A Nationwide Day for Honoring Charles Darwin, but Handled With Caution





There was trepidation on both sides when a squadron of biologists set out to celebrate Darwin Day in rural America during the weekend.

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, N.C., which instigated the road trip in the name of scientific outreach, first held a workshop where seven of its Ph.D.’s staged role-playing games and practiced debunking misconceptions about evolution without sounding confrontational.

The group’s small-town hosts took their own precautions. A high school principal in Ringgold, Va., sent out permission slips so parents could opt out of sending their children to the event (two did). A museum vice president in Putnam, Iowa, publicized the festivities only to teachers, rather than risk riling members of her conservative Christian community.

Darwin Day, conceived as a way to promote science on the 202nd anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth — he was born Feb. 12, 1809 — had until this time been commemorated mostly by those inclined to science, at natural history museums, by secular humanist groups and in university biology departments....



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