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Pilgrimage: On a Visit to Galápagos Islands, Paul Nelson Concedes, “Darwin Was Right!”


Well, that is in one limited sense. On a new ID the Future episode rounding out our Darwin Day coverage, Dr. Nelson, the philosopher of biology and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, is “deliberately provocative” with host Andrew McDiarmid. “Darwin was right,” says Nelson. What?! He clarifies: “Living things have histories and we need to take those histories into account when we come to explain why they are the way they are when we find them.”

Paul recently got back from a pilgrimage to the Galápagos Islands, that “scientific Mecca,” where he had the opportunity to experience directly something that Charles Darwin also noted: the remarkable tameness of the Galápagos animals, so different from the fauna we encounter almost anywhere else, including our own backyards. The latter mostly flee from human contact. Not so the residents of the Galápagos, which you could easily reach out and pet if that were not forbidden by the rules of the National Park and by responsible biological ethics. It’s the history of the locale that explains the difference. So yes, in that respect, Charles Darwin was right!

Following in Darwin’s footsteps, Dr. Nelson judges the islands to be, not the letdown he half-feared, but an awesome place, deserving of many superlatives. It’s a really fun and charming conversation. Listen to the podcast or download it here.

Photo: Male tortoise trying to climb the wall between his pen, populated by males only, and the female tortoise pen next door. The location is the Charles Darwin Research Station, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos, Ecuador, by Paul Nelson, March 2019.