On Feb. 12, it will be the 199th anniversary in honor of the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin, the man who first described biological evolution through natural selection.According to the dictionary, the theory of natural selection states that forms of life that have traits that better enable them to adapt to specific environmental pressures such as predators, change in climate or competition for food or mates will tend to survive and reproduce in greater numbers than others of their kind, thus ensuring the perpetuation of those favorable traits in succeeding generations.
According to Matt Cherry, the executive director of the Institute of Humanist Studies, Darwin Day is to “promote the understanding of evolution and the scientific method.”
He also adds “this celebration expresses gratitude for the enormous benefit that scientific knowledge has contributed to the advancement of humanity.”
Hundreds of students and communities around the world will be celebrating the holiday. Along with hundreds of people participating, the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), an international student’s organization, encourages its 112 campus affiliated groups to celebrate the holiday. The SSA is located in Albany, N.Y., and has staff in California and New York City.
The celebration first started with an event at Stanford University in 1995. The festivities for the holiday include lectures, debates, essay contests, museum exhibits, art shows and an “evolution banquet,” with “primordial soup,” followed appropriately by “Darwin fish fry.”
Darwin Day is a project from the Albany, N.Y.-based Institute for Humanist Studies, an international, educational, nonprofit organization that promotes reason and humanity. Executive director of SSA, August E. Brunsman IV, commented, “Science should be celebrated as something that makes our lives better-just like family, love, nature, civil rights and the many other things we already celebrate.”
In 2007, there were more than 850 Darwin Day celebrations. In 2008, hundreds of church congregations will celebrate this day by hosting an “Evolution Weekend” to explore the compatibility of science and religion.
Gallup Polls are surveys of public opinion. Recently, Gallup Polls showed that 43 percent of Americans rejected the theory of evolution and instead believe that “God created human beings in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution started out as controversial and still is in the United States today. The polls also show that at least four of the 2008 presidential candidates have said they do not believe in the theory of evolution.
We celebrate today as the 199th anniversary, and amazingly, 2009 will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. 2009 will also mark the 150th anniversary of the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” the book that first presented the scientific theory that populations evolve over generations through natural selection.
The Darwin Day Web site designates this day for people to recognize science as an international language accessible to all individuals and societies. The Darwin Day celebration provides a new global holiday that transcends separates nationalities and cultures.
Darwin Day is meant for everyone to celebrate. It has only been recognized since 1995 at Stanford University, but groups such as the SSA and their 112 affiliated groups feel as though it is something everyone should be involved in. Their hopes are for this historic day to be recognized and celebrated by all.
Feb. 12 is not the only day a person can celebrate or recognize Darwin. There are plenty of ways to celebrate and learn about Darwin other than the listed festivities. There are websites such as DarwinDay.org, HumanistStudies.org and SecularStudents.org that you can look at to learn more about Charles Darwin and his day of celebration.
Lindsay Fischer is a fourth-year student majoring in professional studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at LF597031@wcupa.edu.