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Darwin Week Evolves Into Weeklong Celebration

Events will be held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in conjunction with 200th anniversary of the evolutionary scientist's birth.

Science buffs around the world are poised to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth Thursday, as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of his On the Origin of Species, the work that unveiled the scientific theory that populations evolve over generations through natural selection.

“Darwin Week,” which was declared by the Santa Barbara City Council, includes a number of educational and entertaining events sponsored by the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

The theory of evolution was controversial in Darwin’s time and remains so today. Recent Gallup polls show that more than 40 percent of Americans reject the theory of evolution and believe instead that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” At least four recent presidential candidates stated they do not believe the theory of evolution.

The final event of Darwin Week, on Saturday, will feature a conversation between Pennsylvania District Court Judge John E. Jones III and Edward Humes, exploring the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. the Dover (Pa.) Area School District trial over which Jones presided and handed down the decision that the school board’s mandate to teach intelligent design in the Dover Schools was unconstitutional. Humes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the author of Monkey Girl, the definitive account of the Dover trial. The event promises to be a fascinating experience for anyone interested in landmark legal decisions, and questions relating to the separation of church and state.

The week’s events — all of which take place at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Fleischmann Auditorium, 2559 Puesta Del Sol Road — started Sunday with a presentation of Darwin Remembers, a portrayal of Darwin written and performed by Floyd Sandford, a biology professor at Coe College.

Seven months after the 1859 release of On the Origin of Species, one of the most memorable clashes between science and religion over Darwin’s theory took place at Oxford University between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and biologist Thomas Huxley. David Seaborg and Dave Fitzgerald will present a modern take on this debate at 7 p.m. Monday. Admission is $8 for museum members, $10 for nonmembers.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, a “Teaching Evolution in the 21st Century” panel discussion is scheduled. Panelists will include Larry J. Friesen of SBCC, Floyd Sandford of Coe College, Jeffery Schloss of Westmont College and Bruce Tiffney of UCSB. The discussion will be moderated by museum executive director Karl Hutterer. Admission is $8 for museum members, $10 for nonmembers.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, curators from the various museum departments will talk about their work that has benefitted from Darwin’s insights. Admission is free.

The Jones-Humes conversation will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday with a reception to follow. Admission if $8 for museum members, $10 for nonmembers for the conversation only; $45 for members and $50 for nonmembers for the conversation and the reception. Pre-registration is required for the reception.

All of the week’s events will be held at Fleischmann Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta Del Sol Road. Click here for more information on the museum. For ticket information, call Heather Lahr at the museum at 805.682.4711 x170, or e-mail her at [email protected]

Roger Schlueter is chairman of the Humanist Society of Santa Barbara.

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