ARTICLE: Darwin and Lincoln: Their Legacy of Human Dignity

In Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (Vol. 53, No. 1, Winter 2010, pp. 3-13):

Darwin and Lincoln: Their Legacy of Human Dignity

Felton Earls

Abstract The legacy of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln is to champion the dignity inherent in every human being. The moment of the bicentennial of their births provides an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on ways they have shaped our understanding and commitment to human rights. The naturalist and the constitutional lawyer, so different in circumstance and discipline, were morally allied in the mission to eradicate slavery. The profound lessons to be extracted from the lives of these two icons bind us to the agonizing reality that nearly 150 years after Gettysburg and the publication of the Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, there remains much work to do toward advancing the security, respect, and equality of our species. This article describes how Darwin and Lincoln’s inspiring legacies guided the author’s personal choices as a scientist and activist. The essay concludes with a set of questions and challenges that confront us, foremost among which is the need to balance actions in response to the violation of negative rights by actions in the pursuit of positive rights.

Also in the same issue, a review of Darwin’s Sacred Cause by Jane Maienschein.

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