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Stan's Darwin blog
Sunday, 15 February 2009
Darwin's birthday weekend

Well, it has come and gone--Darwin's 200th birthday.  I celebrated this anniversary in a creative and meaningful fashion.

On February 12, I went to the University of Oklahoma for a Darwin bicentennial celebration.  John Lynch, a historian of science, spoke at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History that evening, explaining that the development of evolutionary theory was gradual, not really a revolution.

The next day, Friday the 13th, the university and the museum sponsored a whole day symposium, Darwin Across the Disciplines.  I was the only panelist that was not from the University of Oklahoma.   The panel included zoologists, botanists, an anthropologist, a medical researcher, a computer scientist, and a philosopher.  I think it was particularly interesting that Darwinian natural selection has opened up a whole new field of computer science research.  Computer scientists routinely use natural selection, rather than intelligent design, to produce new programs.  This is a major new area of computer science, not just a minor curiosity.

My presentation was about how a Darwinian understanding of science is essential in the classroom.  Recent bills before legislatures, including in Oklahoma, require teachers to "teach the controversy," claiming that student learning is enhanced by debating subjects rather than just learning about them.  The problem is that these bills only call for these debates for certain hot-button conservative issues, such as evolution and global warming.  Even though the Bible teaches that rain falls through windows in the sky which is an inverted bowl of thin metal, and that demons cause disease, the creationists never all for "teaching the controversy" about meteorology or the germ theory of disease.  A creationist approach leads students to major fallacies in thinking, such as the "argument from personal incredulity" and "the argument from personal inerrancy."  These fallacies impair rather than encourage the ability of students to think critically about issues in general.

I gave this presentation in my Darwin costume.

When I got home, my wife Lee had prepared a weekend of Darwin cuisine.  She had found a website that had Emma Darwin's notebook of recipes and she prepared several of them for me, as if she were Emma and I were Charles.  There were events to mark the Darwin bicentennial all over the world, but I doubt that very many other people celebrated Darwin in quite this manner.  We also took a walk in the bright Oklahoma sunshine, just like Darwin on his Sandwalk.

Next week, I will be making a Darwin appearance on my home campus, Southeastern Oklahoma State University.  I will report on this in an upcoming entry. 

Posted by stanleyrice at 11:35 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 15 February 2009 11:41 AM EST

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