Why should we read Darwin?

Imatge de Martí Domínguez al seu despatx.

Martí Domínguez, director of Mètode, coordinated Darwiniana during the Darwin year.

The year 2009 marked the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Mètode celebrated with this monograph, which delved into different aspects of the naturalist’s research, and also with the publication of his Autobiography, previously unpublished in Catalan.

Certainly, this occasion revived the editorial interest in Darwin, and several editions and re-editions followed it. Among them, I would like to mention two very ambitious projects developed at the time: the publication of his complete works by, on the one hand, Laetoli and the Public University of Navarre and, on the other, CSIC and the Catarata publishing house. In those years, very important Darwinian thinking works were published in Spain, like La fecundación de las orquídeas (Laetoli), La expresión de las emociones (Laetoli), Las formas de las flores (Laetoli), or La variación de los animales y las plantas bajo domesticación (Catarata).

«The possibility to have Darwin’s complete works in Spanish seems more and more difficult and uncertain as time goes by; this is, without a doubt, unfortunate»

Unfortunately, with the advent of the economic crisis, these two projects were abandoned. The possibility to have Darwin’s complete works in Spanish seems more and more difficult and uncertain as time goes by; this is, without a doubt, unfortunate, and also a serious mistake. In this sense, there might not exist sufficient support from to these initiatives from the research community. The editors have often been burdened too much with the weight of publication and, despite having institutional support, it was not profitable for them. It might seem surprising, maybe even a contradictio in terminis, but biologists do not read Darwin.

This statement seems too blunt, we need to take it with a grain of salt. But if Darwin’s books were requested by the students of science degrees or their professors, the abandonment by the involved publishers could possibly have been avoided. Reading Darwin looks like a pleasant hobby that does not add much to modern research education, but thinking that is a big mistake. Reading Darwin opens many research paths, teaches how to face methodological problems, how to compare ideas and advance research projects. Surprisingly, Darwin is still very current.

With the publication of Mètode’s issue, we delved into all these topics, and also the experiences of the Down scientist. It is quite a wonderful issue, illustrated by the great artist Willy Ramos, who expressly made several exceptional watercolours. Therefore, we hope we do not need to wait another hundred years to talk about Darwin again. Yet, as time goes by, it would not surprise me at all.

Hivernacle Down

Charles Darwin has been, without doubt, one of the most transcendental scientists of all times. Nevertheless, some researchers have objected that his work is based more on the collection of data taken from other sources than fruit of his own research.

© Mètode 2017
Editor-in-chief of Mètode.