Thursday, February 05, 2009

Lincoln and Darwin on Networks and Web 2.0

"Online social tools are great weapons for world peace and unity."
--Overheard at a discussion about LinkedIn, Blogs, and Twitter.

How appropriate that peace and unity cross my desk as we approach the 200th birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Their historically coincidental births (12 Feb '09) and monumental legacies were brought to my attention by the latest cover of Smithsonian magazine, an issue I highly recommend.

Each of these great men speaks to the ages in a way that changes from era to era and from person to person. For me now, Lincoln shrewdly speaks of our sacred devotion to Liberty and equality as he leads the bloodiest war in American history:
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." (Read on.)
Meanwhile, in one of the greatest discoveries of science, Darwin writes about the consequences of the simple truth that no one is created equal:
"As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurrent struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form." (Read on.)
Darwin writes reluctantly, forced by outside events into a public announcement of his work, which he kept secret for many years in part to avoid the backlash he knew it would generate.

That backlash remains strong (at least in America), resulting in notions like intelligent design. Personally, I find intelligent design to be an absurd bastardization that dishonors both science and religion. And yet paradoxically I am continually tempted to take on the role of intelligent designer--pronouncing truths from the digital scriptures. I guess that's easier than emulating Lincoln or Darwin.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License and is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Connective Associates LLC except where otherwise noted.

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