Charles Darwin was born on February 12th, 1809, and 50 years later he published the ground-breaking theory of evolution. [Here's a great BBC documentary on Darwin's Tree of Life with David Attenborough]
One of the strongest scientific theories we have is that of evolution, whose fundamental tenets have been confirmed by several scientific disciplines, from archaeology to forensics, and from genetics to geology and biology.
Recently there was a debate on the ..validity of evolution between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. [link] I'm all for reasonable debates but when there are not standards of evidence and reason, I think it's futile to argue with the creationist. I've done it on occasion on panels and other events. I now bring with me the "magic box" so I can--for the purpose of demonstration--make any claim I want, no matter how ridiculous, and then point to the box to say, the answer/reason/method are in that box!
Those who refute evolution point to their own magic box, the holy books, to argue that all they need to know is in that box, which, conveniently, has the inscription that everything within it is absolutely true!
When I was little I couldn't understand the concept of billions of years. I looked at those over 30 and thought they were too old! It was the time I believed in Santa Claus and in superheroes with fantastical supernatural powers. Then I slowly began to learn all sorts of wonderful stuff about history, science, and critical thinking. Eventually I was exposed to the theory of evolution. Eventually this led me to ask one of my teachers when the soul entered the human body in this long chain of changing forms--from the very primitive to modern humans--a question I've asked anyone who tries to reconcile evolution with creationism; I haven't gotten a satisfactory answer.
The teachings of religion used to be the source to explain everything. Science has replaced this, at least, for those who have answered the question, which knowledge is more reliable? There are gaps or unknowns, but a scientific method is the best tool we have to discover and understand the world around us. It's a matter of self-confidence to accept notions like, I don't know, and, it remains to be seen, rather than opting for a "sure thing" that's based on irrational conjecture at best.
It's amazing that it took so long for humans to come up with a rather obvious theory of adaptation, survival, and changing forms in response to environmental conditions. Since the domestication of animals and plants, our ancestors could see evolution taking place in their lifetimes, yet, they stuck with the religious notions that everything was designed in its present form!
These remnants of thought-inhibitors are still erecting obstacles to progress today. How else can you explain the current debate about contraception? The bishops say contraception is bad, because they figured out that what the maker of the universe wants, so they're part of the debate and given political considerations! Oyvey.
I tip my proverbial hat to Charles Darwin for having the courage (to go against his family and the prevailing social views) and the intellectual fortitude to formulate such an important scientific theory--by observation, testing, factual investigation, reasoning--and advance important knowledge for humanity.
Science depends on people who understand its importance and on people who value it so they're willing to support such an endeavor. I'm saddened though that we have not succeeded in teaching the most important thing science is to every person in the US, and indeed the world: skepticism, rational thinking, and inquiry.