Darwin Day 2008
    By Administrator | February 8th 2008 02:55 PM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Were you looking for Darwin Day 2009 or perhaps 30 Days Of Evolution Blogging?

    From H. F. Helmolt, History of the World (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1902).

    Darwin Day is an international celebration of Darwin's achievements in science held on February 12th, the day that Charles Darwin was born in 1809. The Darwin Day Celebration started with one event in 1995 and last year there were more than 850 Darwin Day events world-wide. Darwin Day festivities include debates, lectures, essay contests, film festivals and you can even have an "Evolution Banquet" with "Primordial Soup" followed by a "Darwin Fish Fry." Here we are mostly writing articles but if you have a fish fry, be sure to let us know and we'll link to it.

    Have a Darwin Day article you want to share with readers here? Let us know by putting this code in your article or on your site and we'll link to it from this page:

    It will look like this:


    A late entry but a goody (and our punishment for relying on Technorati) is The Dispersal of Darwin, who wishes all a Happy Darwin Day (so, basically phoning one in) but is otherwise also chock full of great Darwin stuff and therefore worth reading.

    At Taking Place, we're encouraged to fulfill our evolutionary drive and 'select' someone for Valentine's Day.

    Rodney Anonymous is Thoughtless for the Day, offering his thoughts on Darwin Day and hoping someone will organize a big Darwin bicentennial in Philly next year.

    goodSchist has pictures documenting the evolution of Darwin's Beard.

    The Church-Burning Ebola Boys are celebrating Darwin Day with a bunch of pirates burning a lego church on a birthday cake emblazoned with a micrograph of an ebola virus... Darwin Day doesn't get any better than this.

    Blue Collar Scientist uses his illness as a wrapper for his Darwin Day thoughts.

    I can choose between evolution - an understanding that the universe is neutral, and that people and other life is to be valued - or I can choose religion - and believe the universe was made for me, but is now against me, and that only some life, only human life, and only human life I agree with, has any value or meaning.


    The Ethical Paleontologist - you know, paleontologists, the people who hated Darwin (just kidding,just kidding) - schools Attenborough's "Life In Cold Blood" a little and nearly gets a gasp out of us when writing;

    Populations evolve. And it's for that reason that on one level C*******ists are correct - we can't show them true "missing links" because missing links are fiction. We can point to intermediates. On a micro-evolution level we can show them Drosophila melanogaster generations in successive stages of winglessness. On a macro-evolution level we can show them Eusthenopteron, Panderichthys, Acanthostega and Tulerpeton. But the fact that if you take many small changes you can get a large change is lost on them, as though they don't understand that 100 pennies make a pound.

    Which is putting it just about as well as it can be put.


    Jeff, on his Lunchbreak blog, has a book review of Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle. It's 169 years too late, but worth a read nonetheless.


    Over at Mystery of Mysteries, go read a multipart series about what Darwin did for his birthdays during his voyage on The Beagle.


    At Skeptic's Play, read about how Darwin in the Galapagos would pick up lizards by their tails and chuck them into the ocean.


    What does Darwin have to do with radiology? At Not Totally Rad read about how radiologists "visually confront the consequences of evolution daily in radiographs and other images of our patients."


    How do you teach good science to home schooled kids? In the US, people often link home schooling with religious fundamentalism, but at The Voyage, you can read about teaching your home schooled kids to think scientifically:
    So far, none of them have picked up the notion that science is 'boring' or 'hard'. I don't know if any of them will choose science based careers but I want them to know how to apply rationalism in their lives and to know enough to make good and safe choices.


    Pete Wilson at Oxford tells us about Darwin's crabs. He's got pictures too:


    At Sandwalk, Larry Moran tells about an interesting encounter between Darwin and British Prime Minister William Gladstone.


    John Logsdon at Sex, genes & evolution wishes everyone a happy Darwin Day.


    Jyunri Kankei tells us that it's hard to wrap your mind around evolution, which can make it hard to explain to others, which may account for the fact that evolution is still widely misunderstood.


    At Archaeoastronomy, read about how the Texas creationism controversy (and other never-ending battles like it) is more about power than science.


    Tangled Up Blue Guy is celebrating the birthday of his daughter, Abraham Lincoln, and Darwin (busy day for him), and reflecting on evolutionary trees.


    At Adaptive Complexity, Mike White has a Darwin Day Rant about how much more time Darwin had to think about science in his pre-wired era.


    P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula wishes all a Happy Darwn Day and is celebrating by ... working. A lot.

    He's giving a course on young Darwin and evolution's past to a science class and then later in the evening he'll be giving a lecture to the biology club on evolution's future.

    He writes:
    There's much more to evolutionary biology than Darwin.
    True, but he should be careful with that kind of talk. As noted elsewhere, Darwin has a posse.


    Skepchick takes a step back and examines how daunting the task was for Darwin to get this insight yet still take a basically scary, unknown course in changing his world view at Our Evolutionary Sweetheart.

    And it's not always smooth sailing even today.
    Surveys still show that many people don’t understand or accept evolution, and several viable candidates for US president admitted proudly that they don’t believe in this simple reality.

    Bonus: There's a link to the New York Dolls video, "Dance Like A Monkey."


    Getting us used to the surroundings, Matt Brown at Nature takes us on a walking tour of Darwin's London. The great thing about old cities is you have access to real history in a tactile sense. In California, we can do a walking tour of Jack Kerouac's San Fransisco, but that really isn't the same thing.

    Of note:
    At 50 Albemarle Street, you’ll find the home and office of Darwin’s principle publisher John Murray.
    Why isn't that guy in the history books? Obviously it took courage for Darwin to write on evolution, given the culture of his day, but it took a heck of a lot of courage to publish it too.


    When biologists talk about the nuances and complexities of evolution, it's easy to get lost. Defaithed tackles the issue for Darwin Day by writing Darwin Day fun: A layman explains evolution by natural selection.
    The beauty of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, as a billion better minds than mine have amply pointed out, is its remarkable simplicity. Simple enough even for me to grasp!
    Don't let their modesty fool you. They condense a lot of complexity into 5 easy-to-understand bullet points and then flesh them out nicely.


    Evolution (and God, if we're being honest) makes perfect sense to kids but that doesn't mean there a lot of easy reference works for kids - a kid's Bible for evolution. Podblack Cat solves that problem by compiling a list of kid-friendly titles in Darwin Day - For Kids. Since we're being honest, and given the confusion about Darwin and evolution, a lot of those titles should be read by adults too. Here's the money paragraph:
    Critical thinking, like any sort of education, should be about leading a child towards logical conclusions, not forcing them in insensitively. Teaching children critical thinking is about encouraging the thinking process - much like what Darwin experienced. Here’s to teaching through reading.

    P.S. While you're there, read their article about the Bible in Manga form. The only thing the graphic novel version seems to be missing is a girl with oversized eyes who spontaneously shoots tears three feet each way out the side of her head and thus gets all the male characters to do what she wants.


    At Adaptive Complexity, Mike White looks at some of the pioneering experiments in developmental biology and gets some new respect for paleontology in his Darwin Day Book Review: Your Inner Fish, By Neil Shubin

    As an undergraduate student considering a research career in science, I once endured a 7 AM human anatomy course. In my semi-conscious state, breathing the slightly disturbing fumes of the preservative that the teaching assistant kept spraying on the cadavers, I was thinking, ‘this is morbidly fascinating, but really not that relevant to what scientists do today.’ If Neil Shubin had been teaching my anatomy course, I wouldn’t have struggled to get out of bed and make it to class on time.


    Professor Ryan Gregory shows us what evolutionary trees do and do not show in Do you understand evolutionary trees? (Part One)

    Most profoundly:
    An evolutionary tree is similar in a sense to a baby's mobile: each node can rotate freely without changing the way that they are joined to one another. As such, the order of the terminal nodes is meaningless. One cannot read across the tips.
    But we can read the rest of this series to learn a a whole lot more.


    Free Range Academy has a whole lot of interesting links we didn't know of before at Happy Darwin Day on February 12th!

    Most profoundly:
    Now, what sort of cake does one make on Darwin's birthday.....I'm thinking finch?
    Nothing follows "Primordial Soup" like some "Finch Cake", we think you'll agree.


    Looking for some good books on evolution? At Adaptive Complexity, Mike White has put up a list of his favorites.


    At faith in honest doubt, Dale explains that scientists celebrate Darwin not to venerate him as an authority, but because of his achievements as a scientist:
    The evidence and the quality of the theory, not the man, is the source of authority.


    Undergraduate Mind shares the Darwin love by providing even more links we did not know about, something which Darwin would surely approve. He makes mention of another cake. It will be hard to top Finch.

    Tangled Up In Blue Guy rightly notes that if we really want to honor Darwin (and uphill battles in science generally) we should demand accountability from the political candidates on their science knowledge in general and evolution in specific.

    They're running for election, so they'll agree to anything, but since a debate has to happen before the election, there's not much way to weasel around it.

    He even provides links to the top 4 candidates' contact pages. Sorry Ron Paul fans, Tangled Up In Blue Guy is one part of the internet your marketing people have failed.


    Those zany biologists at Swarthmore have created 'Darwin has a posse' stickers for Darwin Day.

    These stickers are being introduced to spread awareness and appreciation of Charles Darwin, whose theory of natural selection provided a simple, non-supernatural explanation for how life evolves. Although this stickering project is probably futile, it will hopefully delay our slip into Dark Ages II by several days.

    Which affirms the universal constant that college students are prone to hyperbole. But they make great stickers.


    Sorting Out Science is beginnging a series of podcasts on Darwin and Evolution. You can listen to the first one, discussing evolutionary theory before Darwin, at the linguistically and numerically terrificly named Episode 18 — The Evolution of the Theory of Evolution, Part 1 of 2.


    Listen to a series of podcasts on the creationism controversy in Darwin's own village and his efforts to resolve science and faith.

    Online Course: Evolution, Creationism and the Nature of Science. The Cornerstone Course explores the basic tenets, assumptions, and evidence pertaining to both evolution and creationism, including its current incarnation, "Intelligent Design." It employs this modern-day example to give students a clear understanding of the difference between science and pseudoscience, offering insights into the nature of science as a process of discovery.

    At Challenging Nature you can listen to The Monkey Song, which is sort of cute until you realize it's children invalidating 150 years of scientific data.

    Evolution and politics are often tangled up in the US. Tangled Up In Blue Guy urges us to honor Darwin Day by calling on the U.S. Presidential Candidates to agree to Science Debate 2008.

    Darwin: The Evolution Revolution opens on March 8, 2008 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Renowned for his groundbreaking 1859 volume, On the Origin of Species, Darwin is also acclaimed for his work as a botanist, geologist, and naturalist. In showcasing the evidence that led to Darwin’s realisation that all life has evolved according to natural laws, the exhibition also illustrates the impact of Darwin’s work to science and society in his day, and right up to the 21st century.

    Beacon Broadside is having a whole Darwin weekend. While we lament that this kind of escalation will lead to Darwin weeks, months and years (and what will happen to the world if we think about science instead of politics and spin?) dressing up like Darwin sounds like fun.

    The Beacon Broadside folks also mentioned Evolution Weekend, sponsored by the Clergy Letter Project,
    which encompasses over 11,000 members of the clergy who have signed a statement on science and religion describing evolution as “a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests” and calling for education policymakers “to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge.”
    Makes sense to us. So if you're not an atheist militant, check them out. If you are an atheist militant, suggest a link to a site that has enough derision for you. We want to remain balanced.

    It's not a bad idea to check out what's happening in the cultural evolution/education debate. Florida Citizens For Science is the perfect place to start. has the Florida map of who is for it and who is agin' it. Adaptive Complexity discussed the Texas version here.


    Reed Cartwright at Panda's Thumb encourages us all to get out and learn some science. Okay, and then we'll go back there and find out what "Church Burning Ebola Boys" are. We're not always up on the latest science terminology.


    Wilson's Almanac, Grrrl meets world, Aeduna, Isayev and EyeBlog put up the link and that's good enough for us. Darwin Day is not a high-pressure internet relationship. Animacules didn't use the link but we still found him. All Darwin is good Darwin.


    Links And Events

    The most comprehensive listing of Darwin Day events will be at

    The Guardian already has a Darwin Bicentenary page up, including a piece by Richard Dawkins on "Why Darwin Matters."

    Including some written works only available there, The complete works of Darwin online at the University of Cambridge is truly comprehensive, with 40,000 pages and 115,000 images, including his shorter works, and it flows together nicely with ...

    ... the Darwin correspondence project, which has letters he wrote with nearly 2,000 people during his lifetime, some 5,000 in total. They can tell you a lot about what he thought outside the published works and places his publications in the context of his era.

    The Darwin digital library of evolution is named for Darwin but includes all evolution literature within their historical timeframes, including natural history before Darwin.

    P.Z. Myers is giving a talk at University of Minnesota, Morris on Darwin Day. If you have never read his Pharyngula column, you may not know he is on the front lines of the culture wars regarding evolution, but defending science culturally is as important as defending science scientifically and no one does it better. He also lists three other non-Darwin Day science compilations that are still worth a look.

    Are you excited about Darwin Day, but not really sure what evolution is all about? UC Berkeley has an Understanding Evolution page, which is a "one-stop source for information on evolution."

    The American Museum of Natural History has an exhibit page devoted to Darwin's work. The exhibit is unfortunately gone, but the web site is still good.

    Noah Gray at Action Potential provides a handy list of Darwin Day events and reminds everyone to share their experiences for potential topics on the Answers Research Journal.

    Want to do more? You can have a Darwin event in your town. Register it at and let people know.

    You can even wear this nifty t-shirt. Darwin was much cooler than Che Guevara ever thought of being.


    You never know what will be popular on the internet, so if this gets a lot of traffic we'll donate the ad revenue (there's an ad at the top of the page) to an organization, like or the Institute for Humanist Studies or anything else readers support.

    My vote for the ad revenue donation would be the National Center for Science Education - a more ecumenical group, which works to promote good biology education in schools, and makes a point of emphasizing that most religious groups in the US are not implacable opponents of modern science.

    I'm not a believer myself, but most Americans are, and the sooner they realize that evolutionary biologists aren't out to turn them all into atheists, the better.

    This is not a Darwin Day article so I won't put it up there, but it dovetails with a lot of the cultural divide.

    Ken Ham, who runs Answers in Genesis, (and the Creationist museum our Bristol PhD candidate who's never been anywhere near Kentucky skewered so nicely) says Darwin was racist because

    the theory inspired the Nazi belief in racial superiority and the murderous policies of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

    I know that claim is nothing new but blaming Darwin for theories of racial superiority is like blaming a spoon for making Rosie O'Donnell fat.

    Podblack - This will be up on the 12th February, with recommended readings for parents who want to introduce children to Darwin's writings through non-fiction books. :)

    Culture, A Ubiquitous Biological Entity

    A Recapitulation

    1. General comprehension of evolutionary biology is an essential pre-requisite to the study and comprehension of cultural anthropology.

    2. Culture is a basic biological entity. It is the ubiquitous elaboration- extension of the sensing of and reactions to, by the genome, to the goings-on beyond the outermost membrane of its housing, the cell, and of multicelled organisms, to the totality of their outer and inner environments.

    Culture has been selected for survival of the genome as means of extending its exploitation capabilities of the out-of-cell circumstances, consequent to the earlier evolution and selection of the genome's organ, its outermost cell membrane (OCM), for control of the in-cell state of the environment.

    3. Every cultural element is an organism's artifact that involves biological intra-/inter-cell expression and/or process. Biological and cultural domains are not ontologically distinct. Culture inheres in biology.

    4. Culture And Intelligence

    The core (wordnet.princeton) definition of "intelligence" is "the ability to comprehend, to understand and profit from experience". These surviving abilities are different for the different phenotypes within a genotype, therefore each phenotype has its own meaning of "intelligence".

    Intelligence is to culture approximately as essential amino acids are to proteins. Culture evolves in response to circumstances only by use of intelligence and to the extent and scope feasible by the extent and scope of intelligence.

    5. In human cultures ethnocentrisms are phenotypic cases of anthropocentrism; biologically both are normal Darwinian biological survival phenomena. Ethnocultures are human phenotypic survival tools.

    6. Life is a phenomenon of temporary energy constraint. It pops in out of its matrix, the energy constrained in Earth's biosphere by Earth's organisms, which are the many varieties of genomes, the communal interdependent life forms of the primal, once-independent, genes, the formers and conservers of life's energy on Earth.

    7. Culture is the universal driver of genetic evolution

    The major course of natural selection is not via random mutations followed by survival, but via interdependent, interactive and interenhencing selection of biased genes replication routes at their alternative-splicing-steps junctions, effected by the cultural feedback of the second stratum multicells organism or monocells community to their prime stratum genes-genome organisms.

    8. Science is a human cultural artifact, a tool of human survival

    During the recent several centuries in the course of human history Science has been evolving at an accelerating rate as a provider of convincing, ever closer approaching, approximate models of the real world. We understand that Science is one of the components of our Culture, the totality of our capabilities to observe the environment, react to it and exploit it for our satisfaction and survival. There is a distinct, even if still small, growing spreading tendency to accept the findings of evolving Science with ever increasing respect and appreciation, especially in the realms of all forms and types of its progenies - technology and life disciplines.

    9. The crucial 21st century question facing humanity is how much further and into which additional disciplines may or should Science be welcome and adopted by society at large, with what hopes and with what expectations.

    Which doctrine(s) may or should be welcome and adopted, with what plans or hopes and with what expectations?

    Life is a temporary affair. It is temporary on all scales at all levels.

    Life's purpose is ours to decide and ours to fulfil. The arguments about life's doctrines should ensue from our choices of life's purpose.

    Dov Henis

    And something about "life"...

    Life's Manifest

    Recapitulation of some earlier notes on
    The Drive, Nature And Purpose Of Life: Scientific Comprehension

    A. Uniqueness Of science among human artifacts

    ALL aspects of our culture are, of course, anthropoartifacts, including science. Yet among those artifacts science has a distinct uniqueness for us.

    During the recent several centuries in the course of human history humans have been developing science at an accelerating rate as a provider of convincing, ever closer approaching, approximate models of the real world.

    B. The drive and nature of life

    Life Genesis, formation of first genes, was a phenomenon of serendipitous occurrence, in a supportive environment, of 'favourably-directed' energy potential between in-coming sun's radiation and polymerizing RNA-related oligomeric configurations.

    The drive of life and of its evolution is to enhance the functionality and survivability of the genes, in order to maintain and enhance Earth-biosphere's temporary constrained energy storage and to maintain it BIO as long as possible.

    It is the genes, life's prime strata organisms, that evolve, and the evolution of genomes, the 2nd stratum of life, and of the 3rd life stratum cellular organisms, is an interenhancing consequence of their genes' evolution.

    C. The nature of life

    Earth Life: 1. a format of temporarily constrained energy, retained in temporary constrained genetic energy packages in forms of genes, genomes and organisms 2. a real virtual affair that pops in and out of existence in its matrix, which is the energy constrained in Earth's biosphere.

    Earth organism: a temporary self-replicable constrained-energy genetic system that supports and maintains Earth's biosphere by maintenance of genes.

    Gene: a primal Earth's organism. (1st stratum organism)

    Genome: a multigenes organism consisting of a cooperative commune of its member genes. (2nd stratum organism)

    Cellular organisms: mono- or multi-celled earth organisms. (3rd stratum organism)

    D. Update of underlying life sciences conception is thus feasible

    - First were independent individual genes, Earth's primal organisms.

    - Genes aggregated cooperatively into genomes, multigenes organisms, with genomes' organs.

    - Simultaneously or consequently genomes evolved protective and functional membranes, organs.

    - Then followed cellular organisms, with a variety of outer-cell membrane shapes and

    This conception is a scientific, NOT TECHNOLOGICAL, life-science innovation.

    It is tomorrow's comprehension of life and of its evolution.



    E. The purpose of OUR, human, life

    The purpose of OUR life and its promotion is ours to formulate and set. It derives solely from our cognition.


    Dov Henis

    what about ear pinning

    i have big ears that stick out like a trolls

    I am certainly not against celebrations. However, given the lack of evidence for the evolutionary position, I don't see any reason to celebrate Darwin day.

    Hatice Cullingford
    This is a fabulous collection on Darwinian matters and more. I had not seen it before. Excellent.
    In his book "Heretics", G.K.Chesterton has a chapter "Christmas and the Aesthetes", in which he writes:
    ... another modern religion--I mean the religion of Comte, generally known as Positivism, or the worship of humanity. Such men as Mr. Frederic Harrison, that brilliant and chivalrous philosopher, who still, by his mere personality, speaks for the creed, would tell us that he offers us the philosophy of Comte, but not all Comte's fantastic proposals for pontiffs and ceremonials, the new calendar, the new holidays and saints' days. ...
    I myself, to take a corpus vile, am very certain that I would not read the works of Comte through for any consideration whatever. But I can easily imagine myself with the greatest enthusiasm lighting a bonfire on Darwin Day.
    Good time of year for a bonfire, too!  Perhaps the Anti-Evolutionists can join in, by giving him the Guy Fawkes treatment, and then we'll ALL have fun!
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Is this going to be done again in 2009? Or has this site got dibs on a blog swarm?

    We're doing it again except it will have 2009 on the end instead of 2008.  We may also put it on its own site so it is as 'agnostic' as possible and not seem like it is just for our stuff.

    I don't know what that site is but I think, at least in biology, us and scienceblogs are the only ones with a big enough audience to make it worthwhile.   If everyone participates on a smaller site and it gets no readers that's sort of pointless for participants.   If the site you linked to has a million readers a month like us or scienceblogs, they can certainly do it instead.   I will give them then URL.   These worldwide compilation things are a lot of work!
    D-DAY Just like you put it is doom for the whole world. Go to answers website mentioned above and learn the truth!