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Legal Scholars Debate Lincoln vs. Darwin

Lincoln vs. Darwin

Scholars agree that Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were revolutionary figures of the 19th century. Coincidentally, both men were born on the same day, February 12, 1809.

In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of their birth, Pepperdine University School of Law hosted a stimulating debate titled, "Lincoln vs. Darwin: Who Had the Greater Impact on American Law?" on February 2 in the Mendenhall Appellate Courtroom.

Ken Starr, Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean of the School of Law, welcomed Ed Larson, Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law, and scholars Daniel A. Farber, Sho Sato Professor of law at University of California, Berkeley, and Laurence Claus, professor of law at University of San Diego School of Law.

Larson gave an introduction before Farber spoke on Lincoln's constitutional legacy. Farber pointed to several examples of Lincoln's legacy, including individual rights and nationalism. "The Pledge of Allegiance, for one, became possible after Lincoln, and because of Lincoln," he said.

Claus spoke generally on Darwin's impact on American law. "While Lincoln's conduct of his presidency significantly shaped our vision of American law's content, Darwin's account of evolutionary development offered an alternative and more accurate vision of what law is, indeed of what both law and government essentially and universally are," said Claus.

Farber gave a rebuttal before both speakers took questions from the audience.

A video of the conversation will be available shortly.