The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History kicked off its weeklong celebration of the life and work of Charles Darwin this Sunday.
The museum, in collaboration with the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara, sponsored the event in order to commemorate and educate the public about Darwin’s impact on both science and society. The celebration coincides with the 200th birthday of Darwin – once called “the most dangerous man in Europe” for his revolutionary and controversial theories of evolution – and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species.
To begin the week, Floyd Sandford, a biologist and Darwin impersonator, wrote and performed a historical reenactment titled “Darwin Remembers: Recollections of a Life’s Journey.” The performance chronicled the life of Charles Darwin from his youth as an avid beetle collector to the final weeks before his death.
Upcoming events, hosted by the museum for Darwin Week, address Darwin’s life and theories as well as the controversies surrounding his work, while Sandford’s performance focused on Darwin’s perception of human life.
“Much light will be shone on man and his origins,” Sandford orated. “We are animals, also. We, too, are products of natural selection. … In our arrogance, we consider ourselves supreme.”
The week’s main event features a conversation between Federal Judge John Jones and author Edward Humes regarding the teaching of intelligent design in schools. It will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Judge Jones presided over the 2005 Dover Trials – the first trial brought to United States courts against a public school district that required the presentation of intelligent design as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
Judge Jones ruled that intelligent design was to be outlawed in public schools and sparked both support and controversy.
Ed Humes is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Monkey Girl, which was named after a childish insult directed at the daughter of the plaintiff in the Dover Trials. The book discusses the conflict between evolution and religion, especially in the context of public education.
Humanist Society of Santa Barbara Board Member Andrew Hankin said that Judge Jones’ ruling greatly impacted science and public education.
“Creationism has no place in science classes,” Hankin said. “This is a court decision which has national repercussions.”
Hankin also explained the importance of Humes’ book.
“Humes wrote the definitive account of the Dover case and intelligent design in classes,” he said.
On Monday, a reenactment of the historical science debate, called “Reaction to Darwin’s Theory: A Modern Twist on the Wilberforce-Huxley Debate,” took place between actors. Other invents include today’s “Teaching Evolution in the 21st Century,” where educators and scientists will discuss the teaching of evolution, and “Biodiversity in Your Own Backyard,” a free event on Thursday, which includes birthday cake for Darwin and discussions about research on evolution.
Museum members and students receive discounts to all events held during Darwin Week. Tickets to events can be purchased by phone, at the door or online at http://ww.sbnature.org/tickets.