On Feb. 12, should Darwin get his day?

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February 12, 1809 must have seemed like an ordinary day to those alive at the time, but we now know it to be the birth day of two giants of humanity: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Lincoln ended slavery in the United States in the 19th century, and Darwin made one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 19th century. The same types of people vilified both these great men, often for the same reasons.

Slaveholders had economic incentives to maintain their abominable institution, encouraged by the blessing of southern clergy and politicians who biblically justified the morality of human slavery. Rev. Richard Furman, from my hometown of Charleston, was the first president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and founder of the university that bears his name. Said Furman, “The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.” Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, added, “Slavery was established by the decree of Almighty God. It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both testaments, from Genesis to Revelation.” Many northern progressive Christians were abolitionists, they would have lost handily in biblical debates against southern religious literalists.

Today Abraham Lincoln is revered for what he accomplished, and the humanist principle that it is morally wrong for one person to own another is commonly accepted.

Charles Darwin, on the other hand, is far from universally respected in the United States, where too many religious authorities still treat the Bible as a science book. We wouldn’t expect scientifically ignorant biblical writers who lived thousands of years ago in a small corner of the Mediterranean to have described the theory of evolution (or DNA, or any discovery of modern science), and they didn’t. What we do find in the Bible is a flat, unmoving Earth at the center of a 6,000 year-old universe, and the whole number three as the true value of pi [1 Kings 7:23]. The modern scientific theory of evolution conflicts with Genesis, and describes how natural selection can easily explain our existence without need for a divine creator.

When I was young, public schools were closed on Darwin’s birthday, though the official reason was to commemorate the birth of Abraham Lincoln. Now there is a growing movement to publicly celebrate February 12 as Darwin Day. But instead of closing schools, I’d like to see it become a day for students to study and explore the great scientific discoveries that spring from Darwin’s work.

Written By: Herb Silverman
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com

22 COMMENTS

  1. Charles Darwin’s work is certainly worth thinking about every day of the year, but I am all for commemorating Darwin’s birthday publicly. The news media where I live are usually keen to report any such celebrations of notable scientists by dedicated groups or organizations, so it can be an occasion of good public exposure for Darwin’s achievements and the understanding of science that comes with them.

  2. Darwin Day. United Kingdom:

    Buy tickets now.

    Chaired by Dr Richard Dawkins, the 2013 Darwin Day lecture will be delivered by Sir Tom Blundell, Professor Emeritus and Director of Research, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge on the topic of: ‘The emergence of drug resistance: Molecular evolution and new medicines for cancer and tuberculosis’.
    February 12th: 19.00-21.00

    Sir Tom Blundell
    Professor Emeritus and Director of Research, Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge

    Sir Tom Blundell will be speaking on the topic of: ‘The emergence of drug resistance: Molecular evolution and new medicines for cancer and tuberculosis’:

    “Over the past fifty years our knowledge of the evolution of proteins in living cells has has been mapped in terms of molecular architecture and amino acid sequence. We have begun to learn that many accepted mutations are selectively neutral but others appear to be selectively advantageous to the organism by optimising stability, activity and interactions at the molecular and cellular levels. More recently second generation methods of gene sequencing are allowing us to follow the evolution and emergence of resistance as tumours escape the restraints of tissue function and as pathogens such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and HIV evade the immune response of the host. To understand this is essential to the design of new medicines. I will discuss work in my laboratory funded by the Wellcome Trust on cancer and by the Gates Foundation on tuberculosis. The reality of evolution will take me to the Cambridge Science Park, to Astex the company I co-founded to work on cancer medicines, and to collaborations with India and Southern Africa on tuberculosis where many lives are impacted by HIV and TB.”

    When
    February 12th, 2013 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
    Location
    Congress Hall, Congress Centre
    Congress Hall, Congress Centre
    28 Great Russell Street
    London, WC1B 3LS
    United Kingdom

    Anvil.

  3. In reply to #1 by TomServo:

    No. He should not get his own day. Do you know why?
    Because EVERYDAY is Darwin day in my house! And the same should go for everyone everywhere all the time. Y’all need to recognize!

    Spot on Tom, so I’m gonna go ahead and upvote the shit out of your post.
    Atheism is not a religion dammit!

  4. In reply to #1 by TomServo:

    Spot on Tom, so I’m gonna go ahead and upvote the shit out of your post.
    Atheism is not a religion dammit!

    At what point is a holiday or day to celebrate grand achievement considered being religious? Explain how celebrating the great achievement that has lead to pioneering genetics and medical research a way of furthering the idea that atheism is correlated to evolution and that it is a religion. Non sequitur.

  5. I am going to spend about 30 minutes in each of my classes informally talking about Darwin and evolution. I will relate it to the area of the course we are involved in (which, coincidentally, is predator/ prey relationships, food webs, and interdependency of energy requirements). Perfect!!!!!! Of course, I talk, directly or indirectly, about evolution all day everyday. Do not forget, I am one of the teachers who actively lobbies for “Biology” class to be renamed “Evolution” class!

  6. In reply to #5 by SaganTheCat:

    yes absolutley.

    just to piss wingnuts off

    Quite. I think a parade down every main street in America would be great. I can see it now, 20 ft tall puppets of homo erectus and people wearing finch and barnacle suits.

  7. In reply to #7 by Karl Zuvela:

    In reply to #1 by TomServo:

    Spot on Tom, so I’m gonna go ahead and upvote the shit out of your post.
    Atheism is not a religion dammit!

    At what point is a holiday or day to celebrate grand achievement considered being religious? Explain how celebrating the great achievement that has lead to pioneering genetics and medical research a way of furthering the idea that atheism is correlated to evolution and that it is a religion. Non sequitur.

    I disagree. Evolution for example, isn’t a process you can prove instantly because it is based on a body of work developed by thousands of scientists.
    By your logic, we should have thousands of holidays, and there’s only 365 days a year. ( small joke inserted )

    Edit. Also, I don’t worship or honour dead people because…..erhmm, they’re dead and don’t give a shit about us.

  8. Darwin Day is a great idea. It doesn’t need to be a holiday it just needs to be a day when everyone is mindful of the legacy of Darwin and his theory of evolution. Schools and colleges should do a Darwin day and have poster competitions and have a day when evolution is studied and discussed by students of all ages everywhere.

    It doesn’t sound much but it is a plug and feathers driven into the sedimentary rock of human ignorance.

  9. In reply to #11 by Vorlund:

    Darwin Day is a great idea. It doesn’t need to be a holiday it just needs to be a day when everyone is mindful of the legacy of Darwin and his theory of evolution. Schools and colleges should do a Darwin day and have poster competitions and have a day when evolution is studied and discussed by students of all ages everywhere.

    It doesn’t sound much but it is a plug and feathers driven into the sedimentary rock of human ignorance.

    Yeah, but when will it end then?
    How many scientific holidays should there be?
    And how to decide what scientists should be honoured?

    Darwin was a great human being and a brilliant scientist, but he wasn’t perfect. His theory wasn’t perfect, it was and is filled with small “god of the gaps”-like holes.

    No scientific theory is absolute perfection, so how can we ( atheists and antitheists ) justifiably claim not to be a religion if we want holidays of our own?

  10. In reply to #12 by Cowboy1977:

    In reply to #11 by Vorlund:

    Darwin Day is a great idea. It doesn’t need to be a holiday it just needs to be a day when everyone is mindful of the legacy of Darwin and his theory of evolution. Schools and colleges should do a Darwin day and have poster competitions and have a day when evolution is studied and discussed by students of all ages everywhere.

    It doesn’t sound much but it is a plug and feathers driven into the sedimentary rock of human ignorance.

    Yeah, but when will it end then?
    How many scientific holidays should there be?
    And how to decide what scientists should be honoured?

    Darwin was a great human being and a brilliant scientist, but he wasn’t perfect. His theory wasn’t perfect, it was and is filled with small “god of the gaps”-like holes.

    No scientific theory is absolute perfection, so how can we ( atheists and antitheists ) justifiably claim not to be a religion if we want holidays of our own?

    No scientific theory CLAIMS “absolute perfection”- that is the domain of the wingnuts.

    Please, tell us ignorant evolutionists about the ‘holes’ in the theory

  11. In reply to #13 by Nodhimmi:

    In reply to #12 by Cowboy1977:

    In reply to #11 by Vorlund:

    Darwin Day is a great idea. It doesn’t need to be a holiday it just needs to be a day when everyone is mindful of the legacy of Darwin and his theory of evolution. Schools and colleges should do a Darwin day and have poster competitions and have a day when evolution is studied and discussed by students of all ages everywhere.

    It doesn’t sound much but it is a plug and feathers driven into the sedimentary rock of human ignorance.

    Yeah, but when will it end then?
    How many scientific holidays should there be?
    And how to decide what scientists should be honoured?

    Darwin was a great human being and a brilliant scientist, but he wasn’t perfect. His theory wasn’t perfect, it was and is filled with small “god of the gaps”-like holes.

    No scientific theory is absolute perfection, so how can we ( atheists and antitheists ) justifiably claim not to be a religion if we want holidays of our own?

    No scientific theory CLAIMS “absolute perfection”- that is the domain of the wingnuts.

    Please, tell us ignorant evolutionists about the ‘holes’ in the theory

    The missing link, my dear Dr. Watson. If we want religious people to accept evolution as a fact, we need to find the missing link between primate and man. This is an impossible task. If you cannot figure out why, then I doubt you fully understand how evolution works.

    Do you feel like being the missing link, Nodhimmi?

    Basically my stance on this subject is: Until the day we discover life elsewhere in our universe ( or galaxy for that matter ) people will prefer their holy books instead of the truth. And the truth is evolution.

    Let it sink in dude, and take a chill pill…..

  12. In reply to #12 by Cowboy1977:

    In reply to #11 by Vorlund:

    Yeah, but when will it end then?
    How many scientific holidays should there be?
    And how to decide what scientists should be honoured?

    Is this a slippery slope pitch? In the first place I did say it did not have to be a holiday just promoted as a day to observe one of the greatest scientific ideas. Who knows how many there should be? There are a few candidates that could stand up as some of the greatest examples of human intellect and raising the profile of these discoveries is a good way to celebrate the only thing that will save us from ourselves – our intelligence.

    It is rather unsatisfactory in my view to assume we can’t find a better basis for choosing holidays than non-existent gods so we should just shut up and put up with celebrations of execrable nonsense to make the village idiots feel they have an ultimate purpose beyond just filling a latrine.

  13. In reply to #16 by Vorlund:

    In reply to #12 by Cowboy1977:

    In reply to #11 by Vorlund:

    Yeah, but when will it end then?
    How many scientific holidays should there be?
    And how to decide what scientists should be honoured?

    Is this a slippery slope pitch? In the first place I did say it did not have to be a holiday just promoted as a day to observe one of the greatest scientific ideas. Who knows how many there should be? There are a few candidates that could stand up as some of the greatest examples of human intellect and raising the profile of these discoveries is a good way to celebrate the only thing that will save us from ourselves – our intelligence.

    It is rather unsatisfactory in my view to assume we can’t find a better basis for choosing holidays than non-existent gods so we should just shut up and put up with celebrations of execrable nonsense to make the village idiots feel they have an ultimate purpose beyond just filling a latrine.

    I actually agree to a certain extent, but my fear is that, in time, these days will become just as rigid as religious holidays.
    It’s a tricky subject because we’ll have to change the names of the weekdays as well, if we want to be consistent and honest to ourselves.
    I for one would feel silly having a day off because of one single man of science.
    I have great admiration for his work, but I can easily imagine Darwin feeling the same way too.

    Let the politicians decide what constitutes a day off, and let us concentrate on doing hard science instead.

    My five cents, anyway….:-)

  14. In reply to #18 by crookedshoes:

    Make it the day after the superbowl and you will garner support based on the “ME” factor. I want the holiday, therefore I support the cause.

    Hehe, good idea crooked. For those of us who occasionally enjoy the herb, it’ll be superbowl monday. :-)

  15. It is also the day Lucy was discovered. In Uruguay we are celebrating it, Colombia also does. Although every day is a Darwinean day in which evolution happens, it is good to have an evolutionary celebration day. Let´s go!

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