Today, I’m musing about Lincoln and Darwin. I am a huge fan of both men. Both were born on the day I started putting this musing to paper, February 12th. Both of these heroes of mine were born in the year 1809, 203 years ago.
We citizens of Wisconsin—citizens of the United States of America—are the beneficiaries and torchbearers of a radical experiment (Lincoln’s words), “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal.” Lincoln was remarkable. Somehow he managed to preserve our Union at a time that citizens were divided so deeply that people were willing to die because of their convictions. One of my religion teachers said to me, “Pete, Lincoln was a great president because he surrendered the presidency to God. God was president. Lincoln was God’s instrument.”
After decades as a scientist and having the privilege working shoulder-to-shoulder with World-Class biomedical researchers, I’ve concluded this statement is true: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. No one is entitled to his or her own facts.” In early One Veterinarian’s Musings columns, I’ve wondered about and shared with you my thinking for “How is it possible for veterinarians to have a working knowledge of so many animals—an estimated 60,000 species of animals within the 5 groups with backbones?”… “The answer as to how and why this is possible is because of the “source code” for animals, the molecule DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).” “… regardless of whether it is a mammal, an amphibian, a reptile, a bird, or a sturgeon, we now know the molecule DNA provides its life instruction manual.”
Daniel Clement Dennett, an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist, wrote “Darwin’s dangerous idea, is a universal acid; it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview.” At the time of the Civil War, at the time of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, no one had a clue that underneath the hood of all the various species of animals, inside the vast variations of all the species of plants, insects, bacteria, fungi, and viruses, all life on our planet are endowed with and following DNA instructions. It took a lot of time for our forefathers to accept that our blue planet is not the center of the Universe. People lost their lives for challenging the fact that we are one planet among many planets in the Universe. In my opinion, the biggest challenge for us in 2012 is coming to grips with the fact that we humans are one DNA-based life form among many DNA-based life forms on this planet.
For me, personally, nothing is more important to me than my relationship with God. That said, I plead ignorance of, yet have unwavering faith in, the truth, depth, breadth, and immensity of the Divine. At some level I fret about your reaction, about the consequences that may occur in my pursuit of a delightfully mundane life in Waupaca County as I make public my faith herein. At another level, I’m not the least bit worried. Few people have or are able to take the time to read this column. Moreover, mature theologians knew and gave us time-proven truths like this one (from Augustine of Hippo in the fourth Century) “Si comprehendis, non est Deus” (If you think you understand, it’s not God you’re talking about).
Darwin said “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” In 1962, when I announced to a buddy “I want to be a veterinarian.” I would never have guessed that seeing life through the lens of my veterinary training would have me to see with my own eyes the unity, the universality, in the interdependence of all life on earth. As we chart our way through yet another experiment (Lincoln’s words)”testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure” it is my prayer that we will use science and facts as our guide.
Published in the Waupaca County Post East newspaper, 2/23/12.