There is a story in this weeks Nature about the withdrawal of the Downe House site, where Charles Darwin lived when writing The Origin of Species and other works, from the process to make it a World Heritage Site. The withdrawal is due to an unfavourable evaluation by a body that advises the Committee that makes decisions on new World Heritage sites. Apparently sites only get a single chance at becoming a listed site so the Downe House site has been withdrawn and will be resubmitted at a later date. That’s all fine and probably quite sensible. In the Nature article however we have the following quote:
“I can’t think of anything more important to do for the history of nineteenth-century science than to protect the whole environment Darwin inhabited and exploited,” says James Moore, a Darwin scholar at the Open University in Milton Keynes and one of the first historians to explore the importance of this rural refuge to Darwin. “Muslims go to Mecca, Christians go to Jerusalem, Darwinians go to Downe,” he says.
No, no and thrice no! There is no religion called Darwinism and no Darwinian followers! I can probably accept that the above quote is likely out of context and of the cuff, but shame on Nature for perpetuating the fatuous idea that there is a religion of Darwinism similar to other religions. There is not; outside of the warped minds of creationists and intelligent design advocates.
Evolution by natural selection, as originally outlined by Darwin (and Wallace), and as expanded upon over the last 150 years, is both a scientific theory and a fact. The theory provides an explanatory framework to explain the fact that populations of organisms evolve over time. It also makes predictions about what we should find in the natural world as a result of changing environments, what we should see in the fossil record and also the biochemical relationships between organisms.
Alluding, falsely, that people who visit Downe House are doing so for reasons comparable to religious pilgrims is very unfortunate (to put it mildly).