Ed Hudgins

Darwin at 200: A Liberator Like Lincoln

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Darwin at 200: A Liberator Like Lincoln

by Edward Hudgins

February 12, 2009 -- Of the two famous men born on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln is the one known as a political liberator.

But the other man, Charles Darwin, also deserves recognition on the bicentennial of his birth for his own form of Emancipation Proclamation.

Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859 and set forth the thesis that the various kinds of living organisms were not fixed and eternal but, rather, evolved from other, often less complex organisms over millions of years. In the century and a half that followed, this discovery has had a truly liberating effect on humanity.

We Want to Know

Understanding evolution has helped us satisfy that quintessential human longing expressed by Aristotle: "All men, by nature, desire to know." As self-conscious beings, we have a thirst to know the deepest truths about the world around us, its origin and ours, and our place in it. We are pattern-seeking animals who delight in discovery. Such understanding and, indeed, our very survival require us to exercise our rational capacity, the attribute that most distinguishes us from the lower life forms from which we evolved.

Observations, conceptual thinking and critical analysis have, over the centuries, allowed us to replace primitive superstitions with knowledge of objective reality. Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein have helped us understand the physical realm: that it operates with regularity in accordance with causal laws; that it is composed of infinitesimal atoms; that it is vast and includes planets, stars and galaxies; that it is billions of years old. And, of course, knowledge gained through this rational approach allows us to create all of the technologies needed for our survival and flourishing.

Darwin helped us understand the biological realm. He showed how small variations that naturally occur in living species plus the laws of natural selection in changing environments over long periods of time have produced the diverse plethora of living creatures on this planet. His discoveries explained the fossils of extinct life forms and of the ancestors of creatures living today, including humans, that are found in the strata of rocks dating back millions of years. Darwin's discoveries were yet another demonstration of the power of the human mind, discoveries that were subsequent confirmed by findings in many other scientific disciplines.

The knowledge of our evolutionary origins helps us to understand how we might act better for our own survival and well-being. For example, scientists in evolutionary biology and psychology today are exploring the nature of our brains: how they came about; how our form of cognition emerged in them; how they operate; how we might better treat brain-based physical and mental impairments; and how we might better exercise the self-control needed for our flourishing.

Understanding our evolutionary origins does not diminish us. Rather, it enables us to marvel at the fact that our minds emerged from nature and then to turn our minds back on nature in order to understand just how our minds emerged.

Shunning Our Higher Nature

Sadly, in the United States the facts of evolution have been politically and culturally contentious because of the disastrous religious beliefs that today go under the names "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design." Individuals, mostly on the conservative side of the political spectrum, often twist their own minds in tortuous ways unworthy of intelligent creatures in order to reject discoveries built up through rigorous observation and critical examination in favor of a Biblical fiction they just can't seem to give up.

Many of these "true believers" have created a cottage industry to promote the culture of ignorance necessary to support their cult beliefs. Witness their terrible waste of time, energy and, yes, human intelligence, over the past century. In the 1925 Scopes Trial these believers sought to uphold a ban on teaching evolution in schools. Today these believers try to force schools to teach Creationism and Intelligent Design as if they were approaches to understanding human origins that are just as valid as a critical, scientific approach. Observe the pointless passions in favor of the false. And consider the corrosive effects of such campaigns against modernity in a culture in desperate need of clear thinking.

Politically conservative Creationists often denounce those on the political left who reject evidence and blind themselves to the consequences of many of their statist policies. Yet such conservatives are guilty of the same willful epistemological crime in their own corner of the culture.

Darwin and a Free Society

There's an irony here because of a growing recognition today that Darwin's understanding of the mechanism of evolution supports many of the views of political conservatives who often reject evolution.

Darwin and his successors showed how order and complexity in biology do not require a grand designer. Genetic changes in organisms and natural selection are all that's necessary. Similarly, free-market economists like F.A. Hayek, building on insights of conservative political thinkers like Edmund Burke, have shown how order and complexity in the economy and society do not require a grand government designer. With minimalist laws protecting life, liberty and property, individuals pursuing their own self-interest will also produce peace and unprecedented prosperity. By contrast, government direction produces conflict and hampers the creation of wealth.

Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine and author of The Mind of the Market, rightly tells free-market conservatives that they should appreciate how understanding evolution boosts their case for liberty: Darwin is truly a liberator! And Shermer tells those on the political left who usually embrace discoveries of science such as evolution that they need to appreciate the implications of evolution for their own pet theories about government-run economies.

Morality from Human Nature

Some individuals still reject the facts about evolution out of an unanalyzed fear that, if they could articulate it, would amount to "How can humans have a morality if we evolved from lower animals? Doesn't this fact mean that anything goes?"

A fear, of course, can't negate facts. But in any case, the fear is unfounded. Just as an explanation of our biological origins does not need to rely on myths and alleged divine revelations, neither does morality. Indeed, the origins of morality are found in our nature as rational creatures with free choice who must understand the world around us and within us and develop principles to guide our conduct-morality-in order to survive and flourish.

Darwin was one of the most revolutionary and right thinkers in human history, up there with Newton and Einstein in terms of the implications of his discoveries. When we compare him to Lincoln by saying that he has liberated us from the slavery of ignorance and freed us to see the truth, we speak by analogy but no less truthfully. So let us celebrate the birth two hundred years ago of these two liberators who did so much for humanity.

----

Hudgins is director of advocacy and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society.

For further reading:

*Edward Hudgins, "What Are Creationists Afraid Of?" A 2005 essay published in An Objectivist Secular Reader , 2008, edited by Hudgins and available at the Objectivism Store.

*Charles Krauthammer, "Phony Theory, False Conflict." November 18, 2005.

*Michael Shermer, The Mind of the Market . Henry Holt & Co., 2007.

*Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters . Henry Holt & Co., 2006.

*George Will, "How Congress Trumps Darwin." February 8, 2009.

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Lincoln was the worst President the U.S. has ever had. He was also one of the most intelligent. He worshipped the god of U.S. Federal supremacy and served it above all. The Civil War killed off 5% of the population and enabled perpetual racism and de facto slavery for over a hundred more years. This slavery even continues to this day in the concepts of victimization, entitlements, reverse racism and reverse social and individual progress starting with LBJ's "Great Society" in the 1960s, the opposite in all essential respects to "Up From Slavery" by Booker T. Washington.

--Brant

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Brant,

That's a theory and a popular one at LewRockwell.com. I think it's too much to lay at Lincoln's feet. It presupposes that had the South seceded, all would be roses, that there was only one aggressor in the Civil War, that Lincoln was even responsible for slavery, etc.

I find that stuff oversimplified to the point of obvious error.

Michael

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Brant,

That's a theory and a popular one at LewRockwell.com. I think it's too much to lay at Lincoln's feet. It presupposes that had the South seceded, all would be roses, that there was only one aggressor in the Civil War, that Lincoln was even responsible for slavery, etc.

I find that stuff oversimplified to the point of obvious error.

Michael

Even so, Darwin is more likely to be remembered a 1000 years from now than Lincoln.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Michael; Thanks for providing some balance on the issue of the Civil War.

Baal; I suspect you are right on who will be remembered a thousand years from now. None of us will know.

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I'd like to thank Ed Hudgins for his thoughtful article about Darwin. Evolution appears to be one of the significantly understudied topics by those drawn to Objectivism. But Darwin was a true intellectual hero, whose "Origin of Species" can be regarded as one of the greatest and influential books of all time. Its been widely said by those working in the field that none of the life sciences make sense at all outside of the context of evolution. It should also be noted that Darwin was also an ardent abolitionist who, after his voyage on the Beagle, vowed never again to travel to any country that practiced slavery.

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Lincoln was the worst President the U.S. has ever had. He was also one of the most intelligent. He worshipped the god of U.S. Federal supremacy and served it above all. The Civil War killed off 5% of the population and enabled perpetual racism and de facto slavery for over a hundred more years. This slavery even continues to this day in the concepts of victimization, entitlements, reverse racism and reverse social and individual progress starting with LBJ's "Great Society" in the 1960s, the opposite in all essential respects to "Up From Slavery" by Booker T. Washington.

--Brant

I always wondered who was responsible for the actions of LBJ! Now I know it was Lincoln.

Brant, your tinfoil hat is too tight.

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Lincoln was the worst President the U.S. has ever had. He was also one of the most intelligent. He worshipped the god of U.S. Federal supremacy and served it above all. The Civil War killed off 5% of the population and enabled perpetual racism and de facto slavery for over a hundred more years. This slavery even continues to this day in the concepts of victimization, entitlements, reverse racism and reverse social and individual progress starting with LBJ's "Great Society" in the 1960s, the opposite in all essential respects to "Up From Slavery" by Booker T. Washington.

--Brant

I always wondered who was responsible for the actions of LBJ! Now I know it was Lincoln.

Brant, your tinfoil hat is too tight.

I know. People have been telling me that all my life, because they couldn't understand me, wouldn't, or did.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Lincoln was behind the assassination of Julius Caesar, which is why JFK had Lincoln bumped off and why John Wilkes Booth shouted "sic semper tyrannus" in Latin when he committed the deed.

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See you guys are so out of touch:

First, the master mind has to come from Texas, so it had to be either LBJ or one of the Bushes.

Second, it has to be connected to BIG OIL!

Sorry I have to leave, I am getting secret coded messages from scotch and soda.

Adam

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Ed,

Thank you for your article on one of my many heroes, Charles Darwin. I took the liberty of posting your article on a couple of sites: www.dailypaul.com and www.campaignforliberty.com the latter on my webblog there.

One hopes that the younger generation will hear the sweet whisper of reason in time.

www.campaignforliberty.com 14May 10PM 152,591 and HR1207 Federal Reserve Transparency Act 162 cosponsors at the moment.

galtgulch

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Darwin -

An amazing scientist, whose true positive influence probably won't be clear for generations to come.

Bill P

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Brant,

That's a theory and a popular one at LewRockwell.com. I think it's too much to lay at Lincoln's feet. It presupposes that had the South seceded, all would be roses, that there was only one aggressor in the Civil War, that Lincoln was even responsible for slavery, etc.

I find that stuff oversimplified to the point of obvious error.

Michael

Even so, Darwin is more likely to be remembered a 1000 years from now than Lincoln.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I doubt it. Julius Caesar is a lot more familiar than Archimedes.

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Ed,

Thank you for your article on one of my many heroes, Charles Darwin. I took the liberty of posting your article on a couple of sites: www.dailypaul.com and www.campaignforliberty.com the latter on my webblog there.

One hopes that the younger generation will hear the sweet whisper of reason in time.

www.campaignforliberty.com 14May 10PM 152,591 and HR1207 Federal Reserve Transparency Act 162 cosponsors at the moment.

galtgulch

Gulch; Doesn't the sainted Ron Paul believe in creationism? Ask Dr Paul about Darwin?

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Ed,

Thank you for your article on one of my many heroes, Charles Darwin. I took the liberty of posting your article on a couple of sites: www.dailypaul.com and www.campaignforliberty.com the latter on my webblog there.

One hopes that the younger generation will hear the sweet whisper of reason in time.

www.campaignforliberty.com 14May 10PM 152,591 and HR1207 Federal Reserve Transparency Act 162 cosponsors at the moment.

galtgulch

Gulch; Doesn't the sainted Ron Paul believe in creationism? Ask Dr Paul about Darwin?

Chris,

I recall his hand going up with many of the other candidates for the Republican nomination in the early debates when asked if any did not believe in evolution.

I have reiterated here many times that normally such a belief would be a deal breaker for me. But the rest of his message is too good to ignore. He has read every bill before him and decided whether the power being sought by the Congress was authorized among the enumerated powers in Article 1 Section 8. If not, he would stand, often alone, and vote 'No!' and did so over 300 times over the ten terms he served in the Congress. Would that all the Congressmen adhered to the Constitution as Ron Paul does. In that respect he is a man of principle and integrity.

Think of it. All of them put their hand on a Bible in which they presumably believe, and utter an oath to uphold the Constitution. All but one of them that we know of then go on to show their loyalty to their political party rather than to the Constitution thus violating the oath with each vote. The oath is a meaningless ritual to them all, but one. Even the president, who fumbled with the oath as the Supreme Court Justice didn't read it but tried to give it from memory and got it wrong. They laughed but the greater tragedy is that Obama mouthed the words, uttered them aloud, but has his own priorities and agenda regardless of the limits enshrined in Article 1 Section 8.

So you can find every opportunity to criticize Ron Paul's religious beliefs and the erroneous conclusions he comes to because of them, such as his egregious opposition to a woman's right to choose to abort or his blatantly absurd failure to understand evolution. Thank god no one thought to ask him how old the universe is!

Nevertheless Ron Paul has ignited a movement to restore our republic which will not go away. The numbers will keep growing until the movement enters the public awareness at which point there will be an upsurge in membership. There will be candidates in virtually every congressional district from now on and the dialog heard by the public will be different with attention drawn to issues ignored in the past.

www.campaignforliberty.com 15May 6AM 152629, 11PM 152810

P.S. I doubt you have to worry about their success leading to a Theocracy because the First Amendment forbids it and these supporters are all about the Constitution.

gulch

Edited by galtgulch

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Ed,

Thank you for your article on one of my many heroes, Charles Darwin. I took the liberty of posting your article on a couple of sites: www.dailypaul.com and www.campaignforliberty.com the latter on my webblog there.

One hopes that the younger generation will hear the sweet whisper of reason in time.

www.campaignforliberty.com 14May 10PM 152,591 and HR1207 Federal Reserve Transparency Act 162 cosponsors at the moment.

galtgulch

Galt - Thanks! Feel free to post any of my pieces on the Campaign for Liberty site. As I've often said, freedom and reason face their greatest challenge in many generations. Young folks (, not just oldsters like me!) are the key to preserving liberty in the future, and those who so enthusiastically backed Ron Paul must play a crucial part of our battle.

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Oh my even the Catholic Church!!!! :shocked: :devil: :angel: :rolleyes:

Darwin's Unhappy Relationship With Religion

3:31pm UK, Tuesday May 19, 2009

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has long been controversial with the Church but now he is being welcomed back into the fold.

Pope celebrates mass in Bethlehem

Pope has been playing down the idea of Intelligent Design

He argued that man was descended from apes, and natural selection was the means by which some species prospered while others failed.

But he could give no explanation on how species originated, and only now is there overwhelming fossil evidence of the transitional forms his theory clearly called for.

His opponents, primarily Creationists, claim his theories are totally incompatible with a religious vision of reality. They believe that man was formed in the image of God.

Sky News has been under a strict embargo not to reveal details of Ida's discovery, and so has been unable to contact religious groups for reaction to the news.

But in the face of what scientists say is a hugely-convincing body of evidence, will the fighting over Darwin's legacy continue? And if so, for how long?

This year, the Vatican admitted that Darwin's theory should not have been dismissed and says it is compatible with the Christian view of Creation.

180 charles darwin origin of species

Charles Darwin

Marking the 150th anniversary of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, it said that while the Church had been hostile in the past to his work, the idea of evolution could be traced hundreds of years further back to St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas.

The 4th century theologian St Augustine had never heard the term evolution, but knew forms of life transformed over time. And Aquinas made similar remarks in the Middle Ages.

The Roman Catholic Church has also been playing down the idea of Intelligent Design, which argues a "higher power" must be responsible for the complexities of life.

To mark the bicentenary of Darwin's birth, the Church of England also sought to bring Darwin back into the fold with a page on its website paying tribute to his work.

It highlighted his strong connection with the Church and how he had trained as a clergyman before losing his faith "by a need for evidence, and the sad death of a beloved daughter", and then had been inspired to go into science by a fellow cleric.

In its centre-piece essay, the Darwin tribute concluded that a healthy balance between the mystery of faith and the wonders of scientific discovery is essential.

"There is no reason to doubt that Christ still draws people towards truth through the work of scientists as well as others, and many scientists are motivated in their work by a perception of the deep beauty of the created world," it said.

But the Church could not resist a health warning, and warned of the "social misapplication of Darwin's discoveries, where natural selection justifies racism and other forms of discrimination".

Young Earth creationists though are likely to be skeptical about the importance of Ida's discovery, and what scientists say is proof of a missing link between man and the animal kingdom.

They believe the Earth, the heavens and life itself were created by God between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

One of the groups, America's Christian Reformed Church, believes: "Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorising that minimises this fact, and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.

"The clear teaching of Scripture and the confessions rules out holding views that support the reality of evolutionary forebears of the human race. But further investigation or discussion regarding the origin of humanity should not be limited."

It will be interesting to see theology's view of the transitional species Darwin always dreamed existed, but never got to see.

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[Here's the story about the discovery of Ida mentioned in the Catholic article.]

Alex Watts, Sky News Online

Scientists have unveiled a 47-million-year-old fossilised skeleton of a monkey hailed as the missing link in human evolution.

The search for a direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has taken 200 years - but it was presented to the world today at a special news conference in New York.

The discovery of the 95%-complete 'lemur monkey' - dubbed Ida - is described by experts as the "eighth wonder of the world".

They say its impact on the world of palaeontology will be "somewhat like an asteroid falling down to Earth".

Researchers say proof of this transitional species finally confirms Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and the then radical, outlandish ideas he came up with during his time aboard the Beagle.

Sir David Attenborough said Darwin "would have been thrilled" to have seen the fossil - and says it tells us who we are and where we came from.

"This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals," he said.

"This is the one that connects us directly with them.

"Now people can say 'okay we are primates, show us the link'.

"The link they would have said up to now is missing - well it's no longer missing."

A team of the world's leading fossil experts, led by Professor Jorn Hurum, of Norway's National History Museum, have been secretly researching the 1ft 9in-tall young female monkey for the past two years.

And now it has been transported to New York under high security and unveiled to the world during the bicentenary of Darwin's birth.

15221562.jpg Darwin caused storm with his theory

Later this month, it will be exhibited for one day only at the Natural History Museum in London before being returned to Oslo.

Scientists say Ida - squashed to the thickness of a beer mat by the immense passage of time - is the most complete primate fossil ever found.

With her human-like nails instead of claws, and opposable big toes, she is placed at the very root of human evolution when early primates first developed features that would eventually develop into our own.

Another important discovery is the shape of the talus bone in her foot, which humans still have in their feet millions of lifetimes later.

Ida was unearthed by an amateur fossil-hunter some 25 years ago in Messel pit, an ancient crater lake near Frankfurt, Germany, famous for its fossils.

She was cleaned and set in polyester resin - and incredibly, was hung on a mystery German collector's wall for 20 years.

Sky News sources say the owner had no idea of the unique fossil's significance and simply admired it like a cherished Van Gogh or Picasso painting.

But in 2006, Ida came into the hands of private dealer Thomas Perner, who presented her to Prof Hurum at the annual Hamburg Fossil and Mineral Fair in Germany - a centre for the murky world of fossil-trading.

Prof Hurum said when he first saw the blueprint for evolution - the "most beautiful fossil worldwide" - he could not sleep for two days.

A home movie records the dramatic moment.

"This is really something that the world has never seen before, this is a unique specimen, totally unique," he says, clearly emotional.

He says he knew she should be saved for science rather than end up hidden from the world in a wealthy private collector's vault.

But the dealer's asking price was more than $1 million (£660,000) - ten times the amount even the rarest of fossils fetch on the black market.

Eventually, after six months of negotiations, he managed to raise the cash in Norway and brought Ida to Oslo.

Prof Hurum - who last summer dug up the fossil remains of a 50ft marine monster called Predator X from the permafrost on Svalbard, a Norwegian island close to the North Pole - then assembled a "dream team" of experts who worked in secret for two years.

They included palaeontologist Dr Jens Franzen, Dr Holly Smith, of the University of Michigan, and Philip Gingerich, president-elect of the US Paleontological Society.

Researchers could prove the fossil was genuine through X-rays, knowing it is impossible to fake the inner structure of a bone.

Through radiometric dating of Messel's volcanic rocks, they discovered Ida lived 47 million years ago in the Eocene period.

This was when tropical forests stretched right to the poles, and South America was still drifting and had yet to make contact with North America.

During that period, the first whales, horses, bats and monkeys emerged, and the early primates branched into two groups - one group lived on mainly as lemurs, and the second developed into monkeys, apes and humans.

The experts concluded Ida was not simply a lemur but a 'lemur monkey', displaying a mixture of both groups, and therefore putting her at the very branch of the human line.

"When Darwin published his On the Origin of Species in 1859, he said a lot about transitional species," said Prof Hurum

"...and he said that will never be found, a transitional species, and his whole theory will be wrong, so he would be really happy to live today when we publish Ida.

"This fossil is really a part of our history; this is part of our evolution, deep, deep back into the aeons of time, 47 million years ago.

"It's part of our evolution that's been hidden so far, it's been hidden because all the other specimens are so incomplete.

"They are so broken there's almost nothing to study and now this wonderful fossil appears and it makes the story so much easier to tell, so it's really a dream come true."

Up until now, the most famous fossil primate in the world has been Lucy, a 3.18-million-year-old hominid found in Ethiopia in 1974.

She was then our earliest known ancestor, and only 40% complete.

But at 95% complete, Ida was so well preserved in the mud at the bottom of the volcanic lake, there is even evidence of her fur shadow and remains of her last meal.

From this they concluded she was a leaf and fruit eater, and probably lived in the trees around the lake.

The absence of a bacculum (penis bone) confirmed she was female, and her milk teeth put her age at about nine-months-old - in maturity, equivalent to a six-year-old human child.

This was the same age as Prof Hurum's daughter Ida, and he named the fossil after her.

The study is being published and put online by the Public Library of Science, a leading academic journal with offices in Britain and the US.

1654221.jpg Dr Hurum also found Predator X

Co-author of the scientific paper, Prof Gingerich, likens its importance to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, an ancient Egyptian artefact found in 1799, which allowed us to decipher hieroglyphic writing.

One clue to Ida's fate - and her remarkable preservation as our oldest ancestor - was her badly fractured left wrist.

The team believes this stopped her from climbing and she had to emerge from the trees to drink water from the 250-metre-deep lake.

They think she was overcome by carbon dioxide gas from the crater, and sunk to the bottom where she was preserved in the mud as a time capsule - and a snapshot of evolution.

But amazingly this final piece of Darwin's jigsaw was almost lost to science when German authorities tried to turn Messel into a massive landfill rubbish dump.

Eventually, after campaigning by Dr Franzen, the plans were rejected and the fossil-rich lake was designated a World Heritage Site.

But no doubt there would have been one person happy for the missing link to have remained hidden.

When Darwin famously told the Bishop of Worcester's wife about his theory of evolution, she remarked: "Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known."

Now, it certainly is.

:: Ida's discovery has been made into an Atlantic Productions' documentary, presented by Sir David Attenborough. See more at www.revealingthelink.com/.

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Abraham Lincoln is the one known as a political liberator.

He liberated government from the chains of the Constitution and thus paved the way for the lively, energetic, multifaceted regime we have today.

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Darwin -

An amazing scientist, whose true positive influence probably won't be clear for generations to come.

Bill P

It is clear now. Earth biology cannot be understood unless viewed through the lens of genetic inheritance and descent with modification....... Every living thing on this planet is a member in good standing in the DNA-RNA clan. It might not be so on other planets where living things are...

Ba'al Chatzaf

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