Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lincoln and Darwin

Coincidently, the Great Emancipator and arguably the most significant scientist of the Nineteenth century share a birthday, February 12, 1809. Compared to many other thinkers of that age, a combination of pragmatism and commitment to their ideas made them figures whose influence has grown. 

Darwin's careful observations have strengthened the explicatory power of his theory, unlike those  of Freud and Marx. In most respects, he has provided a theoretical basis for biology that is equivalent to that of Newton and Einstein for physics. 

Lincoln's admirers include Barack Obama, Fidel Castro, and indeed, Carl Marx. But Lincoln was a stern idealist. His support of Sherman's brutal campaigns through Mississipi, Georgia and his "March to the sea" involved total war- a campaign that destroyed the civilian economy that supported the Confederate war effort as well as attacking Confederate military supplies and lines of communication. Lincoln was not a pollyanna. 

Neither Darwin nor Lincoln were angels, but men who saw actions and the resulting consequences without flinching. 

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"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster