Charles Darwin

An atheist group counts 649 events in 42 countries celebrating the 200th anniversary today of the birth of the father of modern evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin.

From an “Evolution Palooza” at the San Francisco Public Library to a book reading in India, the worldwide Darwin Day Celebration – administered by the Institute for Humanist Studies – is “part birthday bash, part thumb-in-the-eye to creationists, part opportunity for publishers rolling out Darwin books like sausages,” says USA Today.

At least one creationist, best-selling author and TV-host Ray Comfort, plans to return the favor by debating atheists on several national and international radio programs.

Autographed copies of Ray Comfort’s new book, published by WND Books, are available exclusively in WND’s online superstore.

Comfort will debate David Silverman, national spokesman for the group American Atheists, on the Alan Colmes radio show from 11 p.m. to 11:20 p.m. Eastern Time tonight. On Canadian radio station CFMJ he takes on atheist Scott Campbell from 7:30 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time. Across the Atlantic, the BBC show “Paul Coletti World Update” will feature a debate with Comfort that was recorded earlier this week.

Comfort’s new title by WND Books, “You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think,” is scheduled for release today. Comfort is the author of 60 books and the co-host of “The Way of the Master,” a weekly television show about personal evangelism with actor Kirk Cameron, star of the hit movie “Fireproof.”

The official website of the Darwin Day Celebration says the event “provides a new global holiday that transcends separate nationalities and cultures.”

“Darwin Day can be celebrated in many different ways: civic ceremonies with official proclamations, educational symposia, birthday parties, art shows, book discussions, lobby days, games, protests, and dinner parties,” the organization says.

“In Darwin Day, we are able to recognize the diversity among us, while celebrating our common humanity and the universal understanding we share.”

A celebration at Charlie’s Playhouse studio in Pawtucket, R.I., promised a “fun and festive afternoon for kids and adults” featuring live music, “fun evolution games, door prizes, demonstrations of how we make our Giant Timelines, a champagne/sparkling cider toast, tasty food and yes, a cake with 200 candles.”

The “Evolutionpalooza!” – sponsored by San Francisco Atheists – invited “fellow primates” last weekend to come for a “great afternoon of fun, food, music, games and evolution” that included special guest Eugenie Scott of the Nation Center for Science Education, a leading activist against the teaching of creation theory and intelligent design in public schools.

At the Texas Natural Science Center in Austin, Texas, a Darwin Day celebration featured a sandbox with hidden fossils that children “excavated,” the Daily Texan reported.

“There are people with babies and young children here, and we have activities for them, but the event also focuses on current, relevant research,” said Christina Cid, the center’s director of education.

Academic freedom

In a counter-offensive to Darwin Day, many students nationwide are using the occasion to declare Feb. 12 “Academic Freedom Day,” according to the Idaho Values Alliance.

The non-profit group says the event was developed “in response to the growing repression of dissent about Darwinian dogma in science curricula at all levels of education.”

As an example, the group said, then-University of Idaho president Timothy P. White issued an edict in October 2005 declaring evolution is “the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences.”

The Idaho group said the declaration essentially muzzled the voice of a leading advocate of intelligent design theory, Scott Minnich, an associate professor of microbiology at the university.

More than 750 Ph.D. scientists have signed a statement declaring their skepticism that random mutation and natural selection can explain the complexity of life and urging that Darwinian theory be carefully examined, the group noted.

Students with Intelligent Design & Evolution Awareness clubs at three Idaho schools – Boise State University, Northwest Nazarene University and the College of Idaho – are sponsoring booths on campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today to discuss evolution and encourage the signing of a petition urging academic freedom.

As WND reported, in the run-up to Darwin Day the Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation posted billboards in at least 15 states with messages such as “Imagine no Religion” and “Praise Darwin – Evolve Beyond Belief.”

FFRF said it placed a billboard just outside Grand Junction, Colo., because town officials rejected a proposal by a local atheist to proclaim a day honoring Darwin.

“Charles Darwin gets a bad rap in America, and we want to counter that,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “It’s an intellectual blot on our country that more than 50 percent of Americans reject evolution. The Darwin bicentennial is a chance to celebrate reality, to move our nation forward, to return to the Enlightenment.”

Last summer, the Western Colorado Atheists challenged Grand Junction’s longstanding practice of starting City Council meetings with a prayer, leading city leaders to drop the invocation on the advice of an attorney, the Colorado Independent reported.

Gaylor wrote a letter in November demanding county commissioners do the same, according to the Independent, asserting prayers are unnecessary, inappropriate and divisive.


Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.