By Teagan Durkin || Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of the author.
If you visited the Martin Library between February 10th and 24th, you would have seen a special display. On loan from Former Franklin & Marshall College board chair Rita Bonchek, Ph.D. P ’91 and Lawrence I. Bonchek, M.D. P ’91 were several first-edition Charles Darwin monographs. This generous loan corresponded to last week’s Common Hour, On the Origin of Species: Historical and Biographical Reflections on a Paradigm-Changing Text, presented by Dr. James Strick, Professor & Program Chair of Science, Technology, and Society, and Dr. Daniel Ardia, Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and examined Darwin’s text within a contemporary historical standpoint. Tegan Baldini ‘23, a member of the Common Hour Committee, expressed that the creation of this common hour was a collaborative one: Dr. Anne Stachura first discussed general Common Hour topics, Scott Vine proposed bringing the concept to Common Hour, Lawrence Bonchek approached F&M with several manuscripts, and the panel was assembled along with Dr. Strick and Dr. Ardia, with Dr. Strick thinking to pair the lecture with the twenty-first annual Darwin Day. For individuals interested in participating within such a collaborative environment between students, faculty, and professional staff, see the end of this email for how to join the Common Hour Committee.
Common Hour began with an introduction by Scott Vine, the director of the College Library, and was followed by opening remarks from Lawrence Bonchek. A particularly strong comparison was drawn between an understanding of plate tectonics, given the horrific earthquakes impacting Türkiye and Syria, and controversies surrounding Darwin’s theory of evolution. Theories of Plate tectonics have only been broadly known for 60 years, while Darwin’s theory has been known for over 160 years; only one is highly controversial and contested.
Dr. Strick discussed the historical, cultural, and lingering impact of the Origin of Species, and cited a particularly important change between published editions. The elephant in the room regarding Darwin’s work at the time of its publication was the presence of spirituality within the sciences, especially when answering the question of, “from where does Life originate?” followed by a tremendous push to remove such influences from academic works. On page 484 of the first edition, Darwin indicates in a throwaway sentence that all life originates from, “one primordial form.” This was a scandalous statement in 1859, and even more scandalous nowadays. This prompted so much public outcry that in his second edition, that sentence on page 484 was one of the few sections Darwin strategically edited. Dr. Strick touched on several other topics, such as Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ theory which was shaped by his limited social blinders, and the similar social blinders within Darwin’s critics against that theory.
Dr. Ardia touched on the transformative five-year journey Darwin experienced by collecting data samples that eventually created his evolutionary theory. The necessity of understanding this evolutionary theory within the present day is evident; for example, the evolution of infectious diseases, especially given the past several years, highlights the desperate need for a thorough comprehension of how viruses adapt to certain conditions, and the consequences of such adaptations. Such exposure to the nature of viral evolution, as well as the relevancy of this topic, illustrates what Common Hour strives for: exposure to a variety of disciplines through meaningful discourse. Next week’s Common Hour— Canaries in the Coal Mine: Global LGBTQI+ Rights in the 21st Century— promises similar enthralling material on topics relevant both on campus and within the broader narrative.
After a riveting Q&A, Common Hour concluded with a well-timed joke on fecal matter transplants— props to Nicole Ramos, the ASL interpreter, for gracefully handling that translation—, and encouragement for students and faculty to propose Common Hour topics, or serve on the Common Hour Committee. Regarding selecting upcoming Common Hour topics, a variety of disciplines, a diversity of speakers, and a multitude of interests are encouraged within applications. If you feel inspired to propose a Common Hour topic, access the following links along with a selected faculty member to sponsor the topic:
If you would like to work on the Common Hour Committee and have the opportunity to personally collaborate with faculty and professional staff, contact Caroline Fresh (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Teagan Durkin is a Staff Writer. Her email is email@example.com.