2009 May Be the YEAR of Lincoln and Darwin


Both Lincoln and Darwin were born in 1809, so expect a lot of retrospective reflection on these two figures throughout 2009.

In the United States, Edgar Allan Poe might also get some attention—as I believe that he too was born in 1809.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to 2009 May Be the YEAR of Lincoln and Darwin

  1. scaryreasoner says:

    Kind of a weird concept, Lincoln VERSUS Darwin? VERSUS? Huh?

    Darwin is best known, of course, for being (along with Wallace) the first to figure out the idea of evolution (though having no knowledge of how heredity actually worked, he did get some things wrong). A lot of religious folks in the U.S. don’t like Darwin, because the theory of evolution contradicts the Bible, as they see it.

    Lincoln is best known for being the U.S. President during the U.S. Civil War, and for the Gettysburg address, and for the Emancipation Proclamation. He is less well known for his ideas about religion.

    Lincoln said, on the reviewing the results of a canvass of the citezens of the city in which he lived (Springfield), noting which were ministers, and which way they intended to vote, “‘Here are 23 ministers, of different denominations, and all of them are against me but three; and here are a great many prominent members of the Churches, a very large majority of whom are against me. Mr. Bateman, I am not a Christian — God knows I would be one but I have carefully read the Bible, and I do not understand this book’; and he drew from his bosom a pocket New Testament. ‘These men well know,’ he continued, ‘that I am for freedom in the territories, freedom everywhere as far as the Constitution and the laws will permit, and that my opponents are for slavery. They know this, and yet, with this book in their hands, in the light of which human bondage cannot live a moment, they are going to vote against me. I do not understand it at all.'”

    Which, to me is a bit paradoxical, as the Bible seems for slavery (e.g. Leviticus 25:44-46, and Jesus seems to approve of slavery, or at least not oppose it, except possibly in the most general, abstract way (the golden rule), so it’s difficult for me to see how Lincoln could conclude that the Bible would provide a light by which “human bondage cannot live a moment” esp. when the supporters of slavery used the same Bible to bolster their arguments.

    So… Darwin VERSUS Lincoln seems weird to me. Seems more like a tag team Darwin and Lincoln against the ignorant, superstitious masses. That would seem more apt to me.

  2. santitafarella says:


    i don’t know the source of your lincoln quote, but i agree with your vexation: pairing lincoln and darwin, in the way that Newsweek did on one of its covers last year, is odd.

    indeed, it’s probably just american narcissism that does so.

    for one thing, darwin will almost certainly be remembered a millenium from now. it’s hard to imagine lincoln being of equivelent world historical importance. obviously, he was important to holding together the united states and for ending slavery in the united states, but beyond the united states, and his compelling biography and character, it’s hard to imagine him being in the consciousness of many human beings a millenia from now.

    darwin, on the other hand, is another matter. his original insights about how the world works are so revolutionary and fundamentally wide-reaching that he will certainly be remembered a millenia from now (in the way, at least, that, say, aristotle and capernicus are remembered—as people who thought differently from those who came before).

    if any american reaches this high esteem, it will be thomas jefferson (for his role in writing the world’s founding democratic documents).

    jefferson’s ideals made lincoln’s actions possible.


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