Happy Darwin Day!

Feb 12 2011 Published by under Biology & Environment

Sorry for the long posting hiatus.  The past couple of months seem to have flown by unexpectedly quickly. I thought a post celebrating Darwin Day would be an ideal way to get back into the swing of things.

Today, February 12th, is the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. The day is celebrated by biology-loving folk all over the world as International Darwin Day.

So far there hasn't been any official recognition of Darwin's birthday here in the U.S. (at least that I know of).  But I'm proud to say that a few days ago Representative Pete Stark (D-CA)* submitted  House Resolution 81 in support of officially designating February 12th, 2011 as Darwin Day.

I quite like that the resolution was framed as support of science in general. As Stark said in his introduction to the Resolution:

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 and his life has had a profound impact on the course of human history.  Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection has not only provided a compelling explanation for the diversity of life, it is also the foundation of modern biology and genetics.  Darwin exemplified the scientific curiosity that has led to new scientific breakthroughs that have helped humanity solve numerous problems and improve our quality of life.

Charles Darwin is worthy of recognition and honor.  His birthday should be a time for us to celebrate the advancement of human knowledge and the achievements of reason and science.  It should also be a time for Congress and other elected officials to ensure that children are being taught scientific facts and not religious dogma in our public schools.

The mention of "religious dogma" is sure to antagonize those Representatives who think their religious beliefs can take the place of science (or at least think their constituents want them to believe that). And Stark  threw in  in a bit about climate change, which seems  like a poke at Republican climate change deniers. But even so, I'm hoping the bill at least garners enough support to pass out of committee.

But even if it passes, it will be too late to celebrate Darwin's birthday this year.

So to celebrate  Charles Darwin's birthday right now, I give you Australian poet Emily Ballou, reading from her collection The Darwin Poems:

As you read this Darwin Day may be over, at least for this year. But you can still celebrate:

• Read Darwin's original notebooks, diaries, and publications at Darwin Online. Not only can you read Darwin's works on evolution, but the notes on the development and growth of his children and his best selling book The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits (all about earthworm behavior and ecology)

• Ask your US Representative to support House Resolution 81 in Recognition of Darwin Day

• Listen to the 2008 Humanist Hour podcast interviewing P. Thomas Carroll, who transcribed thousands of Darwin's letters and personal correspondence.

• Learn more about evolutionary biology at the University of California Museum of Paleontology's Understanding Evolution site

• Buy some Darwin-related gear to support The Beagle Project. The project aims to build a working replica of the HMS Beagle, the ship that "carried Charles Darwin around the world"

• The bill was co-sponsored by fellow Democrat  Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey

3 responses so far

  • Jackie says:

    I really enjoyed your post on Darwin! However, you must remind Representative Stark that some of us still consider February 12 the day to celebrate President Lincoln's birthday!

    • Peggy says:

      But Lincoln already has a holiday. I'm sure he doesn't mind being celebrated along with Washington on a day that's optimal for 3-day weekend get-aways 🙂

  • Peggy,

    Thanks for recommending my interview about my career as a Darwin scholar. It was a great privilege to have handled hundreds and hundreds of Darwin letters, to have helped launch the Collected Letters of Charles Darwin, and to have sat in the chair in his study at Down House in which he sat while writing the Origin. This I did back in 1975 as we launched the Darwin letters project.

    Tom Carroll