Two great and, in at least one way, antithetic men were born on this day in 1809. One advocated man’s natural evolvement; the other, God’s greater involvement.
Charles Darwin, born February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, to a privileged family, studied both medicine and theology. His most famous work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (often abbreviated as The Origin of Species) describes the processes of development, competition, and death in the natural selection of biological attributes that most effectively support variation (incipient species, as Darwin preferred).
In the news this past year as a rallying call for arguments against evolution, although he described natural selection more so than evolution, Darwin’s work has been placed in counterpoint to the rigorist religious calls for the inclusion of intelligent design in public school science curricula. Natural selection, as described by Darwin, is, currently, the greatest challenge to the fundamental tenets of religion, that an omniscient hand created the universe: the complexity of life is such that it could not possibly have been created through a scientifically-explainable process.
Also born on the same day was Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, on Sinking Spring Farm in the Southeast part of Hardin County, Kentucky to an uneducated, but relatively affluent family; he received about 18 months of formal education from itinerant teachers, yet earned a liberal education through his own efforts; he never joined a church. His personal opinions are best exemplified in his, arguably, most famous work, his second inaugural address. Rallying the nation with religious references, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in,” Lincoln recognized the common values most American’s shared, one of which was a strong religious foundation.
It as mystery, although I judge not one of a religious nature, that two men, so well known, could be born within hours of each other, hold such distinctly different religious opinions, and yet, be remembered–out of context–for, not their values and beliefs, but for a few words that they left behind.