In honor of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, the American Humanist Association held a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., featuring a range of engaging speakers who discussed Darwin’s role in shaping religion and science. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country and around the world, Darwin Day was being widely celebrated by humanist and scientific groups. Some observances took place on the weekend prior to February 12. Among the notable humanist celebrations are a day-long event at Harvard University today and an evening program at the University of Colorado at Boulder on February 14.
That Darwin Day is quickly becoming a mainstream phenomenon was evidenced today when the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, issued a proclamation recognizing Darwin for his landmark scientific achievements. He declared February 12 this year and hereafter as Darwin Day in Massachusetts.
“We are very pleased that the governor sees the importance of Darwin and the value in recognizing Darwin Day,” said AHA President David Niose, a Massachusetts attorney and resident. “The significance of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection continues to be denied in many circles, even though within the scientific community it is recognized as the foundation for the understanding of biology.”
Niose continued: “Governor Patrick has done a great service, particularly for children, by recognizing Darwin, because education and critical thinking will always be threatened if core scientific ideas are held hostage by religious ideologues. By celebrating Darwin, we are saying education is an important value in Massachusetts.”
At the luncheon in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association announced the acquisition of www.darwinday.org/ , an informational website about Charles Darwin and the Darwin Day Celebration. It has served for the last few years as “Darwin Day central” for all who would celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday. It will be used to keep the Darwin Day observance alive in the years to come.
The luncheon program featured Robert Price, a humanist biblical scholar, who spoke on the ways in which religions have been forced to evolve since Darwin’s groundbreaking theory shocked the world. Other speakers at the event included Fred Edwords, communications director of the American Humanist Association and creationism expert, who discussed how creationists have changed their tactics to challenge evolution and teach intelligent design in public schools; and Jennifer Kalmanson, a space scientist at Orbital Sciences Corp., who spoke on the history of heresy.
“This conversation is needed now more than ever before,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Especially after eight years of unprecedented censorship of science under the Bush Administration. We’re galvanized about the opportunity for change under a new administration, and pressing the importance of science in this new era is a top priority.”