Darwin at 200: World salutes founder of evolutionary theory

PARIS, February 5, 2009 (AFP) – Two hundred years ago, in a wealthy household in rural England, a child was born who, in a quiet, dogged and utterly peaceful way, was destined to become one of the greatest revolutionaries who lived. Armed just with a pen, Charles Darwin reforged our concept of Nature and humanity’s place in it, ignited a social debate that blazes to this day and shook the foundations of religions.

He bequeathed a theoretical legacy — the principle of evolution by natural selection and the origins of Man — that has not only survived assault by Creationists and other critics but also remains a pillar of modern science.

The February 12 bicentenary has been elevated into a global celebration, placing Darwin among Newton, Einstein, Galileo and other greats who not only broke new ground in science but also reshaped our mental landscape.

“For my money, the most important thinker the human species has ever produced is Charles Darwin,” says evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion” and other works.

Darwin’s blockbusters were two books, “On the Origin of Species,” whose 150th anniversary of publication falls on November 24, and “The Descent of Man,” published in 1871.

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