Monday, February 13, 2012

Darwin Day 2012

Yesterday, February 12th, 2012, would have been the 203rd birthday of Charles Darwin. The unofficial holiday, commemorated as International Darwin Day, made me think about ways in which we could and should celebrate Darwin's accomplishments and the importance of his work on our everyday lives.

I should clarify that when I say that we should celebrate this occasion I mean that it provides us with an opportunity to appreciate the natural world and how Darwin's theory has allowed us to better understand that world and our place in it.  I definitely do not mean conducting various ritual or rites based on tradition in the manner that people celebrate religious holidays.

Below are some of my suggestions for "celebrating" Darwin's birthday and the Theory of Evolution.

1.) Re-familiarize (or familiarize) yourself with Darwin's writings via the Complete Works of Charles Darwin On-Line.  This resource allows you to not only explore Darwin's writings, but also different editions of his books.

2.) Watch Creation the movie.  This movie explores Darwin's family life, how the death of his daughter influenced his view of god and religion, and how, in spite of her mis-givings about his work, his wife's support allowed him to continue on and publish his book.

3.) Visit your local Natural History Museum.  Explore the many collections illustrating the diversity and history of life on Earth.  Look for shared characteristics between different organisms over time.

4.) Visit your local Zoo.  Zoo's provide people with a unique opportunity to compare and contrast many related organisms in one location.

A series of adult male American Robin specimens, from the
Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, illustrating a
range of phenotypic diversity within the species. 
5.) Visit your local park or nature center to observe a specific group of organisms (e.g. male Northern Cardinals) to learn more about natural variation within populations and species.

6.) Watch Inherit the Wind; a re-creation of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 in which a high school teacher was taken to trial for teaching evolution in the classroom.

While Darwin's birthday comes but once a year, these are things that can be done throughout the year to reconnect ourselves with the natural world and better understand how the Theory of Evolution unifies everything in it.