Evolutionists celebrate Darwin’s birthday

Student groups and the Bell Museum are among those honoring his work this month.

Allison Wickler

Abraham Lincoln isn’t the only famous historical figure with a birthday today.

Evolutionists around the world have already begun celebrating the Feb. 12 birthday of Charles Darwin, who wrote the book “On the Origin of Species” 148 years ago.

Several campus events centered on Darwin and his theory of evolution are scheduled this month.

where to go

Flock of Dodos
What: Filmmaker and evolutionary ecologist Randy Olson pokes fun at the battle between evolution and intelligent design.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Bell Museum Auditorium

For more information, go to: The Bell Museum Events Calendar

Tuesday, three professors will discuss evolutionary biology and the teaching of evolution in America as a part of the Café Scientifique series sponsored by the Bell Museum of Natural History.

One of the panelists, University of Minnesota-Morris biology professor PZ Myers, said some elements of evolution can go against peoples’ intuition, but the core facts of evolution are known in the science community.

“In some ways, evolution is simple,” he said, “but in other ways, it’s fairly complicated.”

In recent years Myers had students come into his classes skeptical and less knowledgeable about evolution.

“Two years ago we started talking specifically about creationism in introductory courses,” he said. “We didn’t feel like we had to do that before and now we do.”

The Bell Museum will also host an evolution-related film each Thursday this month.

Biologist and filmmaker Randy Olson’s documentary, “Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus,” which shows both sides of the controversy in a humorous light, will show at the Bell Museum on Thursday.

Olson said though the film is “a lot of fun,” it’s more than just entertainment.

“It’s almost like a public service announcement to help people understand this complex issue,” he said.

As a scientist, Olson said he only sees clear evidence for evolution, and that intelligent design is just “a very beautiful intuition that should be kept as intuition.”

He said the science community needs to pull together to communicate evolution to the public in a broader way.

“Too much of what goes on is academic communication,” he said.

The Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists student group celebrated Darwin’s birthday last Thursday with a discussion of the film “Kansas vs. Darwin,” which details the Kansas state school board’s questioning of evolution.

Andy Buttler, science education graduate student and treasurer for the Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists, said intelligent design could be discussed in philosophy or religious studies classes at the college level, but is not science.

“It’s contributed nothing to the dialogue on biology that’s taken place in science,” he said.

Other University students have differing personal views on the subject.

English senior Sofia Nordenstam said she doesn’t exclude either evolution or intelligent design from her personal beliefs.

“I believe the two can kind of go hand-in-hand,” she said.

She also said evolution should be taught as one theory among others in science classrooms.

Biology, society and environment first-year student Dami Aduayi said he believes a higher power possibly started our existence, but evolution makes sense and should be the only thing taught in schools.

Other students, like anthropology junior Emily Buhrow, are more sure of the facts of evolution.

“It’s pretty clear that evolution is possible and happening,” she said.

Even though she attended a Catholic grade school that didn’t teach evolution, she said students shouldn’t learn about intelligent design in a public school setting because it falls under the category of religion.

Myers said new evidence for evolution is being discovered each day.

“This is an ongoing, continuous thing,” he said.