CSU, Chico News

CSU, Chico to Celebrate ‘Darwin Day’ Feb. 12

Date: 01-15-2009

Joe Wills
Public Affairs
Chris Ivey
Department of Biological Sciences
Greg Liggett
Northern California Natural History Museum

Feb. 12 will be Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. To commemorate this occasion, faculty and staff from across California State University, Chico have organized a series of events, including a birthday celebration, a book club, nature hikes, lectures and discussions and a film showing. All events are free and open to the public.

On Thursday, Feb. 12, there will be a family-friendly celebration of Darwin’s birthday. The event will be complete with games, educational displays, prizes, an interactive human evolution exhibit and birthday cake. This celebration will be 10 a.m.–3 p.m. in Sylvester’s Creekside Cafe on the CSU, Chico campus. Students, faculty and staff from the Departments of Geological and Environmental Sciences and Biological Sciences as well as from the Museum of Anthropology will be among the participants.

The Northern California Natural History Museum is sponsoring a book club focused on ”The Origin of Species,” which will meet at Chico Barnes and Noble 7-8 p.m. on three Wednesdays, Jan. 28, Feb. 4 and Feb. 11. CSU, Chico faculty members from the biology, multicultural and gender studies, and philosophy departments will facilitate discussions.

Also planned are two nature hikes guided by biology faculty members, a series of panel discussions on ethical aspects of Darwin’s ideas sponsored by CSU, Chico’s Center for Applied and Professional Ethics, a viewing of the film “Inherit the Wind” about the infamous Scopes “Monkey” trial, and a lecture by Professor Art Shapiro of UC Davis.

“Remarkably, a lot of people don’t appreciate that Darwin’s ideas have improved our standard of living and helped us address big problems in our society,” said Chris Ivey, assistant professor in CSU, Chico’s Department of Biological Sciences and one of the event’s lead organizers. “Many of the advances we’ve made in agriculture, fighting disease, protecting rare species and limiting the impact of pests and invasive species would have been impossible without an understanding of evolution.”

Hundreds of groups across the United States and the globe celebrate Feb. 12 as “Darwin Day” each year in honor of the discoveries and life of the man who famously described biological evolution via natural selection. The Darwin Day Celebration started with one event in 1995. Last year there were more than 850 Darwin Day events worldwide. The annual event was conceived by the Institute for Humanist Studies, an Albany, N.Y.-based nonprofit that promotes reason and humanism.

This year marks both the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the 1859 publication of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species,” which presented the scientific theory that populations evolve over generations through natural selection.

The theory of evolution was controversial in Darwin’s time and remains controversial in the United States today. Recent Gallup polls show that 43 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution.

“Evolutionary theory provides a framework for everything we understand about biology,” said Ivey. “It’s unfortunate that it is still misunderstood by some, even after 150 years of validation.”

For more information and a complete schedule of Darwin Day events in Chico, visit http://tinyurl.com/darwinday.