Every year, scientific community around the world celebrates evolutionary biology on the occasion of Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12. These events are collectively referred to as “Darwin Day”. The goals of Darwin Day are to reach out and inform the public about the importance of evolution as the foundation of modern biology, the life and findings of Charles Darwin, and to promote scientific literacy in general.The first celebration of Darwin Day occurred in 1909 at the New York Academy of Sciences at the American Museum of Natural History. After that, there were sporadic celebrations of Darwin Day sponsored by Humanist groups, science organizations, and universities. In the United States, “Darwin Day” became an official holiday in 2015.
The anniversary of Darwin’s birth was to honor Darwin and to celebrate “science and humanity.”Celebrations of 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book entitled ‘On the Origin of Species’ were celebrated throughout the world. This day is celebrated to inspire people all over the world to reflect on the importance of scientific thinking, works, and curiosity to find new things, and hunger for truth. There is increasing agreement that evolution needs to be presented and discussed even before students reach high school. On this day seminars, workshops should be conducted in academic institutions; literature should be made available to students on evolution of species. Even social media platform should be used to celebrate and honour Charles Darwin. Thisday presents a great opportunity to celebrate science and evolutionary biology and introduce the lifeand scientific contributions of Darwin to people whomay not have exposure to these scientifically and historically important issues.
Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England on 12 February 1809. He was the second youngest of six children. His father was Robert Darwin a doctor and Susannah Wedgwood Darwin. At the age of 22 in 1831, he left for a five-year survey voyage on the HMS Beagle. He had studied several types of animals and plants and started generating a theory of evolution and his views on natural selection. After 28 years he had published his book named “On the Origin of Species”. On 19th April 1882 he died in London.
Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection provides a comprehensive explanation to the diversity of life on Earth. The theory states that species evolve over time through the process of natural selection, where the individual with the most advantageous traits are most likely to survive and pass on their traits to the next generation. This work of Darwin revolutionized the field of biology and has had a profound impact on the understanding of the natural world. According to Darwin’s theory evolution occurs gradually over long period of time through the accumulation of small changes. This process is often referred to as “microevolution”. This phenomenon results in the formation of new species and the higher level taxonomic groups.
The concept of struggle for existence was mostly misinterpreted for political and economic gains. There seems to be a discrepancy between what Darwin intends to say and what he ends up saying; stated another way, what Darwin sought to communicate about the natural world is different from what his readers thought he was communicating. With regard to his concept of a struggle for existence he claimed to be using the phrase primarily as a metaphor, describing the broad ecological adaptation of the organism to its environment: "I use the term Struggle for Existence 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." Yet it seems that many, if not most, of Darwin's contemporaries felt that Darwin was using the term primarily in a literal sense.
This Social Darwinism aim to implement various pseudoscientific theories and societal practices that purport to apply biological concepts of natural selection and survival of the fittest to sociology, economics and politics, and which were largely defined by scholars in Western Europe and North America in the 1870s. Social Darwinists believe that the strong should see their wealth and power increase while the weak should see their wealth and power decrease. Social Darwinist definitions ‘of the strong’ and ‘the weak vary’, and also differ on the precise mechanisms that reward strength and punish weakness. Many such views stress competition between individuals in laissez faire capitalism, while others, emphasizing struggle between national or racial groups, support eugenics, racism, imperialism and/or fascism.
Social Darwinism declined in popularity following the First World War and its purportedly scientific claims were largely discredited by the end of the Second- World War partially after the defeat of Nazismand due to a growing scientific consensus that eugenics and scientific racism were groundless. One should keep in mind that some people still believe in this scientifically misinterpreted concept, and which Darwin also explained the what he told is different from what most of the people interpreted it.
The aim of Darwin Day is to encourage the scientific temperament, to encourage the legacy of one of the greatest scientists in the history and promoting a greater appreciation for science and its role in shaping our understanding of the world around us.
(Dr. Aijaz Hassan Ganie, Dept. of Botany, University of Kashmir, North Campus)