Birthday party honors evolution theory icon

by Lily Langerud

Happy Birthday Charles,” read the frosting on the cake at a celebration for a man who wasn’t there.

Darwin Day Celebration, an internationally celebrated event, recognizes the birth of Charles Darwin, the naturalist credited with developing the theory of evolution and the author of “The Origin of Species.”

On Friday the Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists hosted their own Darwin Day celebration at the Bell Museum Auditorium.

Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists co-chairman and biology junior Joe Foley said the group always has celebrated Darwin Day. After receiving Student Services Fees funding for the first time this year, the group was able to fund a larger-scale event, he said.

Jennifer Powers, the group’s faculty adviser, said its mission is to promote rational thought and science.

The event, attended by about 60 people, featured speakers such as biology historian Mark Borello and PZ Myers, a blogger and biologist.

Biochemistry sophomore Wyatt Bordewyk said he attended the lecture because he is a fan of Myers’ and read about the event on his blog.

“It’s an educational event,” Foley said. “We’re basically promoting science and reason and not even so much focusing on the critiques of Darwinism.”

Still, the topic of intelligent design emerged at the lecture.

“It’s interesting to me that we still debate the value of (Darwin’s) contributions,” Borello said at the close of his lecture. “I think, as a historian, that’s not in question.”

Myers began his discussion by noting he had been accused of being a “Darwinian fundamentalist.” He said that while he did not disagree with people questioning Darwinism or evolution, he advocated the acknowledgement of the theory of evolution.

“We need some basic competence in the teaching of biology,” Myers said.

Myers’ lecture, titled “What Darwin Didn’t Know, or Why I am Not a Darwinist,” focused on developments in biology that Darwin wasn’t aware of during his life. There are things people now know that Darwin would have loved, Meyers said, like a recent study of caterpillars showing evolution in action.

Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists publicist Mike Jones said the group also hoped to dispel common misconceptions about evolution.

“A lot of people believe evolution is a linear process, when in reality it’s all about the branching,” he said. “Just because a new species comes around doesn’t mean a new one has to die off.”