Tuesday, February 09, 2010

For Feb 12 - Charles Darwin Day (1809-1882)

I have seen great surprise expressed in horticultural works at the wonderful skill of gardeners in having produced such splendid results from such poor materials; but the art has been simple, and, as far as the final result is concerned, has been followed almost unconsciously. It has consisted in always cultivating the best known variety, sowing its seeds, and, when a slightly better variety chanced to appear, selecting it, and so onwards. -Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

The story goes that around 1870, a young Liberty Hyde Bailey found a used copy of Darwin's The Origin of Species in a South Haven library. Bailey's father, a Quaker from Vermont, took the book and informed Master Bailey that he needed to approve of its contents first. After a week, Bailey Sr. laid the book in young Liberty's hands explaining, "I don't understand a lick of it but he sounds like an honest man so go ahead and read it." Origin listed important scientists such as Asa Gray and Alfred Russel Wallace.  Later in his career, Bailey would study under Gray at Harvard. Bailey would tour Wallce at Michigan Agricultural School (now MSU).  The book continued to inform Bailey throughout his career.

If we are parts in the evolution, and if the universe, or even the earth, is not made merely as a footstool, or as a theatre for man, so do we lose our cosmic selfishness and we find our place in the plan of things. We are emancipated from ignorance and superstition and small philosophies. The present wide-spread growth of the feeling of brotherhood would have been impossible in a self-centred creation: the way has been prepared by the discussion of evolution, which is the major biological contribution to human welfare and progress. This is the philosophy of the oneness in nature and the unity in living things.
    We have wrongly visualized the "struggle." We have given it an intensely human application. We need to go back to Darwin who gave significance to the phrase "struggle for existence." "I use this term," he said, "in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny." The dependence of one being on another, success in leaving progeny,—how accurate and how far-seeing was Darwin!
The Holy Earth, Liberty Hyde Bailey

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