Friday, November 6, 2009

24 Days of Darwin...

"What does the Origin of Species mean to you today?"

When I first joined PRI as the Director of Marketing and Communications I attended a lecture given by our Director, Warren Allmon. (If you've never heard Warren speak you should definitely attend one of his Darwin lectures! He's giving a lecture here at the Museum on November 22 and one at the 92nd Street Y on November 18th.) Up until that point I had never really read much about Darwin. I knew who he was and I knew his theories, but I had never read his books including On the Origin of Species. When Warren gives a talk on Darwin, he has a standard line that he uses. He used it in that presentation some three years ago, and he repeated it here on the blog in our first "24 Days of Darwin" posts. He states that, "You cannot consider yourself truly adequately 'educated' without having read it."

I'm a pretty educated guy. I'm a pretty literate person. I've read hundreds and hundreds of books. I've traveled the world. So I like to think that I'm adequately "educated." That said, after hearing Warren I felt like I should get that book and STAT! So from that room, I ordered it from Amazon on my iPhone, and had it delivered in three days. And then I read it.

I was expecting it to be this boring book about science. When I was growing up I didn't have a true interest in science. I leaned more towards history, literature, and the arts. I was a straight B science student. I liked it, but never loved it. I had never had the chance to read the book and never had to for any courses during my college career. I thought the book was very interesting, I felt it dragged in a few parts, but it made perfect sense to me. It was common-sense science. I know that it's not, but that's what it felt like for me.

Someone said to me the other day that reading the Origin is like reading "Dickens." You know -- it is, and it was. That's why 150 years later the Origin is still important and still talked about it because it’s a good book! I approached the book not as a text-book but as a non-fiction novel, and I truly enjoyed it. I found that it's important for more than just its theory of evolution but because it's art. For me Darwin's book was fascinating and engrossing. Not because of the science but because it was literature. The science was an added bonus. If you haven't read it - give it a try. If you liked Dickens you will like Darwin! Then, some might say that you will be truly, adequately, educated.

Billy Kepner
Director of Marketing and Communications
Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth

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