His lecture was titled “Note From Evolution: Thanks! And So Long to All the Fishes.” With an academic preparing to extol the work of Charles Darwin in front of a group of humanists, I figured I had connected all the dots about his motive. I was wrong.

After reading about his upcoming presentation, I thought a university professor was really going to let Christians have it.


Andrew Petto is a senior lecturer in the department of biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He accepted an invitation by the Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland to speak at the group’s Darwin Day event Feb. 9 at the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, Ill.


His lecture was titled “Note From Evolution: Thanks! And So Long to All the Fishes.” With an academic preparing to extol the work of Charles Darwin in front of a group of humanists, I figured I had connected all the dots about his motive.


The fish is an icon used to symbolize Christianity. Since the 1980s, we’ve seen a proliferation of car emblems of fish with the word Jesus written inside of some, as well as fish with feet sporting the name Darwin. Given his farewell to “all the fishes,” I was interested to see where Petto intended to go with his presentation.


It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Petto’s talk was much more professional than I imagined. He touched on a debate about how living organisms should be classified while playing off Douglas Adams’ book “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish,” which is part of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” trilogy.


So, I had jumped to a conclusion before examining all the facts, and this is what many people have done when it comes to Darwin’s work. The term “survival of the fittest,” for one, is commonly attributed to Darwin, but this distinction goes to British philosopher Herbert Spencer.


This phrase has had unfortunate consequences since Darwin’s work on descent with modification was initially published. Darwin was laying out how the history of survival among living creatures had played out, not how public policies could be used to help one group and hurt another. Social Darwinism proposed ideas that Darwin never would have condoned.


But opponents of evolution have used this misconception to detract from Darwin’s work, and Petto said this isn’t good. His contribution has since been enhanced by work in other fields, such as genetics, and it has tied together all the life sciences.


From studying medicine to uncovering fossils, our ever-emerging picture of evolution has altered our world for the better. Darwin’s work continues to enlighten and challenge us.


Jerry Moore is the opinions editor for Suburban Life Publications. Contact him at (630) 368-8930 or jmoore@mysuburbanlife.com.