It is Darwin’s two hundredth birthday this year and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his world-changing Origin of Species. It is time to celebrate! It has been declared to be the “Year of Darwin.” Universities all over the world will be celebrating with lectures and other public events. Museums are putting up special displays. Meetings are being held. Churches are even getting involved, seven-hundred and fifty congregations have declared 13 -15 February 2009, ‘Evolution Weekend’ in which sermons devoted to the compatibility religion and science will be offered. I will be posting soon the wonderful activates planned by the BYU Biology Department to celebrate this momentous anniversary.
I know you’ll be anxious to begin your personal and family activates around the ‘Year of Darwin’ (we’ve planned several FHE’s devoted to exploring how evolution and our Faith are compatible), so here’s how to start.
First, make this the year that you do what you’ve always planned to do: read Origin of Species. It’s marvelously readable. It is also one of the classics of Western civilization that one ought to have read to be considered culturally literate. It is arguably one of the most influential and important books ever to be written—this whether you believe in evolution or not. This is the year to ‘just do it’.
Second, plop down $5.99 for the current edition of Scientific American. The January issue is devoted to evolution and will give you all the basics you need to fully grasp the theory and its current evidences and controversies. It has articles on Darwin’s influence; testing natural selection; and how random variation plays out in DNA. It also has a very nice article on human evolution and its fossil evidence; and another on the human body and its evolutionary relics, like hiccups (‘Why do we have hiccups?’ you’ve probably wondered). The last few articles explore controversies like evolutionary psychology and its errors; and the evangelical Christian attempt at slight of hand in disguising its gussied-up creationism in, so-called, Intelligent Design. The last article in the magazine explores how evolution has changed the way we deal with much that we take for granted in our lives like medicine, health care, law enforcement and ecology. You’ll be stunned by how much evolution touches so many aspects of your life. Stunned. This issue is really worth the price if you want an accessible, informed, and well-written grounding in current evolutionary science.
So, welcome to the year of Darwin. And quite seriously, this would be a good time to explore the implications and meaning of evolution. As I have argued in this blog, evolution and LDS Faith are fully and wonderfully compatible. Even if you are skeptical about some aspects of evolution, take the opportunity to explore your doubts about the theory more fully, more openly, and with better information during this memorial year. Engage with what the science is saying and don’t get it second hand from its disbelievers. We ask truth-seekers to investigate the Church from us rather than from our detractors. I ask you to do the same with evolution. Most of the anti-evolution information is as biased and wrong about the science as anti-Mormon literature is about us. Take the first step by getting this magazine and exploring what scientists are saying themselves. I think you will find it enlightening.