Darwin Days – success!

Darwin Days at ISU consisted of two events put on by two student groups at Iowa State University: the newly founded Freethinkers Alliance for Tolerance and Ethics and the 10 year old Atheist and Agnostic Society. FATE hosted “Darwin and Me: A Panel Discussion on Science and Religion” on Thursday February 12 at 7pm in the Cardinal Room of the ISU Memorial Union. AAS hosted DJ Grothe who presented “Darwin Made Me Do It: Secular vs Religious Ethics” on Friday February 13 at 7pm in the Campanile Room of the ISU Memorial Union.

Funding from the Secular Student Alliance was used to publicize both events, resulting in attendance that was much higher than we had imagined: about 120 attendees at the panel discussion (which was well over fire code for the room) and about 80 attendees for DJ Grothe (despite the event being immediately after a severe snowstorm on a Friday night).

We had about 20 new members sign up for FATE, and 5 new members for AAS. One third to one half of the people attending the panel discussion were community members from local churches, and many people attending DJ Grothe’s talk were already on the AAS mailing list, so the low number of new members is not very surprising. While the events were not effective in recruiting new members, they certainly were effective in improving visibility of both FATE and AAS on campus, which we think will eventually lead to improved recruitment for both organizations.

To compose the panel for Darwin and Me, we contacted religious student groups, known religious professors in the sciences, and personal contacts such as professors and colleagues of club members. This search resulted in a panel of six:

  • Abdelhamid Azzaz, Muslim graduate student in Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
  • Michael Clough, Christian professor in the Center for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education
  • Clark Ford, New Age professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, Bioethics
  • Tom Ingebritsen, Christian professor in Genetics, Development and Cell Biology
  • Nimer Mehyar, Muslim graduate student in Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
  • Barbara Pleasants, Jewish professor in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology

The panel members shared their personal experiences in reconciling their religious faith and the teachings and books of their religions with the science they work with, particularly evolution. A very significant point was brought up in response to a question asked by an attendee: when my children are taught about evolution, aren’t they also being taught about atheism? Each panel member took a moment to explain that evolution and religious faith are not related. We feel that this event was a very important service to the community, helping both students and community members to come to a greater understanding of the relationship between religion and science.

DJ Grothe was already scheduled to speak at UNI on February 12, so we were able to bring him to ISU with greatly reduced expense. His talk about the origin of religious ethics spurred much discussion, with a question and answer session lasting over a half hour. Bringing such a well known and well respected speaker to ISU helps club members and potential club members to recognize the prestige of AAS and will hopefully encourage them to become more involved in club activities.

Our advertising for these events was through many venues. An advertisement ran in the Iowa State Daily on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for a total cost of $120. Additional ads were run on Thursday and Friday by the ISU Committee on Lectures, an organization that helps groups publicize events that are held in the Memorial Union for the benefit of the student body. Flyers publicizing each event individually were printed for a total cost of $25 and distributed by the official flyer distribution system for $25 in department mailboxes, dorms, Greek houses, and academic buildings throughout campus. 7 sandwich boards, made available for free rental by the ISU Government of the Student Body, were checked out and rotated through different locations throughout campus all week long. On the boards were large signs that were laminated to protect them from the elements throughout the week. Lamination was expensive, bringing the total cost of the signs to $75, but without it, rain would have destroyed the signs the first day they were out. The total advertising cost was $245. The Secular Student Alliance sponsored all of the advertising, and was recognized verbally at both events as being the sponsor that made all of our advertising possible, and was listed on all flyers, signs, the AAS and FATE websites, and Facebook events. Due to limited space, none of our sponsors were listed in the newspaper ads.

The ISU Interdepartmental Genetics department donated over $200 for birthday cake and sparkling punch for the panel discussion. They also purchased a slide advancing remote for the panel to use, as one was not available to us through other sources on campus. The Iowa Secularists donated $250 to pay for DJ Grothe’s travel costs. The Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers donated $50 for coffee, tea, and goodies for DJ Grothe’s talk. These sponsors were also thanked verbally and mentioned in all of our advertisements besides the newspaper ads.

These events would not have been such a great success without the help of our sponsors.

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Darwin Days at Iowa State

Darwin Days at Iowa State

Feb 6-27  Celebrating Darwin Day: Selection of Works from Special Collections

Feb 11 and Feb 12 12pm  Flock of Dodos screening

Feb 12  2pm  Darwin and Culture

Feb 12  3pm  Darwin’s Citation Impact

Feb 12  7pm  Darwin and me: A panel discussion on science and religion

Feb 13  7pm  Darwin made me do it: Secular vs religious ethics by D.J. Grothe

Feb 18  12pm  A Conversation with Francisco Ayala

Feb 18  7pm  Darwin Bicentennial Celebration Committee reception and poster session

Feb 18  8pm  Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion by Francisco J. Ayala

Feb 25 6-9pm Darwin Fest

Please find details and descriptions of these events below:

Continue reading

Darwin Week update

  • For those of you that ordered shirts: they will be ready on either Wednesday or Thursday this week. We do have a few extras that we’re hoping to sell at DJ Grothe’s talk on Friday.
  • We’re planning to apply for GSB funding for atheist/agnostic/secular/etc books that will be stored in the Memorial Union browsing library. The books have to be something the ISU library doesn’t already have. Reply no later than Feb 12 with books you would like us to request (the budget is due on the 13th).
  • Somehow, most of the campus has overlooked Darwin’s 200th birthday. Let’s remind them! This week, compose a letter to the editor about a topic related to Darwin or evolution. Send them to the ISU Daily, the Ames Tribune, and the Des Moines Register. Also send your letters to isuaas@gmail.com so they can be posted here (whether or not they get published). There are almost 500 people on the AAS email list. If even 1/10 of us write letters, it would be huge. Invite your friends to write letters via our Facebook event.
  • The Des Moines Register has some Tips for being published: The shorter the better. Make your point quickly. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (If you don’t include your name and address, we can’t consider your letter for publication.) Remember — ALL letters are subject to editing. MOST letters are edited for clarification and length. Choose your words carefully. Letters that contain libelous or slanderous statements will likely either be edited or rejected.
  • If you are at a loss for topics for your letter, consider this: the Evolution Academic Freedom Act. For those of you who don’t know, “academic freedom” is the newest creationist buzzword to smuggle religion into science class. The bill is currently in subcommittee. Lets do what we can to see that it never leaves.Send your letters to the editor and send them to Iowa legislators. Read the full text of the bill at the Iowa General Assembly website. Thanks to Sid for the info on HS 183.
  • We’re planning to run a series of ads in the daily during Free Speech Week/VIESHEA, sort of like the atheist bus ads that have popped up all over the world. So, we need some great quotes or phrases for the ads. Submit your ideas at this Google Form.

Planning for Darwin Day 2009

Darwin’s 200th Birthday will occur on February 12, 2009; it will also be the 150th Anniversary of the publication of his famous book, On The Origin of Species. So, together we can evolve a truly international Celebration to express gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity. The objective of Darwin Day Celebration is to encourage existing institutions worldwide, such as municipalities, public and private schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums, churches, private organizations and individuals to celebrate Science and Humanity every year, on, or near, February 12, Darwin’s birthday!

From Darwin Day Celebration.

AAS is in the planning stages of our Darwin Day celebration.

Some possibilities include inviting ISU professors to speak in a panel discussion. Topics of the discussion could be “how Darwin’s work affects your field” or “how your religious faith and work in evolutionary biology interact”. We could have a spaghetti or “primordial soup” dinner, or an “Axis of Evo” party.

It would be great if we could host events with co-sponsors such as the EEOB department and evolution friendly religious groups.

12 February 1809 was also the day Abraham Lincoln was born, so we may consider honoring him in some way as well. As Darwin Day Celebration puts it: “Abraham Lincoln, Emancipator of American Slaves and Charles Darwin, Emancipator of the Human Mind”.

It may seem that February is a long way away, but we need to get moving! Please comment here if you have ideas or if you are willing to help!