March 30, 1759 (a Friday)

A series of rock formations that Arduino categorized as "primary" and "secondary".

A series of rock formations that Arduino categorized as “primary” and “secondary”.

On this date, the Italian geologist Giovanni Arduino (1714-1795) wrote a letter to Professor A.Vallisneri the younger, in which Arduino proposed a classification of Earth’s surface rocks according to four brackets of successively younger orders: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary and Quaternary. Today, his Primary corresponds to the Precambrian and Paleozoic Era combined, his Secondary is the Mesozoic Era, and his Tertiary and Quaternary combine to form the Cenozoic Era.

March 29, 1979 (a Thursday)

Ban the Chinese Government

On 29 March 1979, Wei Jingsheng, an electrician at the Beijing Zoo, was arrested by Chinese Communist bosses for writing the article “Do We Want Democracy or a New Dictatorship?” It had appeared in the March 1979 issue of Exploration, in which he warned the Chinese people that Deng Xiaoping could turn into a new dictator if the present political system continued. Wei’s boldness infuriated Deng, who ordered Wei’s arrest. Six months later at a show trial from which his family and friends were excluded, he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and placed in solitary confinement as an example to others. A transcript of the trial, in which Wei rejected the charges against him, came into hands of editors of April 5th Forum, who printed it in their magazine. They too were arrested.

March 28, 2009 (a Saturday)

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On this date, the Chinese Communist Party bosses marked 50 years of direct control over Tibet by raising their national flag in the regional capital and commemorating a new political holiday honoring what they call the “liberation of slaves from brutal feudal rule”. Testimonials about the “misery of life” in old Tibet kicked off the short ceremony – televised live from in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa – to mark the end of the Dalai Lama’s rule in Tibet. March 28 marks the date when Beijing ended the 1959 Tibetan uprising, sending the Dalai Lama over the Himalayas into exile and placing Tibet under its direct rule for the first time.

In contrast, the Tibetan government-in-exile said on its Web site that the new holiday, crowned “Serfs Liberation Day”, would be a day of mourning for Tibetans around the world. “Tibetans consider this observance offensive and provocative,” it said.

Press Statement: China’s Serf Emancipation Day Hides Repression in Tibet
The Kashag
27 March 2009

China’s decision to observe tomorrow as the so-called Serf Emancipation Day is aggravating problems in Tibet. Tibetans consider this observance offensive and provocative. We believe the observance of the “Serf Emancipation Day” on 28 March is aimed at destabilizing and creating chaos in Tibet by a few individuals with overriding self-interest. If the Tibetans, losing their patience, took to the streets in protest, the Chinese leaders will have the excuse to use even more brutal force to crackdown.

Already the whole of Tibet is under heavy security clampdown, with additional troops deployed. Despite these measures, Tibetans, considering conditions in Tibet unbearable, collectively and individually, are taking to the streets, distributing pamphlets calling for freedom, bringing down the Chinese flag and replacing it with the Tibetan flag. This year, Tibetans did not celebrate the Tibetan New Year to mourn those killed in last year’s crackdown on the widespread protests that erupted throughout Tibet. In a development unprecedented in the history of Tibet, Tibetans in Kanze in eastern Tibet have decided not to farm their fields in a unique form of civil disobedience to protest China’s heavy-handed rule. One monk, Tashi Sangpo of Ragya monastery in Golok in north-eastern Tibet was arrested on 10 March 2009, for allegedly hoisting a Tibetan flag. He escaped his captors and drowned himself in the nearby Yellow River. These acts and many more are the true Tibetan attitude to “emancipation” by China.

This day will be observed by Tibetans throughout the world and especially those in Tibet as a day of mourning. No less a figure than Hu Yaobang, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, who visited Lhasa in 1980, apologized to the Tibetan people and said the conditions in Tibet were worse than pre-1959 Tibet.

The late Panchen Lama said in 1989, a few days before his untimely death, that on the whole China’s rule in Tibet brought greater suffering than benefit for the Tibetan people.

Since 1949/50 when China invaded Tibet, over 1.2 million Tibetans died as a direct result of Chinese communist rule and more than 6,000 monasteries were razed to the ground. Today, it is hard to come across a Tibetan family that has not had at least one member imprisoned or killed by the Chinese regime. This day will be observed as the day when the Tibetans as a people lost all vestiges of their basic individual and collective freedoms.

One justification for China’s “liberation” of Tibet is that old Tibet was feudal and repressive. This is a blatant distortion of the nature of Tibet’s old society. In the early mid-20th century, there was no big gap between the peasants in Tibet and China. Moreover, the Tibetan peasants enjoyed more freedom and better living conditions.

To prove that the old Tibetan society was repressive, the Chinese authorities are currently organising an exhibition of Tibetan prisons and the punishments meted out. However, the reality is that the size of Nangze Shar Prison in Lhasa, heavily used in Chinese propaganda, could accommodate not more than a score of prisoners. In fact, the total number of prisoners in the whole of Tibet before 1959 hardly crossed hundred. After the so-called liberation and emancipation of the Tibetan “serfs”, prisons have come up in every part of Tibet. In Lhasa alone, there are 5 major prisons with a total prison population between 3,500 – 4,000.

The best judge of whether they have been “liberated” is the Tibetan people. They vote with their feet and lives by crossing the Himalayas to seek freedom and happiness outside of their “liberated” Tibet. They also sacrifice their lives to inform the world of the terrible conditions prevailing in Tibet. This was massively demonstrated last year when a series of sustained and widespread protests erupted throughout Tibet. If the “serfs” are happy with their “emancipation”, why are they risking lives and limbs to protest Chinese rule in Tibet.

“Just as Europe can’t return to the medieval era and the United States can’t go back to the times before the Civil War, Tibet can never restore the old serf society era,” Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party boss of the region, told the crowd of more than 13,000. But his statement reflects how the Chinese government continues its deceit and propaganda: the people of Tibet, including the Dalai Lama, do NOT seek to institute a “serf” society. In 1963 the Dalai Lama promulgated a constitution for a democratic Tibet. It has been successfully implemented, to the extent possible, by the Government-in-exile.

Furthermore, at the risk of stating the obvious, the fact that a country is backward cannot justify invading it. Backwardness was often advanced as a justification for 19th century colonialism, what Rudyard Kipling called “The White Man’s burden” when he encouraged the United States to colonize the Philippines. The fact that China relies on the “backwardness” argument to support its occupation of Tibet is a further indication of a classic colonial occupation.

Thus, the Chinese invaded and annexed Tibet to exploit its untapped natural resources, pure and simple. “Tibet belongs to China, not a few separatists or the international forces against China. Any conspiracy attempting to separate the region from China is doomed to fail,” Zhang said.

Also, how could China have “liberated” Tibet in 1949 if it claims prior sovereignty? It is odd that China, on the one hand, claims that Tibet has been part of China since the 13th century, and then, on the other, claims that it “liberated” Tibet in 1949 from an unfortunate past. But, liberated it from what? You can only liberate a country from a situation that your country does not control. Therefore, the Chinese government’s use of the term “liberate” seems to be an admission that China has not governed Tibet contiguously since the Mongol invasions. Either this, or it would have to argue that it was liberating Tibet from circumstances that China created while Tibet was under its control.

It should be noted that numerous countries made statements in the course of UN General Assembly debates following the invasion of Tibet that reflected their recognition of Tibet’s independent status. Thus, for example, the delegate from the Philippines declared: “It is clear that on the eve of the Chinese invasion in 1950, Tibet was not under the rule of any foreign country”. He described China’s occupation as “the worst type of imperialism and colonialism past or present”. The delegate from Thailand reminded the assembly that the majority of states “refute the contention that Tibet is a part of China.” The US joined most other UN members in condemning the Chinese “aggression” and “invasion” of Tibet.

In the course of Tibet’s 2,000-year history, the country came under a degree of foreign influence only for short periods of time in the 13th and 18th centuries. Few independent countries today can claim as impressive a record. As the ambassador to Ireland at the UN remarked during the General Assembly debates on the question of Tibet, “[f]or thousands of years, or for a couple of thousand of years at any rate, [Tibet] was as free and as fully in control of its own affairs as any nation in this Assembly, and a thousand times more free to look after its own affairs than many of the nations here.”

In May 1991, the Senate of the United States of America passed a resolution declaring Tibet an occupied country whose true representatives are the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Over the years many more resolutions have been passed by various international bodies.

And what has “liberation” meant to the Tibetan people? The International Commission of Jurists (1959 and 1960) judged the Chinese guilty of genocide in Tibet, “the gravest crime of which any person or nation can be accused … the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” and detailed atrocities to which Tibetans were subjected. These included public execution by shooting, crucifixion, burning alive, drowning, vivisection, starvation, strangulation, hanging, scalding, being buried alive, disemboweling and beheading; imprisonment without trial; torture; forced labour; and forcible sterilization. Many people, including children under 15 years, disappeared without trace.

The United Nations passed a resolution in 1959 calling for respect for the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people and for their distinctive cultural and religious life based on the principles of fundamental human rights in the Charter of the United Nations and on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Communist China ignored this resolution and 1961 saw another resolution stating that the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be followed and Tibetans be granted their rights, including the right to self determination. The same was repeated in 1965 by the United Nations General Assembly.

In the 2000s, many view the Chinese genocide in Tibet as the result of the territorial ambitions of the Chinese Communist Party bosses. It is seen as stemming from their systematic attempt to expand the traditional territory of China by annexing permanently the vast, approximately 900,000-square-mile territory of traditional Tibet. Tibet represents about 30 percent of China’s land surface, while the Tibetans represent .004 percent of China’s population. Tibetans were not a minority but an absolute majority in their own historical environment. Chinese government efforts can be seen as aiming at securing permanent control of the Tibetans’ land. For this reason, some observers see genocide in Tibet as not merely referring to the matter of religion, that is, of destroying Tibetan Buddhism. Chinese policies have involved the extermination of more than 1 million Tibetans, the forced relocation of millions of Tibetan villagers and nomads, the population transfer of millions of Chinese settlers, and systematic assimilation.

References:

March 27, 1827 (a Tuesday)

Charles Darwin by G Richmond.

On this date, Charles Darwin read papers on original research on the biology of tiny marine organisms found along the Scottish coast to the Plinian Society at Edinburgh University.

March 26, 1516

Illustration from "On Fossil Objects"

Illustration from “On Fossil Objects”

On this date, the Swiss naturalist and bibliographer Conrad Gessner was born. His five-volume Historiae animalium (1551-1558) is considered the beginning of modern zoology, and the flowering plant genus Gesneria (Gesneriaceae) is named after him. But he is notable here because of his contribution to our understanding of fossils.

Among early natural historians, the main problem impeding a proper view of the meaning of fossils was that resemblances of lithified objects to living organisms were not often obvious, and even when they were, there was no good reason for asserting that the resemblance was anything but fortuitous. There were, in other words, no sure criteria for recognizing and distinguishing fossils from inorganic objects, i.e., from objects that derived from inanimate things rather than from pre-existing organisms.

Conrad Gesner came as close to the correct view as any early natural historian.   In his 1565 book, On Fossil Objects, he found the physical similarity between the modern sea urchin (A) and a lithified heart urchin (B) so clear that the organic origin of the heart urchin could not be denied – that it was a fossil in the modern sense of the word.

The absence of a yardstick for assessing the organic nature of lithified objects; the misapprehension of the great age of the earth; and because the mechanism of fossil preservation was unclear (Gesner’s main difficulty), the arguments of visionaries like Da Vinci and Gesner, imperfect as they were, fell on deaf ears.

March 25, 1955 (a Friday)

Allen Ginsberg

On this date, the U.S. Customs Bureau confiscated 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s book Howl, which had been printed in England. Ginsberg was openly gay, and this poem has a lot of references to homosexuality. The gay men in this poem generally do not seem to be involved in monogamous relationships with one other person.

Officials alleged that the book was obscene, particularly objecting to:

Line 36

who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,

But the next two lines, among many others, seem equally provocative:

Line 37

who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,

Line 38

who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose gardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,

(You can listen to Ginsberg read Howl on Poets.org.)

City Lights, a publishing company and bookstore in San Francisco owned by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, proceeded to publish the book in the fall of 1956. The publication led to Ferlinghetti’s arrest on obscenity charges. Ferlinghetti was bailed out by the American Civil Liberties Union, which led the legal defense. Clayton Horn (a Sunday school teacher) was the judge for the case and had achieved notoriety earlier that year for sentencing five shoplifters to a screening of The Ten Commandments. The defense brought literary expert after literary expert (9 in total) to the stand to testify to the poem’s literary and social importance and on October 3 Judge Horn ruled the poem was of “redeeming social importance” and Ferlinghetti was cleared.

March 25, 970 C.E. (Good Friday)

THE END IS NEAR

According to the Lotharingian computists, on this date the world was going to end.  They believed they had found evidence in the Bible that a conjunction of certain feast days prefigured the end times. Supposedly, it was on this day that Adam was created, Isaac was sacrificed, the Red Sea was parted, Jesus was conceived, and Jesus was crucified. Therefore, it naturally followed that the End must occur on this day!

The Lotharingian computists were just one of a wide scattering of millennial cults springing up in advance of that first Millennium. The abbot of Saint-Benoit of Fleury-sur-Loire sent a letter to his king complaining about the Lotharingians:

For a rumour had filled almost the entire world that when the Annunciation fell on Good Friday, without any question, it would be the End of the World.

The millennial panic endured for at least 30 years after the fateful date had come and gone, with some adjustment made to allow 1,000 years after the crucifixion, rather than the nativity.

March 25, 1833 (a Monday)

Jenkin

On this date, the English physical scientist and engineer Henry (Charles) Fleeming [pronounced "flemming"] Jenkin was born. No other attack on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has drawn more attention than Jenkin’s. Nearly every book in the history of evolution recounts the tale. It began in June, 1867 with Mr. Jenkin’s review of The Origin of Species in The North British Review (46: 277-318).

References:

  • Stephen Jay Gould, Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1991) 340 -353.
  • Ernst Mayr, The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance ( Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1982) 512.

March 24, 1912 (a Sunday)

On this date, the American biochemist Sidney Walter Fox was born. In the 1960s at the University of Miami, Fox found that when he heated Stanley Miller’s amino acids (created through simulation experiments) to temperatures that would have been present on the volcanic primordial Earth, in conjunction with aspartic and glutamic acids (also created through simulation experiments), they formed protein-like polymers that he called”proteinoids”.

Microsphere surface.

Fox observed that when proteinoids or “thermal proteins,” are placed in water, they self-organize into microspheres or protocells, possible precursors of the contemporary living cell. Under a microscope, the microspheres look like primitive cells. In fact, artificially fossilized microspheres are indistinguishable from the earliest known microfossils that date back to about 3.5 BYA. Fox argued that RNA or DNA need not date back to the origin of life, and he showed that proteinoid microspheres exhibit growth, metabolism, reproduction (by budding), and responsiveness to stimuli – all properties of life – though without a genetic system. Although hesitant to claim that these were alive, Fox stated that they were undeniably “protoalive”. This is not an evasive answer. As Tim M. Berra says in Evolution and the Myth of Creationism (1990):

For centuries, science knew nothing intermediate between non-living and living things, but today the distinction is not at all clear. Since life evolved from non-living matter, at some point we must arbitrarily draw a line and say that everything beyond that point is alive. Viruses, for example, appear to be alive when they infect a host, but seem to be non-living when outside a host.

As a result of his monumental discovery of thermal proteins and their self-organization into protocells and that these protocells exhibit virtually all of the properties associated with life, Sidney Fox was invited to lecture widely throughout the world. Even Pope John Paul II and his advisers, on at least three separate occasions, invited Fox to the Vatican to explain his work on the synthesis of cellular life in a test tube.

March 23, 1769 (a Thursday)

William Smith's "A Geological Map of England and Wales and Part of Scotland" (1815)

William Smith’s “A Geological Map of England and Wales and Part of Scotland” (1815)

On this date, the English engineer and geologist William Smith was born. Smith was instrumental in extending the science of stratigraphy. His early work was as a miner and an engineer, for a canal-digging company. From this experience he observed the difference in rock layers. He also recognized that the same succession of fossil groups from older to younger rocks could be found in many parts of England, which he called the principle of faunal succession. He traveled the entire country to verify that relationships between the strata and their characteristics were consistent everywhere. Thus Smith created a profile of the entire country of England. His great geologic map of England and Wales (1815) set the standard for modern geologic maps. Many of the colorful names he gave to the strata are still in use today.

March 22, 1785 (a Tuesday)

Adam Sedgwick

On this date, the English geologist and paleontologist Adam Sedgwick was born. He was one of the founders of modern geology. Sedgwick was the first scientist to apply the name Cambrian to the geologic period of time, now dated at 570 to 505 million years ago. Twentieth-century research has uncovered so many excellent fossils in Cambrian sediments, especially the Burgess Shale in Canada, that this geologic period is sometimes referred to as the “Cambrian Explosion.”

Sedgwick attended Trinity College at Cambridge University, where he took holy orders in 1817. In 1818, he became Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge, despite the fact that he had no formal training in geology. His lectures at Cambridge were immensely popular; he was a spellbinding lecturer, and – breaking with the traditions of his time – his lectures were open to women, whom Sedgwick thought could make great contributions to natural history. He kept giving his famous lectures until 1871.

After passing his examinations for the Bachelor of Arts degree in January 1831, Charles Darwin began attending Sedgwick’s geology lectures, which he found fascinating. During the summer of 1831, Darwin was Sedwick’s field assistant in north Wales, and Darwin got a “crash course” in field geology from Sedgwick. This was an experience that proved valuable to Darwin over the next five years, on his round-the-world voyage on H.M.S. Beagle. During this voyage, Darwin sent geological specimens and reports to Sedgwick, who wrote approvingly to Darwin’s family:

He is doing admirably in S. America & has already sent home a Collection above all praise. – It was the best thing in the world for him that he went out on the Voyage of Discovery. . .

However, after reading The Origin of Species, Sedgwick candidly wrote to Darwin on November 24, 1859:

If I did not think you a good tempered & truth loving man I should not tell you that. . . I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false & grievously mischievous– You have deserted– after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth– the true method of induction. . .

Sedgwick was opposed to Charles Lyell’s models of slow, gradual geological change and a more or less steady-state Earth. Instead, he followed Cuvier’s idea of multiple “catastrophes” that had destroyed much of Earth’s life. But Sedgwick did not object to evolution, or “development” as such theories were called then, in the broad sense – to the fact that the life on Earth had changed over time. Nor was he a “young-Earth” creationist – he thought that the Earth must be extremely old. Nevertheless, Sedgwick believed in the Divine creation of life over long periods of time, by “a power I cannot imitate or comprehend — but in which I believe, by a legitimate conclusion of sound reason drawn from the laws of harmonies of nature.” His problem was with the amoral and materialistic nature of Darwin’s proposed mechanism of natural selection, which Sedgwick thought was degrading to humanity’s spiritual aspirations. His letter of November 24 went on to state:

This view of nature you have stated admirably; tho’ admitted by all naturalists & denied by no one of common sense. We all admit development as a fact of history; but how came it about? Here, in language, & still more in logic, we are point blank at issue– There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly. Tis the crown & glory of organic science that it does thro’ final cause, link material to moral. . . You have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it–& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.

Despite their differences, the two stayed friends until Sedgwick’s death in 1873.

March 21, 1925 (a Saturday)

On this date, Tennessee Governor Peay signed into law the Butler Act, “prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory” in all public schools and universities and making it unlawful in public schools “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” This set the stage for the Scopes’ “Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee during the subsequent summer.

The author of the law, a Tennessee farmer named John Washington Butler, had introduced the bill into the state House of Representatives on January 25, 1925. Ironically, he later was reported to have said, “No, I didn’t know anything about evolution when I introduced it. I’d read in the papers that boys and girls were coming home from school and telling their fathers and mothers that the Bible was all nonsense.” After reading copies of William Jennings Bryan’s lecture “Is the Bible True?” as well as Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, Butler decided evolution was dangerous. During the trial, Butler told reporters, “I never had any idea my bill would make a fuss. I just thought it would become a law, and that everybody would abide by it and that we wouldn’t hear any more of evolution in Tennessee.”

March 21, 1932 (a Monday)

On this date, the American molecular biologist Walter Gilbert was born. In 1980, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Frederick Sanger and Paul Berg. Gilbert and Sanger were recognized for their pioneering work in devising methods for determining the sequence of nucleotides in a nucleic acid.

A Maxam-Gilbert sequencing gel.

A Maxam-Gilbert sequencing gel.

In a 1986 article (Nature 319: 618), Gilbert was the first scientist to use the term “RNA world” to refer to a possible stage in the origin of life on Earth (although the hypothetical possibility of an RNA world had already been suggested by others before him):

The first stage of [chemical] evolution proceeds, then, by RNA molecules performing the catalytic activities necessary to assemble themselves from a nucleotide soup. The RNA molecules evolve in self-replicating patterns, using recombination and mutation to explore new niches. … they then develop an entire range of enzymic activities. At the next stage, RNA molecules began to synthesize proteins, first by developing RNA adaptor molecules that can bind activated amino acids and then by arranging them according to an RNA template using other RNA molecules such as the RNA core of the ribosome. This process would make the first proteins, which would simply be better enzymes than their RNA counterparts. … These protein enzymes are … built up of mini-elements of structure.

Finally, DNA appeared on the scene, the ultimate holder of information copied from the genetic RNA molecules by reverse transcription. … RNA is then relegated to the intermediate role it has today—no longer the center of the stage, displaced by DNA and the more effective protein enzymes.

The possibility of an RNA world in the origin of life had been supported by the discovery by Thomas Cech in 1982 of the existence of naturally-occurring ribozymes.

March 20, 1904 (a Sunday)

The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses.

– Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English lawyer and philosopher

Zen stones

On this day, the American psychologist, author, inventor, social philosopher, and poet B(urrhus) F(rederic) Skinner was born. He developed the theory of operant conditioning — the idea that behavior is determined by its consequences, be they reinforcements or punishments, which make it more or less likely that the behavior will occur again. His principles are still incorporated within treatments of phobias, addictive behaviors, and in the enhancement of classroom performance (as well as in computer-based self-instruction).

B.F. Skinner and quote.

Skinner believed that the only scientific approach to psychology was one that studied behaviors, not internal (subjective) mental processes. He denied the existence of a mind as a thing separate from the body, but he did not deny the existence of thoughts, which he regarded simply as private behaviors to be analyzed according to the same principle as publicly observed behaviors. To further improve the objective scientific value of observed behaviors, he invented the “Skinner box”, or operant conditioning chamber. It was a small, soundproof enclosure in which an animal could be isolated from all distractions and outside influences, responding only to the controlled conditions within the box, and is still used today.

Skinner’s analysis of human behavior culminated in his work Verbal Behavior (1957). He was a prolific author who published 21 books and 180 articles. In a June, 2002 survey, B.F. Skinner was listed as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century (Review of General Psychology, June, 2002, pp. 139-152). He was named “Humanist of the Year” in 1972 by the American Humanist Association.

One of Skinner’s most interesting and famous experiments, a classic in psychology, examined the formation of “superstition” in one of his favorite experimental animals, the pigeon. Skinner placed a series of hungry pigeons in a cage attached to an automatic mechanism that delivered food to the pigeon “at regular intervals with no reference whatsoever to the bird’s behavior.” He discovered that the pigeons associated the delivery of the food with whatever chance actions they had been performing as it was delivered (accidental reinforcement), and that they subsequently continued to perform these same actions:

One bird was conditioned to turn counter-clockwise about the cage, making two or three turns between reinforcements. Another repeatedly thrust its head into one of the upper corners of the cage. A third developed a ‘tossing’ response, as if placing its head beneath an invisible bar and lifting it repeatedly. Two birds developed a pendulum motion of the head and body, in which the head was extended forward and swung from right to left with a sharp movement followed by a somewhat slower return.

Skinner suggested that the pigeons behaved as if they were influencing the automatic mechanism with their “rituals” and that this experiment shed light on human behavior:

The experiment might be said to demonstrate a sort of superstition. The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking. There are many analogies in human behavior. Rituals for changing one’s fortune at cards are good examples. A few accidental connections between a ritual and favorable consequences suffice to set up and maintain the behavior in spite of many unreinforced instances. The bowler who has released a ball down the alley but continues to behave as if she were controlling it by twisting and turning her arm and shoulder is another case in point. These behaviors have, of course, no real effect upon one’s luck or upon a ball half way down an alley, just as in the present case the food would appear as often if the pigeon did nothing — or, more strictly speaking, did something else.

It is easy to see other human parallels of this type of behavior. A person playing a slot machine may alter the way he puts money in the machine and the way he pulls the handle if he thinks that doing these things a certain way will bring him luck. Independent of these behaviors the machine will occasionally pay off (reinforcement). Such a situation allows the person to develop a superstitious behavior, such as not looking at the machine while he pulls the handle. Observation of a gambling casino will reveal a large number of people displaying their superstitious behaviors at the slot machines. Each person’s superstition may be unique to him, as each of Skinner’s pigeons had a unique superstition.
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Human superstitions are quite abundant. A college student in an elevator may keep pushing the button of his floor as if this would cause the elevator to move faster. A card player may pick up his cards one at a time as if to improve the hand he was dealt. A businessman may wear a “special” tie when going to an important meeting.

Many ancient beliefs involve superstition. For example, the rain dance: once when someone was doing the so-called rain dance, it started to rain. This person thought that perhaps their dance affected nature. After this rain dance was reinforced intermittently on a frequent enough schedule it became established as a superstitious behavior.

However, the pigeons’ behaviors were later reinterpreted as behaviors that improve foraging efficacy (analogous to salivation in Pavlov’s dogs), which suggests that the pigeons’ behavior does not correspond to Skinner’s intended meaning of superstition.  Nevertheless, Skinner’s early account is notable in two respects. First, it recognized the possibility of superstition occurring outside the human realm. Second, and linked to this, Skinner emphasized the behavioral aspect of superstition: “The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking.”  That is, he focused on there being an incorrect response to a stimulus (behavioral outcome), rather than the conscious abstract representation of cause and effect (psychological relationship), with which human superstitions are often associated.

There other differences between human superstitions based on psychological relationship and animal superstitions based on behavioral outcome:

  • First, humans, as opposed to animals, often spend considerable time justifying why they are not reinforced each time they do their superstitious behavior. (“I have some questions about that so- called virgin we sacrificed to the volcano god.” “I lost the golf match today because my lucky hat doesn’t seem to work two days in a row.”)
  • Second, humans spend more time than animals trying to convince others to adopt their superstitious behaviors. Children often carry on many of the superstitions of their parents.
  • Finally, as Herrnstein (1966) points out, “Human superstition, unlike that of animals, arises in a social context.” The acquired superstitions in humans are not as arbitrary as those of animals. Rather they are molded by the person’s culture. Thus, although it is possible to develop a superstition about Wednesday the 11th, it is more probable in our culture to be superstitious about Friday the 13th.

It has only been with the advent of the scientific method that people have been able to distinguish between that which is superstitious and that which has a scientific basis.

References:

  • B.F. Skinner. “‘Superstition’ in the Pigeon,” Journal of Experimental Psychology 38: 168-172 (1948).
  • Kevin R. Foster and Hanna Kokko.
    The evolution of superstitious and superstition-like behaviour,”
    Proc R Soc B 276 (1654): 31-37 (January 2009). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0981
  • R.J. Herrnstein. “Superstition: A corollary of the principles of operant conditioning,” in W. K. Honig (ed.), Operant Behavior: Areas of Research and Application. (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1966) pp. 33-51.

March 19, 1827 (a Monday)

Charles Darwin by G Richmond.

On this date, Charles Darwin made his earliest scientific discovery, at age 18. He dissected some specimens of a barnacle-like marine organism, the polyzoan Flustra. Thus he began what became a lifelong interest in natural history.

Susan Ohanian: Bill Gates Is Running Scared

Prof. Olsen:

Why should Bill Gates be deciding how your kids are taught?
a) He is one of the richest men on Earth.
b) He never made it through college.
c) He can make more money by doing so.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Think of it: the richest man in the world poured over $ 2 billion into the creation of national standards , and he is out on the media-power trail, fighting for their survival. Gates is worried about the pushback against the standards and the testing in a score of states. In some states, the very term “Common Core” has become so toxic that they are called something else, rebranded.

And don’t forget that Gates said not long ago that it would take at least ten years to know whether “this stuff” works. Some people wonder if it is a good idea to turn the nation’s schools upside down while we wait those ten years.

Susan Ohanian here tracks his efforts to save his foundering pet project of the moment. She notes his numerous media appearances and joins it with a speech in which he raised doubts about raising the minimum…

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March 17, 1910 (a Thursday)

Bayard Rustin

On this date, one of the most important leaders of the American civil rights movement from the advent of its modern period in the 1950s until well into the 1980s, Bayard Rustin, was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1955 as Martin Luther King Jr.’s special assistant, serving as the organizational co-ordinator for the SCLC March on Washington in 1963.

Rustin was openly gay and advocated on behalf of gay and lesbian causes in the latter part of his career. Interestingly, a high school named for Bayard Rustin that opened in September 2006 in his home town has posted a bio for him on its website that makes no mention of Walter Nagle – his partner for 10 years – or the fact that Rustin was an openly gay man, or any of his work for gay rights.

A year before his death in 1987, Rustin said:

The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it’s the gay community.

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March 15, 1806 (a Saturday)

The Alais meteorite.

The Alais meteorite.

On this date, a 6-kg carbonaceous chondrite – a type of meteorite carrying carbon-based, organic chemicals – was unequivocally identified for the first time. Its arrival on Earth was noted at 5:30 pm, outside Alais, France. The organic chemicals it carried suggested the possibility of life on whatever body was the source, somewhere in the universe. According to the observations of the Swedish chemist Jöns Jakob Berzelius and a commission appointed by the French Academy of Sciences, it “emits a faint bituminous substance” when heated. Berzelius analyzed the Alais meteorite and reported in 1833 that destructive distillation yielded a blackish substance, indigenous water, carbon dioxide gas, a soluble salt containing ammonia, and a blackish-brown sublimate, which Berzelius confessed was unknown to him.

March 14, 1879 (a Friday)

Albert Einstein, age 14

On this date, the physicist and mathematician Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany.  He is best known for his theory of relativity and specifically for the mass–energy equivalence, expressed by the equation:

E = mc2

Einstein’s many contributions to physics included papers on these ideas:

  • The special theory of relativity (1905), which reconciled the laws of Newtonian mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. This conflict was famously illustrated by the velocity addition problem. Einstein showed that the observed independence of the speed of light on the observer’s state of motion required fundamental changes to the notion of simultaneity. Consequences of this include the time-space frame of a moving body slowing down and contracting (in the direction of motion) relative to the frame of the observer. This paper also argued that the idea of a luminiferous aether – one of the leading theoretical entities in physics at the time – was superfluous.
  • The first fluctuation dissipation theorem which explained Brownian (random) movement (1905). By explaining such movement as the consequence of molecular action, this paper supported the atomic theory.
  • The photon theory and wave-particle duality (1905), derived from the thermodynamic properties of light. Einstein put forward the idea that certain experimental results, notably the photoelectric effect, could be simply understood from the postulate that light interacts with matter as discrete “packets” (quanta) of energy, an idea that had been introduced by Max Planck in 1900 as a purely mathematical manipulation and which seemed to contradict contemporary wave theories of light.
  • The general theory of relativity (1916), a new theory of gravitation obeying the equivalence principle. The equivalence principle proper was introduced by Albert Einstein in 1907, when he observed that the acceleration of bodies towards the center of the Earth at a rate of 1g (g = 9.81 m/s2 being a standard reference of gravitational acceleration at the Earth’s surface) is equivalent to the acceleration of an inertially moving body that would be observed on a rocket in free space being accelerated at a rate of 1g.

The papers Einstein published in 1905 are the ones that history has come to call the Annus Mirabilis Papers.  At the time, however, they were not noticed by most physicists as being important, and many of those who did notice them rejected them outright.   Some of this work – such as the theory of light quanta – remained controversial for years.  Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”

Einstein’s views on religion have often been misunderstood, distorted, and sometimes deliberately fabricated to suit the personal convictions of the reporter. Einstein clarified his religious views in a letter (1954) he wrote in response to those who claimed that he worshiped a Judeo-Christian god (as quoted in Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman):

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal god and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

In his book The World as I See It (1949), Einstein wrote:

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

Einstein was also an advocate of humanism and a supporter of Ethical Culture. He served on the advisory board of the First Humanist Society of New York. For the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, he noted that the idea of Ethical Culture embodied his personal conception of what is most valuable and enduring in religious idealism. He observed, “Without ‘ethical culture’ there is no salvation for humanity.”

Einstein published a paper in Nature (vol. 146, pp. 605-607) in 1940 entitled “Science and Religion” in which he said that:

a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value … regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a Divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation … In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals, and constantly to strengthen their effects…[Conflicts between science and religion] have all sprung from fatal errors…[E]ven though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other [there are] strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies … [S]cience without religion is lame, religion without science is blind … [A] legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist…[N]either the rule of human nor Divine Will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted … by science, for [it] can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

In a letter to the philosopher Eric Gutkind on January 3, 1954, Einstein wrote:

…The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text.

March 14, 2008 (a Friday)

Chinese military in Lhasa, Tibet on 14 March 2008

On this date, Communist Chinese troops sealed off three of Lhasa’s largest monasteries after Tibet’s biggest protests in almost 20 years deteriorated into violence, with shops and police cars set ablaze.

The most serious violence was touched off about 11 am today, Lhasa time, when monks from the Ramoche monastery prepared to stage a demonstration. According to Jane Macartney of the Times of London, police tried to stop the monks from entering the streets. Then a police car parked outside the monastery gate was set on fire as hundreds of Tibetans rallied around the monks. The protesters were demanding greater freedom of religion before the Beijing Olympic Games.

On Monday, March 10th, about 300 monks from Drepung Monastery on the outskirts of Lhasa had peacefully marched toward Barkhor Street in the central city, but Chinese People’s Armed Police stopped them before they reached the city. Police arrested monks suspected to be “ringleaders”. All the monks were seeking the release of fellow Drepung monks, who apparently had been detained as they tried to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s receipt of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in October, 2007.

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(↑)Footage posted on the exile Tibetan Web site TibetOnline.tv in December 2011 of a crackdown by Chinese security forces in Tibet in 2008 indicates that the level of repression against Tibetans appears to be much more serious than generally acknowledged by the international community. Analysts believe it was leaked by someone in China, perhaps within the security apparatus, to show the true scale of repression in Tibet and nearby areas in China. _____________________________________________________

On March 13, China’s Foreign Ministry had accused the Tibetan monks of trying to cause social unrest and said the situation in Lhasa was stable. “We are resolutely opposed to any plots attempting to separate Tibet from China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

The Chinese Public Security Bureau imposed carte-blanche censorship of YouTube, the BBC, CNN, the Guardian, and other sites carrying video footage of the Tibetan people’s protests against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

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This video, produced by the Tibetan Government-in-exile in 2009, includes previously unreleased footage showing bound and defenseless Tibetans being brutally beaten in Lhasa in March 2008. _____________________________________________________

Ironically, by objecting to the above video produced by the Tibetan Government-in-exile and then blocking YouTube to make sure that no one in China’s borders could see the footage, the Chinese government made international headlines and ensured that millions more people will see and hear about the atrocity.

Tibet had varying degrees of autonomy from China until the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949. China invaded the country a year later and annexed the region in 1951.

References:

March 13, 1720

Charles Bonnet

On this date, Charles Bonnet, a Swiss naturalist and philosophical writer, was born at Geneva, of a French family driven into Switzerland by the religious persecution in the 16th century. He made law his profession, but his favorite pursuit was the study of natural science.

Bonnet’s first published work appeared in 1745, entitled Traité d’insectologie, in which were collected his various discoveries regarding insects, along with a preface on the development of germs and the scale of organized beings. Botany, particularly the leaves of plants, next attracted his attention; and after several years of diligent study, rendered irksome by the increasing weakness of his eyesight, he published in 1754 one of the most original and interesting of his works, Recherches sur l’usage des feuilles dans les plantes; in which among other things he advances many considerations tending to show (as was later done by Francis Darwin) that plants are endowed with powers of sensation and discernment. Bonnet also studied photosynthesis in plants and noted the emission of bubbles by a submerged illuminated leaf (but see Jan Ingenhousz, who is also given credit for this observation). This very visible production of oxygen by an illuminated leaf is still used regularly in school laboratories as a way of investigating rates of photosynthesis.

Affected by his observation of the aphid, Bonnet argued, in Considérations sur les corps organisés (1762; “Considerations on Organized Bodies”), that each female organism contains within its germ cells (i.e., eggs) an infinite series of preformed individuals (Theory of Preformation), leading to an immortality and immutability of species. In his Contemplation de la nature (Amsterdam, 1764–1765; translated into Italian, German, English and Dutch), one of his most popular and delightful works, he sets forth, in eloquent language, the theory that all the beings in nature form a gradual scale rising from lowest to highest (scala natura), without any break in its continuity.

In order to explain the fossil findings of extinct species, Bonnet, in his work La Palingénésie philosophique (1769; “The Philosophical Revival”), advocated the view that Earth is periodically struck by global disasters. In these disasters most organisms die and the survivors climb the scala natura to reach new heights. According to this, mankind, the peak of evolution, would develop into angels after the next disaster, when plants would become animals, animals would become intelligent beings, and minerals would become plants. This disaster theory to explain evolution strongly influenced Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) grandfather. This makes Charles Bonnet one of the first biologists to use the term evolution in a biological context. However, he was stuck in the preformation theory, which implied the immutability of species and precluded biological evolution.

March 13, 1832 (a Tuesday)

Rev. John Thomas Gulick

On this date, the American evolutionary biologist Rev. John Thomas Gulick was born. John Gulick continued a family tradition by attending theological school and then did missionary work in China and Japan for over thirty-five years. But he also carried on a parallel career as a naturalist and Darwinian evolutionist. Gulick had collected land snails since his teen years, and became a convert to evolutionary thinking even before reading The Origin of Species. An acute observer, he noticed that many species and varieties of snails were often restricted to very geographically-limited ranges and, as his son Addison later wrote (Scientific Monthly 18 (January 1924): 89), Gulick came

to place great emphasis upon every form of isolation or prevention of mingling, and also to emphasize the great significance for evolution of many factors that are of internal origin, such as the unknown intricacies of the process of heredity, and the effects of new choices made by the evolving creatures…

A plate of Hawaiian land snails from Addison Gulick’s book, Evolutionist and Missionary: John Thomas Gulick (1932).

In 1872, Gulick became the first person to advance the thesis that much evolutionary change is simply a result of chance variation; in other words, variation that has no effect whatsoever on survival and reproductive success can persist in a species. He came to this conclusion when observing the incredible diversity of local populations of Hawaiian land snails (Achatinella) and their seemingly random variation under apparently identical environmental conditions.

Darwin's illustration of an evolutionary tree, from The Origin of Species (1859).

In 1888, Gulick introduced terms for the two patterns of evolution that are observed: the term monotypic evolution (previously called transformation) – what today we define as “the change in gene frequencies within populations over generations” – and the term polytypic evolution (previously called diversification) – simultaneous processes, like the multiplication of species, manifested by different populations and incipient species. Darwin had been far more interested in diversification, particularly during the early years of his career. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, in contrast, had been almost exclusively interested in transformational evolution. He stressed change in time, emphasizing transformation from what was commonly called the lower to the more perfect groups, but his mechanism – “use and disuse” and the “inheritance of acquired characteristics” – was, it turned out, erroneous.

Monotypic (left) v. polytypic evolution.

George Romanes later (1897) adopted Gulick’s terminology, distinguishing between monotypic evolution as “transformation in time” and polytypic evolution as “transformation in space.” In other words, monotypic evolution deals with the “vertical” (usually adaptive) component of change in time, while polytypic evolution deals with the “horizontal” component of change. [Today, monotypic evolution is also known as "nonbranching" evolution, or anagenesis, and polytypic evolution is also known as "branching" evolution, or cladogenesis.] This insight was largely forgotten again after 1897, until it was revived during development of the synthetic theory of evolution in the 1940s.

Gulick extended his ideas to societal evolution in human beings, which he thought was dependent on altruistic motives and a spirit of cooperation.

References:

March 10, 1959 (a Tuesday)

1 March 1959: Priests lead American Kalmuks in protest against Communist religious persecution of Tibetans at the United Nations building in New York.

On this date, Tibetans banded together in revolt, surrounding the summer palace of the Dalai Lama in defiance of Chinese occupation forces.

China’s occupation of Tibet began nearly a decade before, in October 1950, when troops from its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded the country, barely one year after the Communists gained full control of mainland China. The Tibetan government gave into Chinese pressure the following year, signing a treaty that ensured the power of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the country’s spiritual leader, over Tibet’s domestic affairs. Resistance to the Chinese occupation built steadily over the next several years, including a revolt in several areas of eastern Tibet in 1956. By December 1958, rebellion was simmering in Lhasa, the capital, and the PLA command threatened to bomb the city if order was not maintained.

The March 1959 uprising in Lhasa was triggered by fears of a plot to kidnap the Dalai Lama and take him to Beijing. When Chinese military officers invited His Holiness to visit the PLA headquarters for a theatrical performance and official tea, he was told he must come alone, and that no Tibetan military bodyguards or personnel would be allowed past the edges of the military camp. On March 10, 300,000 loyal Tibetans surrounded Norbulinka Palace, preventing the Dalai Lama from accepting the PLA’s invitation. By March 17, Chinese artillery was aimed at the palace, and the Dalai Lama was evacuated to neighboring India. Fighting broke out in Lhasa two days later, with Tibetan rebels hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. Early on March 21, the Chinese began shelling Norbulinka, slaughtering tens of thousands of men, women, and children still camped outside. In the aftermath, the PLA cracked down on Tibetan resistance, executing the Dalai Lama’s guards and destroying Lhasa’s major monasteries along with thousands of their inhabitants.

Chinese authorities have interpreted the uprising as a revolt of the Tibetan elite against Communist reforms that were improving the lot of Tibetan “serfs”. Tibetan and third party sources, on the other hand, have usually interpreted it as a popular uprising against the alien Chinese presence. Historian Tsering Shakya has argued that it was a popular revolt against both the Chinese and the Lhasa government, which was perceived as failing to protect the authority and safety of the Dalai Lama from the Chinese.

China’s stranglehold on Tibet and its brutal suppression of separatist activity has continued in the decades following the unsuccessful uprising. Tens of thousands of Tibetans followed their leader to India, where the Dalai Lama has long maintained a government-in-exile in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The 2010 novel The Magician of Lhasa was banned in China for its portrayal of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

The 2003 film Tibet – Cry of the Snow Lion is an extraordinary documentary about the ongoing destruction of an enlightened 1,700 year old culture.
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March 8, 1841 (a Monday)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

On this date, jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the namesake and son of a famed physician. Holmes graduated from Harvard in 1861 and immediately enlisted in the Army, where he was seriously wounded three times.

After the Civil War, Holmes entered Harvard Law School, where his best friend was William James. The New York Times obituary on Holmes reported that the two young men went to Europe together: “while James went on, continuing in Germany his search for the meanings of the universe, Holmes decided that ‘maybe the universe is too great a swell to have a meaning,’ that his task was to ‘make his own universe livable,’ and he dove deep into the study of the law.”

Holmes was admitted to the bar in 1866. He became coeditor of the American Law Review in 1870. Holmes wrote his legal treatise, The Common Law, in 1881, a 15-year labor predicated on his belief that “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” His recodification of the law from religious foundations to modern jurisprudence was pivotal to the evolution of legal scholarship. Holmes urged “judicial restraint,” or the divorcing of private views from legal opinions.

Scales of Justice

Scales of Justice

A professor at Harvard Law School, he was appointed at age 41 as an associate justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Court, eventually becoming chief justice. President Teddy Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1902. He retired in 1932, as the oldest judge to serve. Holmes earned the sobriquet, “The Great Dissenter,” for his many famous dissents, which have long since been adopted as mainstream by courts. Among his well-known legal adages: “The mind of the bigot is like the pupil of the eye: the more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.” “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater. . .” “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” Holmes, like his father, was a Unitarian, who believed in a god, but was creedless. In his obituary in 1935, the New York Times quoted Holmes:

When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.

March 7, 1854 (a Tuesday)

Charles Darwin (1855)

On this date, Charles Darwin was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London.