Introduction

I would like to introduce myself to the readers of WordPress blogs. I am especially interested in science. I have two doctoral degrees (one in neuroscience and another in optometry), but I don’t expect to blog too much about either. My main blogging interests center on evolution, the conflict between science and religion, and positive atheism. That is what I plan to concentrate on, however, I hope to become competent enough in the science behind global warming to do some blogs on that as well.

I have another blog, and I plan on keeping it. My approach on that blog has been a “take no prisoners” approach. I don’t plan to do that here. I have lofty goals for this blog. I want these writings to be of sufficiently high quality that I would be proud to have them published some day. Because of that I want to treat this blog with more of an academic demeanor. I will consider all comments as suggestions on how to improve the writing. Because of that I suspect I will edit and re-edit the blogs. Thus, the first blog that one may read may not be the blog that ends up here.

I have other purposes for blogging. I believe things and believe them deeply. But I know that no matter how deeply I believe anything there is always the possibility that I may be wrong. I try to take as little as possible on faith. I like to think I have good reasons and evidence for believing the way I do. But if I am wrong, then I hope someone will point it out to me. I have been known to change my mind on occasions.

I have been accused of being an “evangelical” atheist although I call myself a vocal atheist. I do present my case passionately at times. But I try to do so with a force of logic, not appeals to emotion or anecdote. In reality however, it is not a goal of mine to convert people to atheism. If I had that as a goal I would surely fail much more than I succeed. I blog to test out ideas. And eventually I hope to establish a presence here that would encourage challenging feedback to those positions. Otherwise, I there is no test at all.

In my other blog I have found that trying to respond to every comment made is time consuming and too often leads to needless repetition. Instead of replying to people individually I will try to respond to ideas. I haven’t decided yet whether to handle it in the comments section or re-edit the blog to take it into account. I suspect I will do a little of both. I am also thinking of using the comments section myself to reference and expound on points I think important in my blog.

I also like to blog because I learn things. If one is going to blog properly one needs to do gather information and arrange it into an order that makes sense. I know no better way to learn something than by doing just that. I highly recommend it for everyone.

I believe that one should blog about that which they know. But to quote the noted philosopher, Yogi Berra, “It is tough to make predictions, especially about the future”. I may blog on subjects of which I presently know nothing about. My only promise is that before I commit anything to blog form I will have made a sincere effort to have understood the problem. I generally do a good job, but if I don’t … feel free to call me on it.

Finally, in the blog world I go by the pseudonym of Darwin’s Beagle. I do so as an homage to one of the greatest scientists of all time, Charles Darwin. The “Beagle” part has a triple meaning to me. The HMS Beagle of course was the ship on which Darwin sailed around the world making observations that would eventually lead to his developing his theory of descent with modification and the primary mechanism behind it, natural selection. On Dec. 27, 1831 Darwin set sail on a scheduled 2-year voyage. It was almost 5 years later that he returned to England [1]. That was quite an adventure for a young man, and evidently for Darwin that was enough. He never left England again.

Darwin did not publish On the Origin of Species until 1859, some 23 years after his return. Although looking in hindsight it is clear that Darwin spent the vast majority of his professional life working on problems directly related to his theory, he was in no rush to publish the theory in full. Although he began writing his “big book” on evolution in 1844, I suspect if he had had his way, it would have only been published posthumously. He didn’t have his way because in 1858 another unknown naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, sent him a small paper which outlined Darwin’s own ideas on the subject. Wallace was asking for Darwin’s help to get it published. Darwin sent the paper to his friends, geologist Charles Lyell and botanist Joseph Hooker. They presented Wallace’s paper along with a letter that Darwin had written to American botanist Asa Gray at the meeting of the Linnaean Society of London, thus giving both official credit for developing the theory of natural selection.

Almost being scooped of 23 years worth of research gave Darwin the motivation to publish On the Origin. He edited his “big book” into what he called an “abstract” and that is what became the book that changed the world. My copy of that “abstract” is 484 pages long.

I suspect the major part of Darwin’s hesitancy stemmed from the fact that he knew evolution would be controversial and Darwin was almost pathologically adverse to controversy. Although he dealt with criticisms of his theory in letters and in subsequent editions of Origin very well [2], he would get physically sick from going to scientific meetings. He needed a public defender, and he got them, Joseph Hooker and most famously Thomas Henry Huxley who was called “Darwin’s Bulldog”. Darwin’s theory is still under religious and political pressure today. He still needs defenders. He has them. Most notably among those defenders today is Richard Dawkins, who has been called “Darwin’s Rotweiller”. Thus my nom-de-plume pays homage to both Huxley and Dawkins as well.

Finally, the “Beagle” plays homage to the fond memories of my childhood. Growing up I enjoyed rabbit hunting. We had “rabbit dogs” around the house. I remember them well; Bullet, Nellie, Fred, and Josephine. They were, of course, beagles.

As always, thanks for your time.

Darwin’s Beagle

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2 responses to “Introduction

  1. (1) The date the Beagle arrived back in England was Oct. 2, 1836.

  2. (2) The complete writings of Charles Darwin, both his published works and his personal letter (of which they are numerous), are online. Darwin addresses numerous criticisms thoughtfully and respectfully. Interestingly, many of those criticisms are still being used by creationists today, and his responses still are relevant to those criticisms.

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