February 01, 2011

Sixth annual ‘Darwin Week’ opens Feb. 7

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will play host to its sixth annual “Darwin Week” this month, bringing speakers, film, discussion, art and more to the campus in honor of Charles Darwin’s 202nd birthday.

Darwin week begins Monday, Feb. 7, and runs through Thursday, Feb. 10. The events are free and open to the public.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover Darwin Week events, which begin Monday, Feb. 7. For more information, please contact Austen Barnett at abarnett@siu.edu or call 618/536-2314.

Frank E. “Andy” Anderson, associate professor of zoology in the College of Science, said the many events will be fun and enlightening for those who attend.

“In general, the main reason to attend Darwin Week events is to learn a bit about Charles Darwin's basic insights into how nature works,” Anderson said. “His ideas have developed into what we now call ‘evolution,’ and -- among many other things -- they've completely upended how we think about ourselves and our place in the universe.

“Evolution is horribly misunderstood by many people, even many rather well-educated people. In my experience, much of what people think they know about it is really a caricature,” he said.

The slew of events will bring people of different backgrounds together around Darwin’s work, Anderson said. Graduate students, led by Austen Barnett, a doctoral student in zoology, have conceived and planned most of the activities this year.

One highlight of the event is a showing of the film “Creation,” a biopic of Darwin’s life that did not receive wide distribution when it was released in 2009. A panel discussion with local religious leaders on the nexus of spirituality and science also will be an enlightening event, Anderson said.

“The panel discussion will provide insight into how different faiths respond to a fundamental concept in biology, and will touch on aspects of the conflict, or lack thereof, between faith and science,” he said. “People also willget a chance to see a recent Hollywood film (“Creation”) about Charles Darwin that failed to find a distributor in the U.S., largely because of the attitude many Americans have toward the subject matter.”

Also on tap is an art competition titled “Endless Forms Most Beautiful.” Organizers are asking artists to depict aspects of adaptation and natural selection and are accepting art in all formats. Deadline for submissions is Friday, Feb. 4. Those participating will be honored at a reception on Wednesday, Feb. 9. The top prize is $100, second is $50 and third $25.

A lecture by Paul “P.Z.” Myers on “The Evolution of Cooperation,” wraps up the week’s events on Thursday. Myers, of the University of Minnesota, is a biologist and the author of the award-winning “Pharyngula” (fa-RINJ-you-la) science blog. Refreshments will follow the lecture.

“People may want to see Myers because he's a bit of a firebrand,” Anderson said. “The Q&A session might get colorful!”

Darwin Week will provide a stimulating environment for all who attend, Anderson said.

“This is one of the benefits of having a world-class university in the community,” he said. “This sort of thing just doesn't happen in most other communities.”

The following is a list of daily events for the Darwin Week at SIUC:

Monday, Feb. 7

• Religious leaders panel discussion, “The Intersection Between Evolution and Faith,” 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Life Science III.

Tuesday, Feb. 8

Movie, “Creation,” 7 p.m. in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library.

Wednesday, Feb. 9

Art competition and reception, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful,” 5 p.m. in Art Alley, second floor, Student Center.

Thursday, Feb. 10

Lecture by Paul “P.Z.” Myers, “The Evolution of Cooperation,” 7 p.m. in Ballroom B, Student Center. Refreshments will follow the lecture.