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Emancipation v. Evolution Love Smackdown!

Posted by Robin Abrahams  February 12, 2009 11:03 AM

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So, today is the 200th birthday of both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. Tomorrow is Friday the 13th. Saturday is Valentine's Day. Put it all together and it might ... look ... something ... like ... this:

It's always bad luck to be put in an awkward dating situation. If both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln asked you out for the same night, which one would you choose go out with, and why?

I think I'm going to give a prize to the most creative answer for this one, so make it good, folks. (If you don't date men, your answers are still only limited by the power of your imagination!)

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20 comments so far...
  1. i hope you are not averse
    to a reply in verse.
    here are 3 haiku
    summarizing my view.

    i'm torn between abe
    and chuck. two genius, hot men,
    'cause brains are sexy

    abe: loves all mankind
    chuck: global adventurer
    abe: brave warrior

    chuck: fought the bigger
    fight. nature is free of god.
    no doubt: i choose chuck.

    Posted by catherine the great February 12, 09 11:21 AM
  1. Darwin. I don't go for skinny serious guys, I'd rather wander the outdoors.

    Posted by meg February 12, 09 11:50 AM
  1. Abe. I like guys with power.

    Posted by sarah February 12, 09 11:53 AM
  1. Even though I'm torn, I have to go with Abe. While the intellectual discussion would probably be better with Darwin, I want to be entertained on a date. Abe would have much better stories. No offense to Darwin, but I really don't want to hear about spending all that time checking out the birdies in the Galapagos. I want to hear about rough-and-tumble politics and what his American experience was like.

    Disclaimer: I just finished "American Lion" about Andrew Jackson, which may be slanting my judgement. It's been a while since I picked up "Origin of the Species" -- maybe if that was freshest in my mind, I'd vote for Darwin.

    Posted by Anne February 12, 09 01:57 PM
  1. Depends on what the date would entail. If it were a date to the zoo, I would go for Lincoln. Darwin would bore me to death going on and on about everything he knew about the animals. However, if it were a date to the theater, I would respectfully decline Abe's offer and go with Darwin. Something about the theater and Lincoln just don't go...

    Posted by Emily February 12, 09 03:11 PM
  1. Darwin all the way. Take me away to the tropical island where we will sketch wildlife and deduce their origins! Is there room on the Beagle for my chihuahua?

    Sorry, Abe, I think you're a nice guy, but let's just be friends. Your melancholy would totally harsh our romance.

    Posted by Noel February 12, 09 03:24 PM
  1. I'd pick Lincoln for a very superficial reason: Darwin's beard is far to unkempt, and while Lincoln's beard varied from the chin-strap to a full beard, it always looked well groomed. The good-night kiss would be very awkward with Darwin - worrying about getting lost in all that beard.

    I would ordinarily cringe at so publicly admitting to my irreverence for such major historical figures, but this is a "who would you date" question, so I am slightly less embarrassed.

    Posted by lizb February 12, 09 03:38 PM
  1. Young Abe and Charles or old? (You know, the same question that comes up when we imagine hanging out with Elvis). If we get to pick what age they are for this imaginary date, when he was my age Darwin was much better looking, whereas Abe improved significantly with time. Not being into older men (or men at all, but you said we could pretend), I'd choose that young adverturer around the time of his voyage on the Beagle -- if fact, I'd have gone with him to the Galapagos and would give anything to have seen what he saw there! And as much as I admire Lincoln and his words and legacy, I don't think he was an easy guy to hang out with. That really, really short Gettysburg address makes me worried that it'd be tough to have an evening's worth of conversation with him ...

    Posted by JP Gal February 12, 09 05:18 PM
  1. Darwin, no question. Would you rather date a scientist or a politician? Darwin went on adventures to places like South America, studied animals, was misunderstood and unappreciated, but ultimately was right. Lincoln lived in Illinois (which is cold and made of log cabins), tried his best for the country, and was assassinated. Also, Darwin was from Great Britain and presumably had a British accent, which is so much more exciting than Lincoln's regular old Illinois vocal patterns.

    Posted by A February 12, 09 05:21 PM
  1. By the way, there is a hysterical song called "Survival of the Fittest" by Sandy Cash, which is on if you want to listen to a song about Charles Darwin's contributions to feminism/body-acceptance/etc.

    Posted by A February 12, 09 05:25 PM
  1. I'd pick Abe because he seems like the kind of man who would: be pleased with simple pleasures; would not be uncomfortable with moments of quiet between us; would not speak simply to hear the sound of his own voice; would be comfortable both opening a door for me and allowing me to hold it for him; would listen as well as share; would be kind to my mother; like my dog; and grant me the courtesy of having a different opinion. What more could a girl want?

    Miss C, who would YOU pick??

    Posted by Penny R February 12, 09 06:45 PM
  1. This is tough, but I have to say Chuck. Not only was Darwin brilliant, but he was apparently also a fierce abolitionist, so he shares some of Lincoln's most appealing qualities. Plus, Darwin would probably make an absolutely fascinating dinner companion with all his travel stories, and I'd love to ask him about how he came up with such a simple theory that explains so much so elegantly. But the clincher is that Lincoln was a full foot taller than I am and, as I know from experience, having to gaze deeply into your date's nipples instead of his eyes seriously diminishes the evening's romantic potential.

    Posted by Colleen February 12, 09 08:58 PM
  1. I would be tempted to try and get both dates in on the same night like they do in sitcoms and movies: the one where you get two tables at opposite ends of the same restaurant and switch dates every few minutes with the excuse that you need to use the ladies room (think Mrs. Doubtfire). But that would be cheating, and those things never end well anyway.

    I think in the end I would choose Darwin. The boring reason is that I studied biology in college and have always been fascinated with the way organisms evolve over millennia to do the most amazing things. They evolve to fit in with their environment and with one another in ways that one would think would have to be planned out in advance. But it all just happens through the tiniest incremental changes. I love a man who has things to teach me and I think I could listen to Darwin talk passionately about the beak length of finches for hours on end.

    Posted by Mary February 13, 09 09:27 AM
  1. Lincoln. Big brain, AND big feet. Both key qualities for good evolutin'.

    Posted by kmacjp February 13, 09 10:29 AM
  1. I'd pick Darwin.
    There is an awful lot of evidence that Lincoln was gay. Even if if wasn't gay, he was an "odd duck", he clearly did not like women very much, he was antisocial, and he suffered from bouts of depression.
    Darwin was interesting, well-traveled, sociable and had a happy family.

    Posted by Anne February 14, 09 02:11 PM
  1. Gee, lugubrious depressed often-suicidal ol' Abe versus zest of life, always looking for something new Charlie -- wow, that's a tough choice! If you were talking with Abe, what could you talk about? "Yeah, sure, slavery sucks. But a war? And what happens after? Oh, and stay away from theatres, just trust me on that one."

    But with Darwin... well, would it be young Darwin, maybe a year or two after the Beagle voyage, or older Darwin, after 1859 and the publication of "Origin"? I think the younger one would be more fun, more travelogue and not so much about barnicle parts.

    Posted by Dmajor February 14, 09 07:27 PM
  1. I'm a fan of Darwin, run-on sentences and all, but I think the people opting for Chuck don't know much about Darwin the man. Abe was clever, calm, and expansive; Charles was anxious, neurotic, and preoccupied with his ill health. Abe would take you to a John Hodgman reading and then out for ice cream, Charles would take you to Chili's and spend the whole time looking at his tongue in a hand mirror. Sure, if you ever went back to his house he'd turn out to have lots of great creepy taxidermy and volumes of brilliance in Big Chief tablets under his bed -- and to be fair to the man he was a devoted-to-the-point-of-neurosis father. But you WOULDN'T go back to his house, let alone have children with him, because you already would have crawled out the bathroom window after the seventeenth time he asked you if you thought he looked a little jaundiced. And then you would have called Abe and gone to ride the bumper cars.

    Now, if I HAD to date a 19th-century evolutionist, give me Huxley any day. Rowr.

    Posted by Fillyjonk February 14, 09 11:19 PM
  1. Well that's true, Abe was depressive... but so is Hugh Laurie and that dampens my affections not a whit. Still, I'd only call Darwin "always looking for something new" if by "always looking for something new" you mean "always puking over the side of the Beagle."

    Posted by Fillyjonk February 16, 09 11:32 AM
  1. I'm not Miss C, so I don't get to vote, but I certainly do like Fillyjonk's entry #17. By the way, FJ, have you been reading "A Confederacy of Dunces" lately? Something about your style of writing...

    My husband has been obsessed with Chuck for about two years. "The Book" is always in his briefcase or on the bedside table. He expounds on it during car rides on family vacations, and then quizzes the kids. So, I'd pick Chuck, and send my hubs on the date instead of me. Who knows what I'd get back.

    Posted by Sasha February 17, 09 10:20 PM
  1. have you been reading "A Confederacy of Dunces" lately? Something about your style of writing...

    Something about my deliberate reference to Big Chief tablets, I'd wager. :) I haven't been reading it lately but I read it about once a year.

    Posted by Fillyjonk February 25, 09 11:09 AM
About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

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Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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