their complex, subtle and profound shadings does all the glorious and dazzling variety of life on Earth spring. The mechanisms of evolution- adaptation, genetic drift, gene flow, mutation, natural selection, speciation- and their results permeate the biosphere and our lives in a way, and on a scale, and with a totality, that is frankly impossible to grasp.
Those who come close to grasping it are, to my knowledge, universally overcome with astonishment at the incredible effects of such simple facts.
Try, for a moment, to conceive of what that means: Your genetic predisposition to certain diseases, your sexual development in the womb, your dog’s eye color, the length of your cat’s claws, the rate of growth of the mold in your refrigerator, the dueling colonies of bacteria and fungi housed in your body, the texture of the apple you just bit into, the scent of the lilies on your hearth.
All of these owe their scientific articulation to
Imagine it. Can you grasp the scale of it? It’s every bit as sprawling and stunning and splendid as any cosmological Theory of Everything could ever be.
And it lives inside you. Inside every living thing.
Like I’ve said before: Who needs magic?