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Hero Versus Hero

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14 comments to Hero Versus Hero

  • marjasieni

    Passing on the misery, eh? :D I read the blog entry in great anticipation of what the grand conclusion would be and then… nothing.

    From a non-American perspective Darwin matters quite a bit more than Lincoln. Darwin’s discovery affects how people view life in general, while Lincoln is more of a historical figure nowadays (as you pointed out).

    The article misses a key similarity between the two: bushy beards.

  • petrucio

    “What might have happened if one of these men had not been born? Very quickly, the balance tips in Lincoln’s favor.”

    You people never learn. Darwin changed the WORLD! And many other revolutions in thinking are by-products of his work. Lincoln changed (or avoided change) of one country. His contribution to abolish slavery can’t be underplayed, but I’m not so sure about keeping the US United.

    Perhaps I’m not so comfortable with that much fire power concentrated on that much wooed and religious people. It’s probably futile to ponder the likely consequences of such a scenario, and they may be disastrous; or maybe not.

    But enough with the “US = World” already.

  • i find such cage-matches to be utterly pointless. why do we need to have a pissing contest between two titans? why can’t we celebrate their unique contributions to society independently and relish their accomplishments in their true context of the times, rather than in the context of just the other?

  • Martinus

    “Each sets of descriptors for each man are nice and accurate reminders of the seminole moments for each of these figures.”

    I’m thinking you meant “seminal” there.

    Interesting article & blog. It just shows that some comparisons are meaningless. Two great men, no comparison between them.

  • Jim Shaver

    Each sets of descriptors for each man are nice and accurate reminders of the seminole moments for each of these figures.

    I don’t think either Charles Darwin or Abraham Lincoln was an American Indian. Did you mean seminal? :)

    Anyway, I think comparing the relative importance of two of history’s great men is a somewhat pointless task. Not that I’m surprised it made the cover of Newsweek. I mean, look at that whole Laura Day fiasco ( http://www.newsweek.com/id/142632 ). Ah, well, what are ya gonna do?

  • nowoo

    Another minor correction: it should be “citing” instead of “sighting” in two places

  • Rasputin

    The grand unifying theme you’re looking for?

    They both promoted the idea that the apparent differences between us are largely illusory.

  • orDover

    While I think Lincoln was a very important historical figure, I think that the US would have abolished slavery with or without him. As a country, we were pretty late in bringing an end to slavery. All of Europe had already done so, as well as several South American, Central American, and Caribbean countries. The world’s tide was turning against slavery, and it was going to effect the US sooner or later.

    The outcome of the Civil War is a harder thing to consider without Lincoln, but it seems that the strength of the Northern armies coupled with their tactically skilled generals did a lot more to win the war than Lincoln’s unification speeches.

    Anyway, my vote is for Darwin. There is a reason he is remembered and not Wallace.

  • Perhaps there was a subtext of the article that I’m not getting but when I come accross an X vs Y type scenario I don’t think of the aim as being how to show the protagonists as alike or connected but their relative strengths and weaknesses.
    If the question is Hulk vs Batman, then I don’t say Batman is quite strong but Hulk is stronger, see how they are similar. I say Batman will use his intellect and Hulk will use his strength but in the end Batman will win.
    Perhaps petrucio is right that it’s Americocentrism that led to the conclusion of this article, but given his influence I can’t help wondering what the consequences for the world would have been without Lincon.

    Darwin still wins in my book though.

  • Nigel

    I saw the cover of Newsweek, and thought it was one of the most bone headed comparisons I have ever scene. Okay, they were born on the same day. Okay, they were both celebrated and loathed in their time. Which is more important -how can you really calculate it. Lincoln saved the Union through great political skill, courage, and never ceasing determination. Would slavery have ended without him in North America -most likely. Would liberal democratic republican forms of government have spread around the globe — probably not as fast.

    Darwin was a revolution in thinking about the place of man, animals, and its ‘creation.’ Would someone else had brought it up -sure. Who was more important -if you were a slave in 1865, I think Lincoln. In the realms of science of learning Darwin.

    Comparing the two in importance -just dumb. Compare Lincoln to Churchill, or Bismark but to Darwin?? It must be a slow day at Newsweek.

  • I hate to disagree, but Jones is right if we are to consider each man’s relative impact on history. Darwin was inevitably standing on the shoulders of giants, since that is how science works. His contributions may have been great, but if Darwin was never born, someone else would have discovered evolution. Perhaps not in the same way or at the same time, but eventually it would happen and, judging from the work his contemporaries were doing, probably sooner than later. Meanwhile, if Lincoln was never born, would someone else have filled his place? That seems far less likely, so I think that Jones is right as far as the historical comparison goes. It doesn’t matter if we consider the civil war to be “ancient history,” Lincoln has already shaped the future and set it irrevocably down a path that may have been radically different had he never existed. I don’t think that you can make a similar claim about Darwin.

    Of course, history is only one comparison. You may not give a damn about Lincoln if you’re not American, so Darwin’s relevance is far more universal in that respect. But really, I think it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The headline is obviously meant as an attention-grabber, and I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to explore it further. Although thinking about alternate historical timelines is certainly fun.

  • (I will be picking up a copy this summer as soon as I complete my book on Benjamin Franklin.)

    You’re writing a book on Franklin?

  • Steve Page

    In his book “Making History”, Stephen Fry explores a fictional reality where Hitler never existed, and concludes that the problems within Germany – loss of pride after the First World War, crippling debt, rampant anti-Semitism – would all have existed without Hitler and could possibly have been exploited even more ruthlessly by whoever was there in his place. Whilst I don’t intend to do down either Lincoln or Darwin (for both of them deservedly rank amongst the greats in human history, IMHO), neither of them existed within a vacuum. The zeitgeist plays a big part in shaping the situation that allows the greats (or the infamous) to flourish.

  • tk42

    Evan, I disagree with your conclusions about the article. I thought the comparison was an interesting one: each man was responsible for authoring an upheaval of long-standing divisions, showing that all men (Lincoln) and all organisms (Darwin) are more similar than superficial differences suggest.

    True, Darwin’s revolution is “bigger,” but Lincoln’s is arguably more relevant for social/political day-to-day concerns. True, we’re still dealing with the fallout of Darwin’s revolution, but we (in America, at least) are also still dealing with the fallout of slavery and segregation. While the former struggle seems more interesting to those of us who loves science and despise creationism, the latter struggle is a lot more pressing for a lot of Americans.

    Darwin was terrific, but no reasonable person doubts that we’d understand evolution by natural selection today if he never lived. Without Lincoln, we’d probably all have repudiated slavery by now, but it’s conceivable that the union would have fallen apart. To non-Americans, that matters too; even if you dislike USA, you can’t deny that its absence as a unified power would have drastically changed the course of modern history.

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