List of CFI Darwin Day Events Across the US
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
The Center for Inquiry has posted a list of its many Darwin Day events scheduled for locations across the country. For science enthusiasts, these events serve as an important ritual for building community and social identity.
Darwin Day events also provide a news peg for generating local media attention. In this case, a positive message would be framed around the value of Darwin's original idea as the building block for medical and social progress. For example, without evolutionary science we would be hard pressed to understand problems such as bird flu.
This message should be paired with a strong emphasis on inclusion, noting the fact that so many different religious traditions support the teaching of evolution in schools and do not see evolution as inconsistent with their faith. In other words, Darwin Day is for everyone, religious and non-religious alike.
The recent press release by the National Academies announcing its report on teaching evolution in schools is a leading model for this type of positive framing.
Of course, these events should also be talked about as a lot of fun!
CFI Community of Tallahassee
Saturday, February 9th, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 a.m.
FSU College of Medicine, Atrium & Auditorium, Call Street and Stadium Drive, Tallahassee, FL
Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Chemistry at FSU
Eugenie Scott, Exec. Director of the National Center for Science Education
Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy at FSU
PLUS - a Bucky Ball workshop for children with Sir Harry Kroto, hands-on activities tables, and art displays.
Center for Inquiry | Austin
Sunday, February 10th, 1:00 p.m.
Bookpeople, 603 N. Lamar, Austin, TX
"Teaching Evolution" with
Dr. David Hillis, professor of Integrative Biology, UT Austin
Dr. Abigail Lustig, assistant professor of History, UT Austin
And a panel discussion with science educators discussing the teaching of evolution in Texas in the 21st century.
PLUS - Special programs for kids of all ages including Darwin story time, educational activity tables, and birthday cake!
Center for Inquiry | Chicago
Sunday, February 10th, 10:30 a.m.
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), University Center East Building, 750 S. Halsted, Room 613
Dr. Ron Pine, research associate at the Field Museum of Chicago
"Current Knowledge of Life's Prehistory and What Darwin Knew and Didn't Know About It," followed by a guided tour of the Field Museum.
Admission is FREE, but donations are appreciated.
Center for Inquiry | Los Angeles
Sunday, February 10th, 4:00 p.m.
4773 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA
A staged reading by professional actors of one of Steve Allen's Meeting of the Minds teleplays featuring the historical characters of Darwin, Galileo, Emily Dickinson, and Attila the Hun.
Reception with cake and champagne at 4:00 p.m.
Show begins at 5:00 p.m.
Admission is $6.00 - FREE for Friends of the Center for Inquiry
Reservations are required.
For details, visit CFI Los Angeles.
CFI Community of Miami
Tuesday, February 12th, 5:00 p.m.
Miami Dade College, Kendall Campus, 11011 SW 104th St. Miami, FL
Dr. Douglas Broadfield, Biological Anthropologist, Florida Atlantic University
Center for Inquiry | New York City
Tuesday, February 12th, 7:30 p.m.
Stony Brook University Student Activities Center, Stonybrook, NY
David Sloan Wilson, evolutionary biologist and author
"Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives"
PLUS - Exhibit and Information Table
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 11:30AM-7:30PM, SAC Lobby
Visit the exhibit, pick up literature, and ask questions about evolution.
Wednesday, February 12th, 6:30 p.m.
General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen, 20 W. 44th Street, NYC
Voices of Reason/Darwin Day Lecture with Susan Jacoby
"The Age of American Unreason"
Admission is $10 - Friends of the Center FREE
Special book-signing and reception following the lecture - $30
Center for Inquiry | Michigan
Wednesday, February 13th, 7:00 p.m.
Women's City Club, 254 Fulton Street E, Grand Rapids, MI
Barbara Oakley, associate professor of engineering at Oakland University
"Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend"
CFI Community of NE Ohio
Wednesday, February 13th, 7:00 p.m.
Maple Heights Library, 5225 Library Lane, Maple Heights, OH
A dramatic presentation about the life of Darwin by members of the Pittsburgh CFI Community highlighting Darwin's life and the events leading to the discovery of the theory of evolution.
Center for Inquiry | Amherst
Saturday, February 16, 3:00 p.m.
CFI Amherst, 1310 Sweet Home Road, Amherst, NY
Dr. H. James Birx, professor of anthropology, Canisius College
Buffalo Zoo Kids Corner
Charles Darwin Himself!
Fish Fry Dinner
PLUS - readings from On the Origin of Species with Center for Inquiry's Director of Libraries, Tim Binga.
Admission is $10 - FREE for Friends of the Center
Center for Inquiry | Indiana
Saturday, March 8, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd., Indianapolis, IN
3rd Annual Darwin Day Conference
Richard Carrier, historian and philosopher, presenting, "Ancient Roman Creationism: Scientific Pagans vs. Armchair Christians"
Dr. John Langdon, Assoc. Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, University of Indianapolis
Dr. Irwin Tessman, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Purdue University.
PLUS - an afternoon panel discussion with the three speakers answering questions and responding to ideas proposed by Creationist/Intelligent Design proponents.
Admission is $20 - Teachers and Friends of the Center $10 - Students FREE
What do we see from watching birds move across the country?
- A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
- The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
- Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
The migration of birds — and we didn't even used to know that birds migrated; we assumed they hibernated; the modern understanding of bird migration was established when a white stork landed in a German village with an arrow from Central Africa through its neck in 1822 — draws us in the direction of having an understanding of the world. A bird is here and then travels somewhere else. Where does it go? It's a variation on the poetic refrain from The Catcher in the Rye. Where do the ducks go? How many are out there? What might it encounter along the way?
While there is a yearly bird count conducted every Christmas by amateur bird watchers across the country done in conjunction with The Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently released the results of a study that actually go some way towards answering heretofore abstract questions: every fall, as per cloud computing and 143 weather radar stations, four billion birds migrate into the United States from Canada and four billion more head south to the tropics.
"In the spring," the lead author Adriaan Dokter noted, "3.5 billion birds cross back into the U.S. from points south, and 2.6 billion birds return to Canada across the northern U.S. border."
In other words: the birds who went three to four times further than the birds staying in the U.S. faired better than the birds who stayed in the U.S. Why?
Part of the answer could be very well be what you might hear from a conservationist — only with numbers to back it up: the U.S. isn't built for birds. As Ken Rosenberg, the other co-author of the study, notes: "Birds wintering in the U.S. may have more habitat disturbances and more buildings to crash into, and they might not be adapted for that."
The other option is that birds lay more offspring in the U.S. than those who fly south for the winter.
What does observing eight billion birds mean in practice? To give myself a counterpoint to those numbers, I drove out to the Joppa Flats Education Center in Northern Massachusetts. The Center is a building that sits at the entrance to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and overlooks the Merrimack River, which is what I climbed the stairs up to the observation deck to see.
Once there, I paused. I took a breath. I listened. I looked out into the distance. Tiny flecks Of Bonaparte's Gulls drew small white lines across the length of the river and the wave of the grass toward a nearby city. What appeared to be flecks of double-crested cormorants made their way to the sea. A telescope downstairs enabled me to watch small gull-like birds make their way along the edges of the river, quietly pecking away at food just beneath the surface of the water. This was the experience of watching maybe half a dozen birds over fifteen-to-twenty minutes, which only served to drive home the scale of birds studied.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
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