Happy birthday to Charles Darwin, the man who single-handedly ruined the credibility of every argument your high school biology teacher ever made!
On this day in 1809, a curious little monkey (allegedly) was born in Shrewsbury, England. Little did the world know, this monkey (ahem, man) would grow up to shake the very foundations of science and give us all a really awkward conversation to have with our creationist relatives at Thanksgiving.
After receiving a degree in the study of how to argue with people who don’t believe in science (aka theology) from the University of Cambridge, Charles set off on a journey aboard the HMS Beagle that would change the course of history. And by “change the course of history,” we mean “completely obliterate the idea that a divine being created every species exactly how they are now.”
While collecting specimens and observing all the weird and wonderful creatures he encountered on his voyage, Charles had a “Eureka!” moment and came up with the revolutionary (and highly controversial) theory of natural selection. The basic idea is that species evolve over time through a process of survival of the fittest, and the fittest just happen to be the ones that are best suited to their environment.
Of course, this didn’t sit well with a lot of people, who would much rather believe that a magical being waved its hand and poof! Here’s a giraffe with a super long neck. But Charles persisted, publishing his findings in “On the Origin of Species” and cementing his place as the father of evolutionary biology.
So, let’s all take a moment on this special day to thank Charles for giving us a way to understand the world that doesn’t involve a lot of hand-waving and magical thinking. And for making it really awkward to talk to your conservative uncle at family gatherings.