February 6, 2006

'Darwin Day' Comes to Cornell

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February 12, 1809 isn’t just Abraham Lincoln’s birthday; it’s Charles Darwin’s birthday, too.

Darwin Day, celebrated for the first time in Ithaca this year, focuses on science and humanism and their relations to the work of the English naturalist. Events will be held at Cornell, Ithaca College and the Museum of the Earth from Feb. 9-13. There will be panel discussions, lectures, films and family activities.

Prof. Allen MacNeill, biology, said Ithaca’s decision to observe Darwin Day this year is especially timely, in light of evolutionist’s victory in the Dover, Pa. school district.

U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III ruled last year that it was unconstitutional for the school board to require teachers to discuss intelligent design because the idea is religion based, not science based.

“Years ago there was no interest in Darwin. But now because evolution is in the news, it’s an easier sell,” he said.

MacNeill said that the day isn’t just for staunch evolutionists or supporters of intelligent design. Instead, “the day is for people who are neither [evolutonists or supporters of intelligent design] and those will be the people who get the most out of it,” he said. “People who are already committed won’t change their minds.”

However some students at Cornell maintain their belief in intelligent design. Hannah Maxson’07 is the president of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Club at Cornell. Maxson criticized Darwin Day, saying, “I find [Darwin Day] rather amusing. It seems a ridiculous attempt to shore up popular support for a theory that is patently flawed.” Maxson and the members of her club “will do what [they] can to provide that ‘other side’ of the question, which so often is missing,” she said.

Derek Cabrera grad, a teaching assistant for History 287: Evolution, said that Darwin Day “is a tribute to Darwin and his ideas,” not a day for debating intelligent design. Darwin Day is “an appropriate time to have a meaningful discourse about Darwin, his legacy and the impact that he has had in science and our society,” he said.

Darwin’s work is still controversial 150 years after the publication of his book Origin of Species. Cabrera believes it’s important to recognize Darwin’s influence on society, even outside the field of evolution. “Darwin implied how central education was given a belief in his views as a mechanism for change; the implications of Darwin’s theory can be applied towards education,” he said.

MacNeill encourages Cornell students to partake in the Darwin Day celebrations. “

Come out, participate, it’s fascinating and hopefully it will be the first of many Darwin Days,” he said.

Archived article by Dana Mendelowitz
Sun Staff Writer