About the International Darwin Day Foundation (IDDF)

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The International Darwin Day Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 educational corporation, and its mission is to promote the public education about science and to encourage the celebration of science and humanity. It is managed by the American Humanist Association as an autonomous program.

Science is our most reliable knowledge system, and it has provided us with information that has greatly improved our lives, through this intellectual enterprise. Therefore we believe that it is time for everyone to learn more about science, and to celebrate its many accomplishments.


Mission Statement

The dual mission of The International Darwin Day Foundation is to promote public education about science and in addition to encourage the celebration of Science and Humanity throughout the global community including the general public, private and public institutions, science professionals, science educators at all levels, libraries, museums, the print and electronic media, and science enthusiasts everywhere. Science is our most reliable knowledge system. It has been, and continues to be, acquired solely through the application of human curiosity and ingenuity and, most importantly, it has provided enormous benefit to the health, prosperity and intellectual satisfaction for our human existence. These are worthy achievements for all people to celebrate!

To accomplish this mission The International Darwin Day Foundation will maintain an attractive website that provides potential participants with extensive educational material, together with examples and appropriate suggestions, on ways to develop meaningful celebrations. All participants are invited and encouraged to register their events on this website by going here in order to both advertise their celebrations and to develop a sense of common purpose among all participants.

To support this mission, The International Darwin Day Foundation will maintain an ongoing, continually expanding, international outreach effort, using all means at our disposal such as, lists of names and email addresses in the categories named above, in order to encourage participation. Press releases, email announcements and even snail mail invitations will be employed to promote this worthy cause. The countdown to Darwin’s 205th birthday in 2014 is underway. We hope you will join this effort and experience the satisfaction of participating with others to establish a positive celebration that reaches out to our entire Global Community! We believe it’s an idea whose time has come!!!

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The Origins and History of Darwin Day

We suspect that ever since Charles Darwin published his famous book, On The Origin of Species that there have been sporadic efforts to celebrate his accomplishments. One, with a recent but prolonged history, was initiated in 1980, at Salem College in Massachusetts. This weeklong event called the Darwin Festival continues to be held each year.

However, the history that leads directly to this Darwin Day Web site was initiated by Dr. Robert ("Bob") Stephens and took place at Stanford University. The first EVENT sponsored by the Stanford Humanists student group and the Humanist Community, was held on April 22, 1995. The famous anthropologist Dr. Donald Johanson, who discovered the early fossil human called ‘Lucy’, gave a lecture entitled "Darwin and Human Origins" to over 600 people in the Kresge Auditorium.

In subsequent years the location and date of the celebration was changed to coincide with Darwin’s birthday and was held on, or near, February 12 each year. The success of the venture is reflected in the list of speakers which include Richard Dawkins, 1996; Paul Berg, 1997; Robert Sapolsky, 1998; Douglas Hofstadter, 1999; Michael Shermer, 2001; Robert Stephens and Arthur Jackson, 2003; Robert and Lola Stephens, 2004; and Eugenie Scott, 2005.

In the intervening years, after the original Darwin Day Celebration was established, Bob worked with other groups to expand the idea of celebrating Science and Humanity. Modern cultures, which rely so heavily on scientific knowledge which was developed solely on the basis of human curiosity and ingenuity, had not developed a tradition by which to show appreciation for this phenomenal knowledge system which is largely responsible for providing all of us with the standard of health and prosperity that we enjoy today. Therefore, the Darwin Day celebration was seen as an authentic way to show appreciation to all those, both past and present, who have contributed to the scientific enterprise. The overall goal of the original concept was to recognize the achievements of humanity as represented in the acquisition of verifiable scientific knowledge.

In the year 2000, after a serendipitous meeting between two Darwin enthusiasts, Amanda Chesworth and Bob Stephens — they co-founded the Darwin Day Program. Bob became Chairman of the Board and President of the nonprofit corporation while Amanda became a member of the Board, Secretary and Executive Director of the Program. Amanda’s interest in Darwin complemented that of Dr. Stephens by having had a long-standing interest in Darwinian evolution and also, by having independently hosted previous Darwin events. The third member of the Board was Dr. Massimo Pigliucci who, also independently, initiated an annual Darwin Day event at the University of Tennessee, in 1997. Dr. Pigliucci became the Vice President. Arthur Jackson, who had been involved since the original Darwin Day Celebration in 1995, became a member of the Board in 2002. Much was accomplished during the next 3 years and much of the credit goes to Amanda. The number of EVENTS that took place around the world increased substantially over these years and thousands of people attended these events to learn more about Darwin. More importantly however, they learned about Science and the role of humans in developing the Scientific Method that permitted the acquisition of an enormous amount of verifiable scientific knowledge, that is now available to modern humans. To Amanda’s credit, a substantial book was published in 2003 by Tangled Bank Press, entitled Darwin Day Collection One.

Celebrating Science and Humanity within our various cultures throughout the world is an idea that is overdue, and the current mission of Darwin Day is to greatly expand our outreach efforts directed towards a Global Celebration for Darwin’s birthday. Please register to create your event with us.

Additional independent Darwin Celebrations have also been developed. For instance,  in 1997 the University of Tennessee initiated an annual two-day event sponsored by the Tennessee Darwin Coalition. This web site is an excellent example for other Universities to visit when they are considering the development of a Darwin Day project for their campus.

Baruck College has an interesting Darwin web site with a number of facets to it, that was started in 1998 with an ‘Introduction to Charles Darwin.’ Subsequent additions took the form of Faculty Development Colloquia and Seminars.

Shrewsbury England is the place where Charles Darwin was born and this small town in the Western Midlands near the Welsh border has had a week long Celebration in early February for the past four years. However, in 2005 they expanded the Celebration to a month-long affair. This impressive Celebration will feature films, speakers, and plays, together with many activities for citizens and visitors alike. They recognize the importance of their "most famous native son" and look forward to expanding their celebration.

A novel way of celebrating Darwin that has its roots in the misty past is to have a "Phylum Feast". This tradition has been nurtured since 1989 by the personnel at the Eastern Biodiversity Museum at Bishop Mills, Canada.

Once our web site was established in 2000 we invited all those around the world who wanted to join  the Celebration of Science and Humanity to register and advertise their events on this site and you can review them here. Note that events take place in many countries and vary from private dinner parties to week-long symposia. Our current objective is to reach out to ever greater numbers of people and organizations to make Darwin Day a truly International Celebration.

No doubt there are other Darwin-related events with historical significance of which we are not currently aware. However, if you will send us your information we will be happy to include it here. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

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Advisory Board

The following professionals have agreed to serve as advisors to International Darwin Day Foundation.

Patrick Bateson

A pioneer in Ethology (the biological study of behavior), Patrick Bateson is an Ethology professor at Cambridge University. With Cambridge lamb skins for education in Zoology (BA) and Animal Behavior (PhD), Batesons achievements include over a decade as the Director of Animal Behavior at Cambridge, authorship of Design for a Life : How Behavior and Personality Develop, his Harkness Fellowship at Stanford, editing and co-editing on several books.

Outside of his interests in Darwin and our goal for Darwin Day, Bateson is both a Fellow and the Biological Secretary of the Royal Society, as well as Provost of King’s College, Cambridge.

William H. Calvin

A theoretical neurobiologist, Affiliate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, William Calvin is the author of 11 books, mostly for general readers, about brains and evolution including The Throwing Madonna The Cerebral Symphony, The River That Runs Uphill, The Cerebral Code, Conversations with Neil’s Brain (with George Ojemann), and How Brains Think.

His book with Derek Bickerton, Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brainwith, is about syntax. The latest, A Brain for All Seasons:  Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change, about paleoanthropology, paleoclimate, and considerations from neurobiology and evolutionary biology. It won the 2002 Phi Beta Kappa book award for science.

Helena Cronin

Helena Cronin is Co-Director of London School of Economic’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Sciences, where she runs the wide ranging and successful program "Darwin@LSE". The program fosters research at the forefront of evolutionary theory.

She is the author of the best selling book; The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today, which was chosen as one of The New York Times‘ nine best books of the year for 1992.

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in May, 2001, is a gifted writer, who is known for his popularization of Darwinian ideas as well as for original thinking on evolutionary theory. He has invented telling metaphors that illuminate the Darwinian debate: His book The Selfish Gene argues that genes — molecules of DNA — are the fundamental units of natural selection, the "replicators." Organisms, including ourselves, are "vehicles," the packaging for "replicators." The success or failure of replicators is based on their ability to build successful vehicles. There is a complementarity in the relationship: vehicles propagate their replicators, not themselves; replicators make vehicles. In The Extended Phenotype, he goes beyond the body to the family, the social group, the architecture, the environment that animals create, and sees these as part of the phenotype — the embodiment of the genes. He also takes a Darwinian view of culture, exemplified in his invention of the word "meme," the unit of cultural inheritance; memes are essentially ideas, and they, too, are operated on by natural selection.

Daniel C. Dennett

The philosopher Daniel C. Dennett is interested in consciousness, and his view of it, similar to that of Minsky, is as high-level, abstract thinking. He is known as the leading proponent of the computational smodel of the mind; he has clashed with philosophers such as John Searle who maintain that the most important aspects of consciousness — intentionality and subjective quality — can never be computed. He is the philosopher of choice of the AI community. In his more recent work, he has turned to what he calls "Darwin’s dangerous idea"; he is squarely in the ultra-Darwinist camp of George C. Williams and Richard Dawkins, and he has with great energy mustered a serious critique of the scientific ideas of Stephen Jay Gould.

William Durham

William Durham is an eminent Professor of Anthropological Sciences at Stanford University, specializing in ecology and evolutionary theory. Besides numerous honors from his academic colleagues, he has been honored with the MacArthur Foundation’s "genius award" Fellowship and numerous awards for exceptional teaching.

Steve Jones

Steve Jones is a highly regarded geneticist and snail biologist. He is interested in why so much diversity exists in animals and plants: why no two individuals are alike. Surely, it can be argued, natural selection should instead inevitably lead to the evolution of one perfect form for each species. He works on the striking variety of shell color and banding patterns in the land snail Cepaea nemoralis. Cepaea has been seen as an archetype of diversity since the nineteenth century. In the 1950s, the English biologists Arthur Cain and Phillip Sheppard argued that such apparently trivial differences were under the action of natural selection (in this case because birds would attack the conspicuous forms). Jones finds that climate is also involved and — most important — that differences in microclimate on the scale of a few inches can alter the behavior and survival of snails of different pattern. Ecologically complex habitats hence foster genetic diversity. Jones has been writing and lecturing about science to a general audience for fifteen years.

Robin McKie

Robin Mckie is a Science writer at The Observer. An author of numerous books, including African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity, and The Book of Man: The Human Genome Project and the Quest to Discover Our Genetic Heritage.

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and Slate, and is the author of six books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, and The Blank Slate.

Eugenie C. Scott

Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, a former college professor, is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., a nonprofit membership organization in Oakland, CA, of scientists, teachers, and others that works to improve the teaching of evolution, and of science as a way of knowing. It opposes the advocacy of "scientific" creationism and other religiously-based views in science classes. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS), and the advisory counsels of several church and state separation organizations. She has held elective offices in the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Scott is the current president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, for which she has also been Secretary-Treasurer. Honors include the Bruce Alberts Award of the American Society for Cell Biology, the Isaac Asimov Science Award from the American Humanist Association, the First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation, the James Randi Award from the Skeptic Society, and the Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Missouri College of Arts and Sciences.

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Lecture Series at Caltech, and the co-host and producer of the 13-hour Fox Family television series, Exploring the Unknown.

Shermer is the author of How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, Why People Believe Weird Things, Teach Your Child Science, and The Borderlands of Science : Where Sense Meets Nonsense. He is the co-author of Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?; Teach Your Child Math and Mathemagics; and In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace: A Biographical Study on the Psychology of History.

Frank Sulloway

Frank Sulloway is a Visiting Professor of Psychology and History of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He has made many visits to the Galapagos Islands and is an expert on that part of Darwin’s travels and the current evolutionary forces at work there. Prof. Sulloway has done pioneering work on personality from an evolutionary perspective, and particularly on the effect of birth order. Along with other honors, he has been honored with the MacArthur Foundation’s "genius award" Fellowship.

Colin Tudge

Colin Tudge is a three-time winner of the Glaxo/ABSW Science Writer of the Year Award. His career as a science writer includes serving as Features Editor at New Scientist , his own science program, Spectrum, on BBC Radio and freelance writing for The Independent, The Times, Natural History and The New Statesman.

He is the author of ten previous books, including Last Animals at the Zoo; The Time Before History; The Impact of the Gene; Last Animals at the Zoo; and coauthor (with Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell) of The Second Creation: Dolly and the Age of Biological Control.

Edward O. Wilson

Wilson is Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. In addition to two Pulitzer Prizes (one of which he shares with Bert Hölldobler), Wilson has won many scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

His books include The Future of Life; Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge; Diversity of Life; The Ants (co-authored with Bert Hölldobler); On Human Nature; Naturalist; Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition; Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration (co-authored with Bert Hölldobler); and The Insect Societies.

Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer is the author of

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea and Parasite Rex, and writes a column about evolution for Natural History.

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