So, if you were invited to simultaneous birthday parties today, for Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, and the actual honorees would be there alive and participating in the celebration, which one would you go to?
Me, I'd pick Lincoln. They say he was a lot of fun at parties. Also, I look up to him and what he did more.
Nothing against Darwin, but I suspect that if he hadn't worked out natural selection, someone else would have. But if Lincoln hadn't been president, the union would have fallen apart — nobody else would have been as single-mindedly stubborn about holding it together. I mean, why do you think so many of my fellow South Carolinians are still ticked at him? And even though all of my ancestors that I know about fought for the opposite outcome (five great-great grandaddies that I know about), this Southern boy is glad that the U.S. of A. is still around. So it all worked out well in the end.
All of which reminds me that I need to get back to reading Obama's favorite, desert-island-must-have book, Team of Rivals. I've let myself get sidetracked with re-reading O'Brian, and reading Moby Dick for the first time, so I need to buckle down and get back to Goodwin.
As for Darwin, I thought I'd share this interesting piece that I saw in The New Republic, headlined "Charles Darwin, Conservative?"
Basically, it examines the great irony of modern politics, which is that conservatives tend to snub Darwin, even though his idea of order arising from nature without a guiding plan fits THEIR ideas about how society can produce civilization without guiding government.
Meanwhile, liberals who honor Darwin act as though they don't believe in that principle one bit, since they think you need a strong guiding hand of government to have order.
George Will made much the same point in his column that we ran Sunday, but I think the point is made more clearly in the TNR piece.
By the way, I side with the modern-day liberals on this point: I don't think you can have order without
government. Take away the guiding hand, and you get Somalia — warring militias running around firing AK-47s at everybody. But you know already that I thought that. I'm a rule-of-law guy.
You know what I think about evolution, and natural selection? I think that is just exactly the way God would create the world. I don't see Him doing it like Cecil B. DeMille, six days and abracadabra, here's the world. I think He'd do it the slow, majestic, complicated way. Evolution seems just His style, to me. But what do I know?
(Now watch this: The controversial part of this post won't be the Darwin stuff; it'll be that I said nice things about Lincoln.)