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On 12 February we celebrate evolution and science. It’s Darwin Day

La giornata, in ricordo del padre dell’evoluzione, evidenzia l’importanza dei valori della ricerca scientifica e del pensiero razionale.

Charles Darwin was a practicing believer and a student of Theology till he decided, at the age of 22, to board the Beagle brig. That journey changed his life and his conception of “life” itself. Following that experience, Darwin formulated the evolutionary theory, published in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, according to which all living species evolve through natural selection.

 

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin, British naturalist and biologist, author of On the Origin of Species

 

Darwin’s theory revolutionised the idea of the role man plays in the universe, once focused on that each human being was made in God’s image and likeness. Man was thus no longer put on a pedestal, but equalised to other animal species.

 

The Galapagos Islands turned out to be crucial to the development of the British naturalist’s theory. In the Pacific archipelago he observed 13 different endemic species of finch, later named Darwin’s finches, which were very similar to one another. All these birds evolved from a common ancestor, then rapidly developing their own morphological and ecological characteristics.

 

Fringuello delle Galapagos
The Darwin’s finches, of the family of passerine birds, include 14-17 different species endemic to the Galapagos Islands

 

Darwin thus hypothesised that a population of an original species migrated from South African coasts to one of the islands, where it evolved to adapt to the new environment, generating new species. According to Darwin, a species evolves in order to adapt to a new ecological niche. This adaptation happens among individuals that have an advantage compared to their counterparts, such as a bigger beak.

 

Galapagos
Darwin’s stay on the Galapagos Islands turned out to be crucial to his evolutionary theory

 

On 12 February, the anniversary of the birth of the great British naturalist and biologist, the Darwin Day is celebrated, in order to honour his work and our species’ curiosity that pushes us to wonder about our nature and the surrounding environment. In Great Britain, as well as all over the world, conferences, meetings, debates, and events are organised in order to highlight the values of scientific research and rational thinking.

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