February 12, 2013

Happy Darwin Day: Celebrating Science And Reason

Today, from Virginia to Idaho, from Washington state to Washington D.C., and all other states in between and even worldwide, people and organizations will celebrate Charles Darwin. Officially, Darwin Day is observed yearly on the long deceased and honored scientist’s birthday, February 12; however, some groups begin celebrating early and carry on their celebration past the 12th.

The purpose of Darwin Day, according to the International Darwin Day Foundation, is to celebrate science and humanity, most specifically by celebrating the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin. More generally, Darwin Day expresses appreciation for the myriad benefits that scientific knowledge provides.

A quick glance at the International Darwin Day schedule of events shows that people all over the globe want to thank Darwin for his insistence on science and reason. Some of these events are more traditional academic presentations and discussions, while others are events like what Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver, British Columbia, is doing. The museum has organized a Bake a Cake for Darwin Contest! Not only will this event bring awareness to Darwin, but it ends with cakes to celebrate his birthday. Yum. Yum.

This is just one example of the fun activities planned to dig into Darwin Day. The best part of a Darwin Day celebration in any form is that it focuses on the importance of knowledge. An article on redOrbit discussed the importance of Darwin Day last year. It acknowledged how U.S. Representative Pete Stark of California and American Humanists Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt explained that, “On this Darwin Day, we encourage people to celebrate science and human reason and redouble their efforts to improve the world through education, reasoned discourse, and scientific inquiry.” Though they were talking about last year, I think the sentiment carries over to this year.

Science is profoundly important to all humans. Through science we are able to cure, or at least contain, certain viruses, diseases, and illnesses. Science has helped us to better understand how our bodies work so that we can be healthy in what we eat, how we exercise, and even how we deal with our emotions. Science has provided innumerable data about the world as a whole from plants and animals to bacteria and chemicals and so much more.

Darwin’s role in the importance of science is undeniable. He taught us to question why things are or why they happen. He demanded that we think beyond just what we are told. He believed in the importance of nature to humanity just as much as he believed in science. Darwin was a scientist, but he was also a humanist and a naturalist—all three of which I strive to achieve.

Men (and women) like Darwin inspire us all, or at least they should. Darwin and others like him have prompted us to learn, to think, to question, and to understand. Charles Darwin was an educator if ever one existed.

Scientists like Darwin are those who first piqued my own interest in science. I can’t be alone in that inspiration. Furthermore, the knowledge I gained by studying Darwin (and others like him) has inspired my creativity, too. I also can’t be alone in that.

So this year, on or around February 12, I will definitely take part in a celebration of Darwin—the man, the scientist, the humanist, and the naturalist—just as I will partake in a celebration of science. I may not participate with others, but I will definitely pay my dues to the discoveries that prompted more science and reason in the world.

To find an event near you, go to the International Darwin Day Foundation website’s events. You can sift through all events or do a search. Go forth and celebrate science!

Image Credit: Nicku / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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