Monday, April 21, 2008

Private papers of Darwin now available online

Darwin's private papers can now be browsed online!
For decades available only to scholars at Cambridge University Library, the private papers of Charles Darwin, one of the most influential scientists in history, can now be seen by anyone online and free of charge. This is the largest ever publication of Darwin papers and manuscripts, totalling about 20,000 items in nearly 90,000 electronic images.

This vast and varied collection of papers includes the first
draft of his theory of evolution, notes from the voyage of the Beagle and Emma Darwin's recipe book.
Here is a news story about the release from the BBC:

The online archive about Charles Darwin is so vast it would take someone two months to view it all if they downloaded one image per minute.

"His papers reveal how immensely detailed his researches were. The family has always wanted Darwin's papers and manuscripts to be available to anyone who wants to read them," said Dr van Wyhe.

"The fact that everyone around the world can now see them on the web is simply fantastic.

"Charles Darwin is one of the most influential scientists in history. The collection of his papers now online is extremely important and therefore very exciting.

"This release makes his private papers, mountains of notes, experiments and research behind his world-changing publications available to the world for free."
While we are on the topic of evolution, check out this list of common misconceptions and myths associated with evolution, as compiled by New Scientist.

Shared misconceptions:

Everything is an adaptation produced by natural selection

Natural selection is the only means of evolution

Natural selection leads to ever-greater complexity

Evolution produces creatures perfectly adapted to their environment

Evolution always promotes the survival of species

It doesn't matter if people do not understand evolution

"Survival of the fittest" justifies "everyone for themselves"

Evolution is limitlessly creative

Evolution cannot explain traits such as homosexuality

Creationism provides a coherent alternative to evolution

Creationist myths:

Evolution must be wrong because the Bible is inerrant

Accepting evolution undermines morality

Evolutionary theory leads to racism and genocide

Religion and evolution are incompatible

Half a wing is no use to anyone

Evolutionary science is not predictive

Evolution cannot be disproved so is not science

Evolution is just so unlikely to produce complex life forms

Evolution is an entirely random process

Mutations can only destroy information, not create it

Darwin is the ultimate authority on evolution

The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex

Yet more creationist misconceptions

Evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics