In honour of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, Nature is publishing a series on the global and astounding variety of reactions to the theory of evolution. People from Egypt to Japan used Darwin’s ideas to reinvent and reignite their core philosophies and religions, says Marwa Elshakry in the first of these four weekly pieces on how evolution was received around the world (Nature 461, 1200-1201; 2009). The start of the series is marked by an Editorial (Nature 461, 1173-1174; 2009) on the importance of cultural influences on science. "The lesson for today’s scientists and policy-makers is simple: they cannot assume that a public presented with ‘the facts’ will come to the same conclusion as themselves. They must take value systems, cultural backdrops and local knowledge gaps into account and frame their arguments accordingly. Such approaches will be crucial in facing current global challenges, from recessions to pandemics and climate change. These issues will be perceived and dealt with differently by different nations — not because they misunderstand, but because their understanding is in part locally dependent.
Darwin once said: “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.” Researchers and policy-makers would do well to mimic his humility when presenting science, and remember how people’s minds truly work."
The grand finale will come later this month (November), marking the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species. (Watch this space.)
Nature Publishing Group celebrates Darwin 200: a round-up of commissioned content from the Nature journals.