In the beginning, the solar system revolved around the earth, and humanity was carved from clay and bone—plopped, as it were, perfectly formed into a populated garden. Origin stories are, however, meant to be rewritten, and the reformation of central, essential ideas about the nature of things meant and means challenging powerful ideologies and institutions.
As was the case for earlier insights that re-situated our view of our place in the cosmos, the study of naturalism and biology threatened to expose the mutability of the human species and jeopardize a theological stranglehold on scientific discovery. The truth will out, as they say, and as Copernicus struggled to free the truth behind a heliocentric system, so too did Charles Darwin muster an immense intellectual bravery, a perpetual curiosity, and a ravenous hunger for truth in an attempt to understand the origins of modern life.
Breakthroughs in understanding our own origins would require setting aside prevailing cosmological and anthropocentric views; they would necessitate a commitment to the scientific method and the potentially disconcerting facts that may arise from its rigor. Empiricism in the field of biology, and its immense potential benefits to human well-being, had, for centuries, been stymied in order to maintain theological tenets. The fantastic realization behind the interconnectedness of the living world and the biological mechanisms that inform adaptation and survival were hidden behind a dark veil, awaiting discovery.
Darwin’s daring depictions of evolution via genetic variation and natural selection lift the veil revealing what, at the time (and, for some presently), may have been philosophically or ideologically troubling. His innovations are, when seen through the dispassionate lens of scientific data, however, neither inherently good nor bad, merely properly sourced and factual.
The repercussions of these discoveries are wide ranging and awe-inspiring! Darwin’s life and work continuously impact science and humanity. His discovery of natural selection as the mechanism for evolution unclasped scientific progress from theological limitations and paved the way for a fuller understanding of our place in the universe. Without the discovery of natural selection, the greatest achievements in health, philosophy, and human well-being over the past two hundred years would have been impossible.
While Darwin’s remarkable impact on biology, cosmology, and the scientific process generally cannot be understated, it is again his undeniable desire for truth through scientific discovery, his unwavering curiosity to discover that which was hidden (naturally or purposefully), and his determination to brave intellectual depths that inspires us.
International Darwin Day will inspire people throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin. It will be a day of celebration, activism, and international cooperation for the advancement of science, education, and human well-being.
Local and state governments will close in commemoration of the Day, and organizations and businesses will celebrate by engaging in community outreach centered around science as a tool for the betterment of humanity.
Darwin Day will be observed by the United Nations and its members as an opportunity for international partnerships through the common language of science for the common good of all.
Ever since Charles Darwin published his radically insightful book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin has been the focus of commemorations and tributes by scientists, artists, scholars, and freethinkers throughout the world. From the early gatherings after his death at his own Downe House, to bicentennial events all over the globe, celebrating science and humanity within our various cultures internationally has been a resonant and transcendent pursuit.
In 1909, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, large celebrations honoring Darwin’s contributions to science and humanity were held in Cambridge, New York and New Zealand. The University of Chicago commemorated the 100th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1959 with a series of notable events from November 24 through the 28th. The 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth saw an entire season of BBC programming on Charles Darwin himself as well as evolution and natural selection. Salem State University has successfully held an annual Darwin Festival since 1980.
The organized movement to establish an annual International Darwin Day Celebration began with three Darwin enthusiasts: Dr. Robert Stephens, who motivated the Humanist Community in Silicon Valley to initiate an annual Darwin Day Celebration in 1995; Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, who similarly organized annual Darwin Day events at the University of Tennessee beginning in 1997; and Amanda Chesworth, who joined Stephens to officially incorporate the Darwin Day Program in New Mexico in 2000.
The Darwin Day Program was reincorporated two years later in California as the Darwin Day Celebration, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational corporation promoting public education about science—and encouraging the celebration of science and humanity throughout the global community. The Darwin Day Celebration also established an Advisory Board of prominent scientists to provide assistance on questions of scientific importance.
The original website for Darwin Day was created in 2003 and can be accessed here.
In anticipation of Darwin's bicentennial birthday on Feb.12th, 2009, the Darwin Day Celebration paired with the American Humanist Association to support the growth of Darwin Day activities. The American Humanist Association remains the lead agency charged with amplifying the International Darwin Day Foundation’s call for celebration, activism, and international cooperation for the advancement of science, education, and human well-being.
The mission of International Darwin Day is to inspire people throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.