Letters to Charles Darwin | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Letters to Charles Darwin

A Letter to Charles Darwin from Jerry Coyne

2009 is the year of Darwin, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous work On the Origin of Species. BBC Radio 4 has recently been running a series of programmes called ‘Dear Darwin’, which invited five eminent thinkers to write a letter to Darwin, and to read it on air. One of the contributors was Jerry A. Coyne.

Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and author of Why Evolution is True, which is published in the UK by OUP and in the USA by Viking. Below is the text of his letter to Darwin.

My Dear Mr. Darwin,

Happy 200th birthday! I hope you are as well as can expected for someone who has been dead for nearly 130 years. I suppose that your final book, the one about earthworms, has a special significance for you these days. Are the worms of Westminster Abbey superior to the ones you studied so carefully in the grounds of your home at Downe in Kent? They’ve certainly mulched some distinguished people over the years!

But enough of the personal questions: let me introduce myself. I am one of thousands – maybe tens of thousands – of professional biologists who work full time on your scientific legacy. You’ll be happy to know that Britain remains a powerhouse in what we nowadays call evolutionary biology, and your ideas now have wide currency across the entire planet. I work in Chicago, in the United States of America. But even the French have finally reluctantly relinquished their embrace of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, whose misguided evolutionary ideas you did so much to discredit.

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