Charles Darwin

It's Darwin's 205th Birthday, and People Still Don't Accept Evolution

A letter to the man behind the theory

A letter to the father of evolution. Amazingly, he's still controversial.

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Discoveries

The White Ribbon Sony Pictures Classics Creation Newmarket Films   Michael Haneke, whose new film is called The White Ribbon, has given it a subtitle: A German Children’s Story. That is warning enough. This Austrian director is by now so distinctively established as a connoisseur of darkness--with Funny Games, about neighborliness as murder; with Caché, about the past seeping into the present; with The Piano Teacher, about the animal in the civilized--that his dainty subtitle must be seen as a deadpan tease.

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Glad we've settled this question: When it came to insect penises, Charles Darwin had it right. The famed naturalist suspected that insect genitalia, which are frequently festooned with bizarre combinations of hooks, spines, and knobs, essentially functioned like peacock tails. That is, they helped males beat out their rivals for females. Now, researchers have confirmed this hypothesis by zapping fly penises with a laser.

The Evolution of God By Robert Wright (Little, Brown, 567 pp., $25.99) I. Over its history, science has delivered two crippling blows to humanity's self-image. The first was Galileo's announcement, in 1632, that our Earth was just another planet and not, as Scripture implied, the center of the universe.

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Seeing and Believing

Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution By Karl W. Giberson (HarperOne, 248 pp., $24.95) Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul By Kenneth R. Miller (Viking, 244 pp., $25.95) I. Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809--the same day as Abraham Lincoln--and published his magnum opus, On the Origin of Species, fifty years later.

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Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think By Brian Wansink (Bantam, 276 pp., $25) The idea of "the survival of the fittest" is one of the most powerful organizing principles in all of science. That simple idea, stated by Herbert Spencer on the basis of Charles Darwin's work and later endorsed by Darwin himself, captures the theory of evolution, the process of natural selection, and a host of associated notions. And yet the phrase can produce confusion.

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Vanity Fair

Just how destructive is conspicuous consumption?

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