After 150 Years, Charles Darwin’s Still Got My Back

Photo of Charles Darwin in 1879. [Source: Wikimedia Commons] I had to laugh out loud this morning when I heard an NPR announcer quip that today is the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin “going rogue.” He meant the 1859 publication of On The Origin of Species, of course, but he was reaching for something else. If Sarah Palin heard the comparison, she must have wondered about the missing link.

Whenever I think about Darwin and his book, I return to my favorite passage in it, which I steer by as if it were a needle on a compass:

It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life.

I’ve certainly spent plenty of time scrutinizing the possible role of natural selection in my life of variation, disability, and genetic disease. It’s a comfort to know that natural selection is scrutinizing me back.

I talked about this once at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Read Improvising on the Genome and let me know what you think.

[The Project Gutenberg e-text of On The Origin of Species remains, thankfully, in the public domain.]

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