This and other letters can be found online at the Darwin Correspondence Project.
My dear Sir
Mr. Peacocks letter arrived on Saturday, & I received it late yesterday evening.— As far as my own mind is concerned, I should I think, certainly most gladly have accepted the opportunity, which you so kindly have offered me.— But my Father, although he does not decidedly refuse me, gives such strong advice against going.—that I should not be comfortable, if I did not follow it.— My Fathers objections are these; the unfitting me to settle down as a clergyman.— my little habit of seafaring.— the shortness of the time & the chance of my not suiting Captain Fitzroy.— It is certainly a very serious objection, the very short time for all my preparations, as not only body but mind wants making up for such an undertaking.— But if it had not been for my Father, I would have taken all risks.—
What was the reason, that a Naturalist was not long ago fixed upon?— I am very much obliged for the trouble you have had about it—there certainly could not have been a better opportunity.— I shall come up in October to Cambridge, when I long to have some talk with you.— I will write to Mr. Peacock at Denton, (in Durham?) but his direction is written so badly, that even with the assistance of the Post office, I am not certain about it— Would you therefore be so kind, if you know his or C. Fitzroys direction, would you send one line to the same effect.— My trip with Sedgwick answered most perfectly.— I did not hear of poor Mr. Ramsays loss till a few days before your letter. I have been lucky hitherto, in never losing any person for whom I had any esteem or affection. My Acquaintance, although very short, was sufficient to give me those feelings in a great degree.— I can hardly make myself believe he is no more.— He was the finest character I ever knew.—
Yours most sincerely | my dear Sir. Chas. Darwin
I have written to Mr. Peacock, & I mentioned that I have asked you to send one line in the chance of his not getting my letter.— I have also asked him to communicate with Cap. Fitzroy.— Even if I was to go my Father disliking would take away all energy, & I should want a good stock of that.— Again I must thank you; it adds a little to the heavy, but pleasant load of gratitude which I owe to you.—
Postmark: Shrewsbury AU 3<0> 18<3>1
31 August 2007
30 August 2007
Since the turn of the millennium, a new militancy has arisen among religious skeptics in response to three threats to science and freedom: (1) attacks against evolution education and stem cell research; (2) breaks in the barrier separating church and state leading to political preferences for some faiths over others; and (3) fundamentalist terrorism here and abroad...This is just an abbreviated clip from Shermer's full open letter which can be found here. The bold face above is mine; it indicates why this is posted under the heading "Reasons to build a Beagle". For more reasons to build a Beagle, click the label of the same name below and revisit the "reasons" posts from our old blog spot here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty, we must respond with appropriate aplomb. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about irrational exuberance. I suggest that we raise our consciousness one tier higher for the following reasons.
1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail. Atheists cannot simply define themselves by what they do not believe. As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises warned his anti-Communist colleagues in the 1950s: “An anti-something movement displays a purely negative attitude. It has no chance whatever to succeed. Its passionate diatribes virtually advertise the program they attack. People must fight for something that they want to achieve, not simply reject an evil, however bad it may be.”
2. Positive assertions are necessary. Champion science and reason, as Charles Darwin suggested: “It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science.”
3. Rational is as rational does. If it is our goal to raise people’s consciousness to the wonders of science and the power of reason, then we must apply science and reason to our own actions. It is irrational to take a hostile or condescending attitude toward religion because by doing so we virtually guarantee that religious people will respond in kind. As Carl Sagan cautioned in “The Burden of Skepticism,” a 1987 lecture, “You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.”
Thanks to Johnny Crow in Las Vegas for the tip off.
28 August 2007
25 August 2007
[here’s a pause so you can read that again]
[here’s another pause for you to indulge in a dance of joy*]
Stutz interviewed 11 board members (including 7 Republicans) and asked them about their views on whether intelligent design should be taught in science class. Only one respondent said she was in favor of including intelligent design in the curriculum. The chairman of the board, Don McLeroy, a self-described creationist, said,
"Creationism and intelligent design don't belong in our science classes. Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community – and intelligent design does not. When it comes to evolution, I am totally content with the current standard."Hip hip hurrah for Mr McLeroy!* But then—and this felt like having an ice cube dropped down the back of my dance-of-joy-warmed tee-shirt—he said that he was unhappy with current biology textbooks as they don't cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution. His grievances include “large time gaps” in the fossil record. Can we please be done with this particular creationist claim already? Every aspect of it has been thoroughly trounced.
No stranger to the ice cube effect herself, Kathy Miller, a Texas-based champion of separation of church and state, was skeptical that board members had really given up on teaching intelligent design.
"Don McLeroy and the other ideologues who now control the state board have said repeatedly in the past that they want public school science classes to teach creationism and other religion-based concepts," she said. "So we have no doubt that they'll find a way to try, either by playing politics with the curriculum standards or censoring new science textbooks later on."Kathy Miller's skepticism is borne out by polls that show that two-thirds of Texans (including Texas governor Rick Perry and former Texas governor George W. Bush) want creationism taught in public schools along with evolution.
Board Vice Chairman David Bradley, who also voted against the biology books in 2003, acknowledged that he doesn't believe in one of the main tenets of Darwin's theory – that humans evolved from lower life forms. "If some of my associates want to believe their ancestors were monkeys, that is their right. I believe God is responsible for our creation," said Mr. Bradley, R-Beaumont. "Given that none of today's scientists were around when the first frog crawled out of the pond, there is no one who can say exactly what happened."Well, actually, Mr Bradley, it wasn’t a frog; it didn’t even resemble a frog. The first primitive amphibian traits are seen in the fossils of Ichthyostega and Acanthostega of the late Devonian period (~400 million years ago). Icthyostega was succeeded by the six-foot long Eryops, an amphibian that had the ability to walk on land.
£10 to anyone except Mr Bradley who can guess where Eryops fossils are found. Here's a clue:
But I digress.
The strange thing is that Mr No-way-did-I-come-from-a-monkey Bradley also said he is not interested in challenging the teaching of evolution.
"There's always room for improvement, but I haven't heard a loud drumbeat for massive change ... I do want to make sure the next group of textbooks includes the strengths and weaknesses of evolution."Well, if he really means what he says* (and, as Kathy Miller warns, the jury's still out on that), that sounds fine by this biologist. The theory of evolution by natural selection doesn’t need to be protected from the battering of honest scientific inquiry – after all, that's what makes it a theory (noun, science) in the first place.
*In comments, coturnix quite rightly links us to the Panda's Thumb's response and warns us to think carefully before launching into dances of joy and hip hip hurrahs. So, in addition to the healthy dose of Kathy Miller's skepticism that is already in my article here, I've added the red asterisks to get readers down here and clicking over to the Panda's Thumb post for a reality check.
22 August 2007
21 August 2007
Events will include a "series of lectures by prominent researchers and other events to make clear the enduring soundness and profound impact of Darwin's concept." Oh yeah.
Case Western is collaborating with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to bring a diversity of speakers ranging from evolutionary biologist Sean Carroll, whose website has some very pretty pictures showing genes and evolution in action, to U.S. District Judge John Jones who rightly ruled in the famous 2005 Dover, Pennsylvania trial that teaching intelligent design in school was unconstitutional because intelligent design is fundamentally creationism, not science.
20 August 2007
There are really only four spaces on the list because as Mr Randerson says, anyone who omits Darwin from the list will be asked outside. Cup of tea and cake on the replica Beagle for Mr Randerson.
15 August 2007
I have just learned of “The HMS Beagle Project” and as Defence and Naval Attaché to the Embassy of Chile- it gives me great pleasure to offer you my assistance, support and co-operation on behalf of the Chilean Navy to help you make the necessary arrangement to do this.
Through the Naval Mission in London I could liaise with our HQ in Chile should you need to access Chilean waters, logistic support or/and security clearance.
Please get in touch with my office if there is anything I could do to take this matter forward.
Should we need access to Chilean waters? Captain Romero, yes please. The original Beagle sailed Chilean waters between 1834 and 1835, and at Concepcion Darwin reported on the catastrophic earthquake of February 20th 1835. Darwin's travels in Chile are extensively covered in the Voyage of the Beagle in chapters 12 (central Chile), 13 (Chiloe and the Chronos Islands), 14 (Chiloe and Concepcion, including the earthquake), 15 (Passage of the Cordillera, one of Darwin's impressive shore expeditions) and 16 (Northern Chile and Peru).
So a huge thank you to Chilean Navy for their offer of support for the world voyage of the replica of HMS Beagle.
14 August 2007
In both pictures dark colour indicates native vegetation, and light colour marks agricultural land. See the fluffy white clouds over the native area and the dearth of clouds over the agricultural area? That's not just a fluke: on the agricultural side of the fence, rainfall has dropped by 20% since the 1970s.
Full details (including this photo) can be found in the New York Times under the wonderful title "At Australia's Bunny Fence, Variable Cloudiness Prompts Climate Study".
For us here at the Beagle Project, this story provides yet another chance to highlight how images from space can inform, even inspire, new science profoundly relevant to human life on Earth.
12 August 2007
What will best help Britain maintain competitiveness in the face a confident, productive China? A strong science and engineering sector fed by a stream of well-educated science and maths a-level students, that's what. Whatever governments have done for the last decade to encourage young people into science, it ain't working.
Reason six (or seven) why we need a replica HMS Beagle, sailing the world in Darwin's wake streaming good science and exciting exploration back to labs and classrooms.
Reasons here, here (stand back, I'm going to try science) and here. Probably a few more in archives, too.
11 August 2007
10 August 2007
Update: the link to Bora's roundup really does go there now.
Google rhymes with Beagle. The Google Beagle. It works. How about it, chaps?
That's Portugal, not Britain.
ECOMAR is a £2 million UK project aimed at understanding how physical and biogeochemical factors influence the distributions and structure of deep-sea communities, focusing on the fauna of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at 4 sites in different environmental settings. The four sites are located on either side of the MAR and to the north and south of the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone (CGFZ), which coincides with the Sub-Polar Front. Using these localities we will investigate the effects of topography and currents on the distribution of the fauna, and the effects of varying organic input in two different biogeochemical settings....and last night they had their trawls and cameras over the side and it's worth clicking over see what they found and make the pudgy cusk eel's acquiaintance.
Kevin Z at The Other 95% (his latest post is not arachnophobe safe: you know who you are) comes back with a pleasant comment and a great idea for a project aboard:
I'd love to sail on it and do a study of critters living on floating debris around the world. When I was at sea in 2003 in the east-central Pacific we picked up a floating coconut that harboured a polychaete worm, 2 different species of amphipod, a crab, barnacle, clam, and a snail. Like a mini ecosystem. Your around the world trip could be a very interesting chance to do a nice biogeographical study of floating debris microhabitats!Indeed. It must have been like a school disco in that coconut: would the crab ask the polychaete worm to dance first?
And best comment pun of the day goes to Richard Carter FCD for his comment on Nunatak's Metagenomics for species discovery on the Beagle: "I never meta genome I didn't like."
9 August 2007
Great! That'll be in Britain, surely?
Britain where HMS Beagle was built, Britain in whose Royal Navy she served, Britain whose greatest scientist she carried round the world to scientific fame, Britain whose meteorological office her Captain established, Britain whose King she greeted in the coronation fleet review in 1820, Britain who furnished her crew which sailed her round the globe through four oceans, storms and revolution? Britain that great island, maritime, seafaring nation, proud of it's great sailors, explorers and scientists?
No, it's not Britain. It's not even an English speaking country.
For shame, Britain.
Science tattoos: Carl Zimmer from Scienceblog The Loom started this one running, asking has anyone got any sciency body art? Of course people have.
Come sailing with us on our replica Beagle and you'll be able get all sorts of impressive tattoos. An anchor if you do the Atlantic crossings, a swallow for every 5000 miles sailed, a full-rigged ship across your back if you sail around Cape Horn...sail with us and you'd earn your ink, not just buy it.
8 August 2007
Let's hope there are some living reefs left to visit when the replica Beagle sails back to Darwin's old haunts, to compare and contrast his observations 170 years on using the tools and techniques of modern science.
7 August 2007
Metagenomics, one of the two genome era tools that will be deployed aboard the replica Beagle, can help us discover not only new species, but even whole new genera.
Case in point: the recent discovery, reported in Science, of a bacteria named Candidatus Chloracidobacterium (Cab.) thermophilum in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park (aerial photo from Earth from Above by Yann Arthus-Bertrand).
Not only is Cab. thermophilum a new species but it is also distinct enough from other relatives to warrant classification as the founding member of a new genus. In mammalian terms that would be like discovering a major new branch of great apes on the same hierarchical level as humans (genus name Homo), gorillas (genus name Gorilla), chimpanzees (genus name Pan) and orangutans (genus name Pongo).
The investigators collected mixed samples from microbial mats in three different Yellowstone hot springs. The resulting grab-bag of DNA was analysed and sorted by computer into the genomes of individual species. One of their most exciting discoveries was this uniquely light-harvesting (photosynthetic) species of the Acidobacteria phylum.
While plants are the best known photosynthetic organisms, bacteria actually account for half the photosynthesis taking place on Earth. But only five of the 25 major bacterial phyla were known to have members with this ability. This discovery in Yellowstone brings that number up to six.
“The microbial mats give the hot springs in Yellowstone their remarkable yellow, orange, red, brown and green colors,” says Don Bryant of Penn State University. Yellowstone’s hot springs “house a diversity of microorganisms, but many are difficult or impossible to grow in the lab. Metagenomics has given us a powerful new tool for finding these hidden organisms and exploring their physiology, metabolism, and ecology."“This is an excellent example of how metagenic information reveals how little we know about life on Earth,” said Ronald Weiner, program director in NSF’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.
Metagenomics will be one of the central science projects on the new Beagle, promising discoveries of many new species, and maybe even new genera and families, on her repeat of the 1831-6 circumnavigation.
Thanks to Lockergnome of Tech News Watch for the tip off.
6 August 2007
If I happened to be involved in the public understanding of science, science education in government, or a commercial sponsor wanting to get in early, I'd think very seriously about contacting us.
Meanwhile, blog carnivals are all the rage, and Carnival of the Blue is all about the oceans. Here's the latest, and it's well worth a browse.
5 August 2007
Meanwhile: '“I regard the current backlash against science as a betrayal of the Enlightenment.” He deplores the slide in science in British universities.' Richard Dawkins interviewed in The Times Online.
Meanwhile in history: 5th August 1832, HMS Beagle has sailed into Montevideo and the place is in a state of armed revolution, read it at the Darwinbeagle weblog. Captain Fitzroy is ashore, Charles Darwin aboard where the cannons are loaded and run out, the boarding nets raised to stop locals storming the boat in search of arms and ammunition. It's a reminder that Charles Darwin went through real dangers, discomfort and hardship during his five year circumnavigation. A young man from a wealthy family, he could have bailed, run for home. His armchair critics who have never bothered to instruct themselves in his writings nor the science of evolution, far less put themselves in any discomfort for the sake of furthering the lot of human knowledge would do well to remember it. They may also quieten themselves eating pages torn from Behe's Edge of Evolution (shredded here) (or Atlas of Creation, according to taste) and smash their keyboards into Scrabble sets on a convenient hard object. But that is optional.
Give another generation of young scientists a chance to get some excitement in their scientific education: donate, sponsor and help us build this replica HMS Beagle.
3 August 2007
And second to CJ and the team at Clustrmaps. We have a very spotty free Clustrmap at our old blog, and moving here we upgraded to the paid Clustrmaps+ service. Here's the the email from them in reply to mine asking if this new blog was covered by the paid service:
That blogspot one is indeed the one specified in your upgrade...but what the heck... I'm in a good mood, and you have a great project,CJ, many thanks: you and the team are welcome for tea and cake on the replica Beagle. We will even splice the mainbrace for you.
so I've upgraded both URLs
All the best,
-CJ on behalf of the ClustrMaps Team