If you aren’t yet aware of the upcoming 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, I’d say you’re spending too much time in lab. As with the rest of the science community, New Yorkers are making grand plans for the big day, honoring the naturalist who laid the foundations for science as we know it.
In reading a set of essays in honor of Darwin, recently published by the New York Academy of Science (NYAS), I had to ask myself, how deep does Darwin’s influence really go? These essays demonstrate how Darwin’s work was able to impact academics on various levels, but does it really impact the work of Joe-scientist on a daily basis? I found my answer in one article written by Massimo Pigliucci, a professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Philosophy at Stony Brook. Pigliucci discusses that Darwin was able to convey his idea of evolution strictly on the basis of observation, without a mechanism to back it up. This method of scientific thinking is applicable to many aspects of present-day scientific research, in techniques such as random mutagenesis and high-throughput screening for small molecule therapies. I can only imagine what Darwin would say if he could see the impact his work has had on the progression of science.
On that note, for those of you that would like a firsthand account of Darwin’s influence, check out the two-day conference (February 28th-March 1st) hosted by the American Museum of Natural History, aptly called Darwin’s Legacy: Early Human Evolution in Africa. Then, afterward, feel free to discuss further in the Anthropology interest group of NYC meetup on February 9th.