Lincoln and Darwin

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.





4 responses to “Lincoln and Darwin”

  1. George Martin Avatar


    Great blog! I’m currently pressed for time (reviewing submissions for December’s AAEP meeting), so I haven’t given your blog enough attention yet. But I have it marked in favorites. I’ll be back. I am finding that my scientific knowledge challenges my Christian faith because it makes me make a different interpretation. For example, what we know about evolution, homo sapiens migration out of Africa and geologic time frames require a different interpretation of Genesis. I think I retain the most memorable evidence of evolution from embryology, seeing the stages reflect the saying “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny;” although from what I read the concept is no longer accepted. However, what I’ve read were only assertions, no evidence.

    Regardless, it doesn’t change the need for reinterpretation of creation. It seems that evil is perhaps encoded in our DNA and if we believe DNA is a creation of the creator, along with randomness, what the heck was he/she thinking.

    1. one-medicine Avatar


      Thanks so much for your feedback/thoughts.

      Are you familiar with Rich Rohr’s book, _Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life_? Rohr puts into words so many things that I’ve come to believe.

      Re evil: to me evil are actions that are inconsistent with/incompatible with survival. I’ve mused about this (individual & short-term survival versus species and long-term survival) in my musing titled “Emotions”.

      The challenge, of course, is to attempt to communicate about the ineffable in a “rational” manner. I resort to Rohr:

      “Remember, the opposite of rational is not always irrational, but it can also be transrational or bigger than the rational mind can process: things like love, death,suffering,God, and infinity are transrational experiences. Both myth and mature religion understand this. The transrational has the capacity to keep us inside an open system and a larger horizon so that the soul, the heart, and the mind do not close down inside of small and constricted space. The merely rational mind is invariably dualistic, and divides the field of almost every moment between what it can presently understand and what it then deems “wrong” or untrue. Because the rational mind cannot process love or suffering, for example, it tends to either avoid them, deny them, or blame somebody for them, when in fact they are the greatest spiritual teachers of all, if we but allow them. Our loss of mythic consciousness has not served the last few centuries well, and has overseen the growth of rigid fundamentalism in all the world religions. Now we get trapped in destructive and “invisible” myths because we do not have the eyes to see how great healing myths function.

      Richard Rohr…..Falling Upward 2011

      Thanks again!


      1. George Martin Avatar

        Thanks for the book recommendation. I downloaded it onto my Kindle last night.

        1. Pete Avatar


          Have you read “Falling Upward”?


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