Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Canberra And The Darwin Exhibit

Today Shira and I had a really special treat - we got to see the Charles Darwin exhibit at the National Museum of Australia.

I hadn't really appreciated what a unique guy Darwin was. He was both extremely logical (the list of pros/cons of why he should get married is priceless) and had a love of natural science. Yet, he was a poor student and didn't do particularly well in school. He was given this amazing opportunity to travel around the world and collect samples, yet almost didn't go because his father thought it was a bad idea. And when he did go on the trip, he was able to observe remarkable phenomena - ranging from earthquakes to strange fossils to obscure species of rats. And he absorbed it all.

He was also able to coalesce his different findings he had into one theory. Rather than proposing natural selection based on just the turtles he saw on the Galapagos Island, he found examples everywhere he went (including the turtles). As the exhibit showed, the breadth of what he studied was nothing short of remarkable. Of course, he had a leg up on the competition. In 1831, how many people had access to the entire world in which to poke and learn from?

I also found it interesting how crude his tools were. Using nothing more than a magnifying glass and a microscope, he was able to deduce the theory of evolution. At the end of the day, it was just a matter of observing nature, taking lots of notes and then trying to make sense of it all.

The exhibit definitely had a bit of a propaganda (educational?) feel to it, in terms of the evolution versus creationism debate. They made it quite clear that evolution was the only explanation science had to offer as to how man developed. They also had a short movie I found interesting on what a scientific theory is. As they explained, theories don't get turned into facts, they are used to explain facts. So, calling it a Theory of Evolution doesn't imply some sort of doubt in it.

During the introductory movie, Shira - who's a big fan of science and Darwin's theory - turns to me and says, this is like an Obama rally for scientists. By the end of the film, we were both ready to start chanting, "Yes we can!"

The rest of the day was spent checking out some more of the classic sites Canberra has to offer. Because Canberra is so spread out, it included plenty of walking. But, the day was perfect for it, so who can complain?

Here's a few photos from the day...

No comments:

Post a Comment