’tis the season to ponder descent with modification

Here in Sewanee, we take our dead, bearded patriarchs seriously. Socrates, Shakespeare, Darwin, Muir, God, God Jr., and Santa Claus all have their devotees and proselytes. Never mind that some are more convincingly bearded than others (biologists note with satisfaction that Shakespeare’s ratty bristles are unimpressive next to Darwin’s substantial cloud), the important thing is that these men are dressed right. With the Advent part of the Advent semester upon us, it was time to give Darwin some bling. So, today, on the final Biodiversity Friday of the semester, my Biodiversity class visited Darwin’s Garden one last time and arrayed our Victorian gentleman in seasonal finery.

Darwin’s Garden is located in the atrium at the center of Spencer Hall. It is a celebration of life’s history, with a walkway divided into the various periods in Earth’s history, starting with the Cambrian. Darwin was sculpted by Sewanee Biology graduate Jeanie Stephenson who did a fabulous job of including many of Darwin’s favorite creatures in her sculpture: finches, orchids, Galapagos tortoises, fossils, and even an earthworm on his shoe. Darwin’s bulldog stands close by.

We’ve used the garden throughout the semester to get a sense of how events in life’s history relate to each other and to understand the passage of time. It was fun to cap off the semester with, well, a cap for our guide through this journey, Mr. Darwin, the evolutionary biologists’ Virgil.

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