2009 is the Year of Evolution. It has been 200 years since Charles Darwin’s birth and 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of Species. There have been many celebrations, events, and lectures all in his name with more to come throughout the year. February 12 is even considered “Darwin Day,” and celebrated every year.
All these celebrations beg the question: Why do we celebrate Darwin? We don’t celebrate other great scientists or thinkers. Where is Einstein Day? Or Newton Day? Even among the history of evolutionary theory, he was not the first or only person to propose the idea. So what is the deal?
I don’t really have the answer, but I do have a few ideas. The first is that he is the figurehead for a scientific understanding of where we came from. This has profound philosophical implications for humans and their relationship with other animals. In fact, I think these implications are why so many people are willing to make every excuse in the book to deny the reality of evolution (for example, The Discovery Institute).
Another reason could be that it is the only scientific theory that is constantly being accosted by people based on their belief system and not on evidence. This constant attack puts people on the defensive. It makes them want to fight for the theory that Darwin proposed so many years ago.
Of course, biologists have their own reasons for celebrating. Biology and medicine would be nothing without evolutionary theory and the ideas that come out of it.
Undoubtedly, it is a combination of all the above, plus others that I have forgotten. I still find it a bit odd to single out Darwi, but I think any public celebration of science is a good thing.