February 12 marked the 200th anniversary of the births of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, a remarkable historical coincidence if ever there were one.
Lincoln, of course, is huge even among the pantheon of American presidents. He is the Emancipator. He held the union together: “A house divided cannot stand.” (Is Sacramento listening?) Lincoln’s legacy impacts daily with his bearded likeness on every penny and every $5 bill. In Santa Monica, we have Lincoln Boulevard and Lincoln Middle School. (Note that Lincoln’s “Q” rating ebbed slightly in our community when former Lincoln Park at 7th and Wilshire was renamed “Reed Park” some years ago.)
Darwin is less visible as an icon, but arguably, very much a part of our cultural fabric. His theory of evolution remains a “knock ’em down” bar fight 150 years after Darwin published his landmark, Origin of Species. On “Darwin Day” February 12, I took a few moments to reflect upon some of the latest evolution fight rounds I’ve watched from my ring side seat.
The biggest zinger was my summer ’07 visit to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, near Cincinnati. A fellow named Ken Ham, a so-called “young earth creationist” from Australia, raised a reported $27 million to build an impressive 70,000 square foot state-of-the-art interactive museum. The theme park-like experience is dedicated to the premise that the Earth, indeed all the universe, was created over six days literal to ”Genesis”, and that a ton of science on display at the museum proves that the BIG WEEK happened 6,000 years ago. Walk into the Creation Museum’s foyer, and the visitor is greeted by audio animatronic figures (evolved no less from the technology of the original Abraham Lincoln on Main Street in Disneyland!) of a little girl fetching water from a stream living side-by-side with two infant dinosaurs gesticulating nearby (“calling Fred Flintstone”). Other attractions included a movie presentation complete with water sprayed in the viewers’ faces during the Great Flood sequence. There is an even a G-rated life size diorama of Adam and Eve in the buff wading through water in bliss before the apple pluck.
Next stop on the evolution fight card is the Ronald Reagan Library where on May 3, 2007, a Republican Presidential Primary Debate moderator asked the candidates, “Who does NOT believe in evolution?”
Three candidates, Huckabee, Tancredo and Brownback raised their hands. You can also add to the list Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin who believes that the Wasilla firmament is only 6,000 years old.
Then last week PBS’ NOVA aired an extraordinary account of the 2004-2005 Dover, PA, battle to add something called “intelligent design” to the public school curriculum. “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” is a downright exciting saga of “Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District” — a kind of Charles-Darwin-meets-Perry Mason thriller. It would be unfair to give away the ending. Hint: Following the Federal judge’s decision on intelligent design in the classroom TV Evangelist Pat Robertson warned Dover PA to expect a natural disaster.Happy 200th Birthday Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. You are still relevant today and may your remarkable legacies endure another 200 years!