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Great Dudes in History: Charles Darwin

Section: Great Dudes in History  | Date: February 10th, 2009

dude darwin by Rev. Crash Winfield

What makes a dude?

Is it remaining true to yourself when phony people demand you be true to them instead?

Is it hitching your wagons westward to become privy to the new shit, rather than living in the past?

Is it engaging in an enterprise just because it’s natural and zesty, rather than for some potential finder’s fee, handoff, or handout?

Is that what makes a dude?

Well, then, if Charles Darwin wasn’t a dude, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

In honor of his 200th birthday this Thursday, February 12, let us "naturally select" Charles Darwin as a great dude in history. The more we know about his life, the more we can consider it proof of the Theory of Dudevolution.

for he's a jolly dude fellow What’s a Hee-ro?
There’s a tendency for human societies to cast great visionaries in a heroic light — purporting that if it hadn’t been for them, for instance, we’d all be sitting on rock sofas watching sitcoms on a wooden TV with sock puppets inside it. That is: through hard work and determination, folks like Thomas Edison, Jesus and the guy who invented American cheese changed our lives for the better.

Truth is, most of them just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The myth of the "heroic theory of invention" has been hotly contested for a while now. In fact, Edison stole his biggest ideas from his contemporaries, Jesus borrowed philosophy from the Buddhists (maybe) and others, and American cheese was actually invented in Switzerland.

Charles Darwin himself just narrowly beat Alfred Wallace to the punch in crafting his theory of natural selection. What we call Darwinism could very well have been called Wallaceism. And for that at least, we should be grateful that Darwin got his ism in there first. It just sounds better.

Nikola Tesla All this points to the fact that "the man for his time and place," in the parlance of our religion, is a phrase which might warn us against taking "heroism" too seriously. When in the beginning of The Big Lebowski the Stranger says "What’s a hee-ro?" he means that perhaps we shouldn’t look at the products of a man’s life, but at the quality of his attitude. This in mind, though Thomas Edison may have gotten all the glory, it was the guy he stole many of his ideas from (Nikola Tesla, a far cooler fella) whom we might choose to honor instead.

Fortunately for fans of Darwinism, Chuck D. was a dude of the highest degree. In fact, out of the most celebrated visionaries of modern times (Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Saussure, Michael Jackson), Darwin was by far one of the dudeliest. High in the running. Up there with Einstein. Not exactly a lightweight.

The Descent of the Dude
As Rev. Dennis Gillman noted in his excellent article "Dude School," one’s dudeist nature tends to emerge in opposition to one’s schooling, rather than as a result of it. It should come as no surprise, then, that Darwin was at first a pretty horrible student, failing first in medical studies, then in religious studies. It was only upon developing an incidental fondness for collecting beetles that his genius began to show itself — hardly the field his status-lovin’ parents had in mind for him. 

lebowskifest los angeles 07 - by ben greenAs a result of his budding interest and subsequent talent in the natural sciences, Darwin was selected by a professor to join a two year voyage around the world aboard the HMS Beagle, yet in the capacity of a tag-a-long intern rather than an official scientist. Against his father’s reactionary objections he jumped at the chance. Then the two year trip stretched into five. This marathon cruise afforded Darwin the greatest luxury a bright young dude could ever wish for: immense freedom to think and observe and reflect.

What he reflected shined so brightly that the young darwinworld is still on fire as a result.

Did Darwin set out to become a hee-ro? Of course not. He merely traveled with an open mind and let the world offer itself unmasked. Instead of working towards a goal and letting it make his thinking about the case get uptight, he "listened" so that he might learn something. In doing so, he figured out the biggest mystery of all time: How we all got here. There never was any creation. Life created itself, man.

Yet as Darwin’s fame grew, so did the pressures upon him, and the poor dude became badly overworked. For the rest of his life he would be plagued by illness as a result of the burden of developing and defending his theories. Though loved ones tried to get him to take er darwin boatingeasy, there were too many strands in old Dudewin’s head. We’re sympathizing here.

Let this be a warning to dudeist visionaries everywhere — don’t work so hard. Wallace would have picked up the slack anyway. Darwin himself was non-competitive with Wallace, encouraging him, collaborating with him, and even helping him financially. They could have made a good team, even made it to the finals together. "Fuck it, Darwin," Wallace might have said, "Let’s go boating."

The Theory of Dudevolution
Too often people learn a bit about Darwinism and they think it’s not a very nice theory. They associate it with Social Darwinism — a theory Darwin had nothing to do with, which posited that some people were scientifically "better" than others. (The Nazis had a field day with that idea.) Today Social Darwinism is invoked to justify competitive behavior and an "every man for himself" happy birthday darwinoutlook. But this is a bad misreading of Darwin’s works. His theory of natural selection applied only to the realm of biology, not of psychology and sociology. Darwin saw the danger in such a confusion of categories and warned against it, condemming racism, slavery and social engineering.

However, if we must extrapolate Darwinism into the psychological realm (for poetic purposes), we might look back at the man’s own formative years: Charles was ill-adapted to his school environment, but put in the right environment, his mind and attitudes were able to evolve rapidly. Sadly, his success thrust into the limelight — an environment that was unfit for a man of his fragile constitution. woody allen sleeperNevertheless, he lived a lengthy (if unwell) life, and left behind a great legacy, one which sprang not from a desire to be famous, rich, or heroic, but from a wish merely to get to the bottom of a compelling mystery.

It’s a good thing a dude like Darwin was the one to figure it out. If some Edisonofabitch had done it, evolution would have gotten trademarked and we’d all end up reproducing and evolving by machine. 100% electronic. Wave of the future, dude.

darwin shadesAnd so, in a nutshell, here is the Theory of Dudevolution: while the human paraquat might get all the attention and the money and the glory, it’s great dudes who actually figure everything out and help make the world a better place to live in, though they often get a bit dinged up for their trouble. Indeed, poor Charles is still being kicked around today, more than a century after his death by people who don’t actually understand his ideas.

So on the anniversary of his birth, 200 years ago, let us honor him as one of us. Down through the ages, from great apes to great dudes — that’s how the whole evolutionary comedy keeps perpetuatin’ itself. Across the genetic strands of time.

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30 Responses to “Great Dudes in History: Charles Darwin”

  1. The Pete on February 10th, 2009 10:20 am

    Hell yeah!

    Darwin was one limber minded dude, and a nice guy with it.

  2. The Arch Dudeship on February 10th, 2009 2:54 pm

    Right on, Crash. And let’s not forget, had there been no Darwin there would have been no Lancelot Link and the Evolution Revolution. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmTmvBzNFY4

    Glad to see you mention Tesla, too. He and another Great Dude in History, Mark Twain, were buds. Tesla was also very influenced by Vedanta (http://www.teslasociety.com/tesla_and_swami.htm)

  3. The Arch Dudeship on February 10th, 2009 2:59 pm

    Here’s the Great Dude link for Twain:


    The article’s peppered with question marks from when technical darkness warshed over the Dudespaper.

  4. The Dudely Lama on February 10th, 2009 3:01 pm

    Shit yeah, the question marks. Man that’s a bummer. Still got a lot of cleaning up to do. I need to hire a Pilar.

  5. The Dudely Lama on February 10th, 2009 3:57 pm

    the twain article no longer has health problems!

  6. Irreverend on February 10th, 2009 11:01 pm

    Much like Darwin, Tesla was a man for his time and place. A little uptight, but it really worked for him. And there’s that whole father-of-alternating-current thing, y’know, that keeps the modern world hummin’ along. Definitely not a lightweight. He also pioneered radio, which had its good (popularizing Creedence) and it bad points (popularizing the fucking Eagles).

    Just goes to show you, all things can bring about good and bad. Even extremely cool dudes. Hmmm, lost my train of thought there…

  7. Irreverend on February 10th, 2009 11:02 pm

    Make that “ITS bad points”. I need a nap.

  8. The Arch Dudeship on February 11th, 2009 1:16 am

    What the fuck are you talking about, Irreverend?

  9. The Dudely Lama on February 11th, 2009 2:56 am


  10. The Dudely Lama on February 11th, 2009 9:38 am

    Hey, there’s a great article on Darwin in the Economist this week:

  11. Irreverend on February 12th, 2009 4:48 am

    Whoops, lost track of a couple of strands there, sorry about that. :D

  12. naturedude on February 13th, 2009 5:16 pm

    Great Article! You make Dudeman Nature proud – nice to see you included Wallace in there – he was certainly under – credited and talk about a behind the scenes dude doing all the work for non of the glory. Not sure Darwin ever would have presented his controversial theory without the threat of that crazy kid Wallace on his heels, but that is just like my opinion, man. There is a great account of the relationship between the two of them in ‘Song of the Dodo’ – a great read!

  13. McNuggetz on February 23rd, 2009 7:21 am

    That’s just like your opinion man. I don’t think that Darwin was very dude like at all. The Darwins were all into eugenics and inbreeding and um that’s very un-dude like. And evolution has never been proven on a macro level, like sharks don’t turn into rabbits man, no matter how much time passes. Plus Darwin knew nothing about DNA and how complex life is within a single cell. Steve Irwin, Cody Lundin, and Manny Puig are way cooler nature dudes.

  14. The Dudely Lama on February 23rd, 2009 7:42 am

    mcnuggetz, you have to get privy to the new shit, man.

    there’s no such thing as total unquestionable proof in science, but evolution on the “macro” level (as you call it) is pretty much in the bag, evidence- and proof-wise. not sure where you got your info but it was almost surely from the creationist camp, not science. sharks don’t turn into rabbits as you say, but a proto-shark turned into a proto-rabbit. that is, they shared a common genetic compeer.

    how could darwin know about dna? it was discovered by watson and crick like 100 years later! the discovery of dna helped support darwin’s theories, by the way. so what’s your fucking point, walter?

    also, darwin wasn’t into eugenics at all. if you read the article more closely you’ll see that that was addressed directly. that was a bunch of fucking fascists perverting the message, man.

    finally, not sure which darwinists you’re referring to but i’m pretty sure nobody with half a brain cell ever said inbreeding was cool.

    sorry mcnuggetz, but you’re out of your element.

  15. McNuggetz on February 23rd, 2009 2:45 pm

    Yeah it’s true Darwin married his first cousin, Emma Wedgewood. The Darwins and the Wedgewoods intermarried for several generations. Things got ugly real quick with the Darwood family. But don’t take my word for it look into Darwin’s own natural selection yourself. While your at it check out the flagellum motor aka bacteria tail. The flagellum motor is considered by some to be the most perfect motor known to man. It’s got like 40 protein parts, if one part is missing it doesn’t spin man. If it’s assemblied out of order it doesn’t spin. If the proteins are not created right it doesn’t spin. There are too many factors that have to come to together for it to be explainable by the randomness of evolution man. You might want to read up on protein folding while your at it, if your really interested in the new shit. The protein alphabet and the language of life cannot be explained by evolution and it’s random foundations. Don’t get caught up in the hype of some old inbreeder that thought he had discovered the sercrets of life. Life is way too complex dude.

  16. The Dudely Lama on February 23rd, 2009 3:07 pm

    ha ha. i get your point now about the interbreeding. but just because Darwin didn’t select very well personally doesn’t besmirch his theories.

    and i slouch corrected, you’re way more in your element than i gave you credit for. you came off sounding like someone from the Kansas school board, now you sound like a much smarter feller than that other mcnuggetz.

    of course, it seems you’re firmly in the intelligent design camp by championing the view that the “irreducible complexity” of the bacterial flagellum is a puzzle that science will never be able to explain via evolutionary theory.

    however, if science just gave up and cried “God did it” every time it tripped over a two-by-four, we’d still be living in mud huts, eatin’ crawdad.

    which, i believe is actually an argument in your favor. those mud hut crawdad days might have been pretty easygoing. except when there was no crawdad and we had to eat sand.

  17. The Dudely Lama on February 23rd, 2009 3:15 pm

    by the way, here’s richard dawkins’ response to that argument:


  18. naturedude on February 28th, 2009 10:16 pm

    I never could understand why the obvious evidence for evolution is such a threat to the God concept. Obviously, the theory of natural selection and evolution are not perfect. The world is very complex and there is no necessary survival advantage for humans to fully understand how it is put together but at least evolution is an attempt to figure it out.
    There are a lot of hard to explain complexities out there that would be tough to buy when considering only random mutation. Yet, you have to think on a time scale of 100s of millions of years, of what works staying around and what does not getting weeded out. There is also the phenomena of ‘self organization’ in our universe where organic and inorganic systems come together in a way that seems very much less then random.
    Now, if you want to say that god is behind the scenes tweaking with evolution and creating those really intricate things that we can’t explain with current theory, fine but lets not refute all the hard work, thought and observation that has gone into deciphering how nature works in the process – evolution is going on out there everyday – look at your dog – humans selected specific traits to make breeds as different as a Great Dane and a Dachshund – if you let all the breeds of dog breed together you would end up with a wolfish looking creature – the human imposed selection lifted – why can’t changing conditions in nature impose the same kind of selective pressure? it’s not that crazy of a concept – actually it is exactly how it works out there.
    So, does this mean there is no god? I don’t think it even threatens the concept unless you believe in some literal translation of the bible which, lets face it, is a bit out dated if you are relying on it for up to date facts.

  19. Irish Monk on March 1st, 2009 12:03 am

    Not to mention that the creation story in Genesis chapter 1 completely contradicts the version in chapter 2.
    In chapter 1, God made Adam and Eve on the 6th day. In chapter 2, “the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field” BEFORE realizing that he wasn’t sexually compatible with any of them. Only after Adam did what zoologists still haven’t had enough time to do, did God perform the ribcage c-section on Adam so that he’d be able to fuck himself.
    You’d think that such a glaring contradiction on the second page (to say nothing of the hundreds that come later) would have rendered literalism impossible, but I guess we should never underestimate the mind’s ability to compartmentalize logic and faith into twain synapses that never shall meet.

  20. The Dudely Lama on March 1st, 2009 3:02 am

    good points, but whether or not the bible is true has little bearing on whether evolution works as a theory. the established western religions have backpedaled so much over the centuries when it comes to doctrine that they’ve really lost all credibility in rational argument.

    bottom line is that the intelligent design community is clutching at straws, desperate for a loophole to cling to. once in a while a muscular thinker like this michael behe cat comes along and throws a wrench into the system with his “irreducible” flagellum hypothesis. but it’s just a grain of sand which (if history is anything to go by) will produce another pearl of wisdom and insight in the scientific community when scientists without agendas attack the problem.

  21. naturedude on March 2nd, 2009 5:52 pm

    Well stated Dudely and I totally agree. It’s amazing how polarizing this issue has become in our culture. I really enjoyed the link to Dawkin’s book as well. He really holds no punches about it and it is about time someone did just that.

  22. Chasmanian Dude on June 6th, 2009 12:45 am

    Darwin’s shortcomings don’t negate his dudeness. People who deny evolution rely on superstition and mythology to explain nature. They have a hard time seeing the physical evidence without religious bias. That was Darwin’s success. He pushed past his preconceptions to see the truth. As a former fundie, I’ve seen the truth now as well. Regardless of my lack of belief in gods and devils, I still want to be a dude to others as Christdude, Buddhadude, and Gandhidude would have wanted.

  23. J.J. Vicars on July 27th, 2010 5:55 am

    I’m with McNuggetz on this one. How can a group such as this champion a guy who basically said life is a mere coincidence devoid of any meaning? I thought Dudeism was influenced by Taoism? Typical Western duality of God/noGod. Problem is “God” is still thought of as “the invisible man who lives in the sky”. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts and something we can never completely comprehend. The other problem is literal translation; religion is supposed to be metaphor to guide personal experience, not historical fact. Joseph Campbell did great work in this area but of course reactionaries won’t hear of it, still gonna argue over whether or not there’s an invisible man.

    The whole thing is just another part of Man’s feeling of superiority. Whether through religion or evolution humamns still think they’re at the top of the heap. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Noody shits in their own backyard like this species. If anything, we’re collectively at the bottom of the heap for arrogantly making such waste of our potential.

  24. The Dudespaper on July 27th, 2010 7:27 am

    Hey JJ
    You disappoint me! How could you say that Darwin said that life was a mere coincidence devoid of any meaning?

    I find it infinitely puzzling that people fine more meaning in a top-down approach to explain the world than a bottom-up one. For me the bottom up explanation is a tale of true adventure and beauty, and the notion that there is an organizing top-down principle to explain the world is hopelessly simplistic and dull.

    Taoism is far more in line with Darwin and the theory of evolution than any creationist ever could be. Taoism supports the notion that there is a flow and development to life – not that it is predetermined, but that it unfolds naturally and in a myriad number of ways, all of them ultimately good, but not preordained.

    Evolution in fact showed that man is vehemently not at the top of the pyramid, but a side branch of a growing bush.

    It’s a shame that the actual poetry of the theory of evolution isn’t something that people were taught in school or encouraged to discuss openly. The consequence is that most people don’t actually understand what it’s all about. It’s far more beautiful, fascinating and complicated than the talking heads on TV would have you believe. It’s not a linear process with man on the top. It is in many ways in line with the mythological understanding of the world purveyed by Joseph Campbell – it’s a journey of heroic genes.

    But then, what’s a hee-ro? That’s the real question.

  25. J.J. Vicars on July 27th, 2010 7:46 am

    I’m not surprised my response would be interpreted that way. My comment makes no sense when still stuck on the duality or creationism-or-not. I made no mention at all of “top-down organization” nor did I use the word ‘preordained’. The organization I’m talking about, if it needs to be labeled this way, would be “in-out”. The ‘invisible world’ creates and supports the ‘visible world’ of space/time. Conciousness creates form. There’s some quantum physics in there.

    Whatever, dude. I added my two cents to the discussion and clarified when deemed necessary. That’s plenty.

  26. The Dudespaper on July 27th, 2010 8:08 am

    hey jj,
    i’d love to hear more about what you’re alluding to. but i’m afraid i don’t quite get the gist. forgive me for possibly misinterpreting your message. it sounded to me like you were taking the transcendental route, which seems to create a dualism all its own – that is, that there is a natural and a supernatural – a transcendent and an imminent. but it still sounds like a top down ghost-in-the-machine approach, at least the way you’ve articulated it. and that’s cool. that’s cool.

    just curious what it is that peeves you about darwin/evolution. that’s the thing i don’t really get.

    your two cents more than welcome, but if you want to throw in a few more cents that’d be great too. it sounds like you’re taking a bit of offense though. no hard intended. this is a family restaurant.

  27. Rev. Ed C on July 27th, 2010 4:03 pm

    Personally, I don’t see why evolution rules out intelligent design. If anything you could make an argument that it proves it. I mean, sure, it’s at odds with Zionist Creationist mythology but the fact is the concept of a god would mean that the complexities of the universe are nothing to them, and, should there be one/some it’s more likely (in my humblist of opinions) that we’d be part of an evolving idea, like working with any toy building blocks, or modelling clay. I don’t see things as a duality, there’s an infinate set of possibilities out there, we just don’t know, dudes.

    I mean, Darwin was a scientist, not a philosopher, he set out to discover what was. Darwin I like, Dawkins really pee’s me off, he’s like the atheist version of a radical cleric (yeah, I consider atheism a religion, I mean, it’s a faith in an ideal, right?), the man’s got a beef against organist religion and he uses people’s modern belief in the lack of godliness as a front for his own shit. Darwin can be a Dude but Dawkins is the Anti-Dude if ever I saw one… man, I can’t abide that guy…

  28. The Dudespaper on July 27th, 2010 6:56 pm

    the evolutionists generally refute that argument by saying that if you can always position some all-powerful explainer a posteriori, then you’re left the realm of rational argument. it only moves the question back by bringing up the question – how did god get there? it’s turtles all the way down. the pastafarians lampoon this idea very well – claiming that any time questions of logic come up that seem to refute the existence of the spaghetti monster, it’s actually his noodly appendage messing with the data to confound us on purpose.

    It should be mentioned of course that evolutionary theory doesn’t really have anything to do with Dudeism. Nor does God. Dudeism makes no claims about theology or science. And this article only argued that Darwin was a dude. In this context, our individual opinions on God and science are just our opinions, man.

    Dudeism is about the poetic and perceived “way” of “making this life significant” (Roger Ames’ translation of the title of the “Tao Te Ching.”) It is fundamentally humanistic. Thus, if questions about God and cosmology and science come up, then they should be looked at only metaphorically or poetically. Their literal truth or falsehood should have no bearing on our Dude worldview. Dontcha think?

  29. The Dudespaper on July 29th, 2010 12:57 am

    sorry, incorrect use of a posteriori. a priori is what i should have said.

  30. Dick on November 27th, 2011 3:08 am

    Great dude, dude! Made a link to this. Hope ye don’t mind.

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