by Sharon Stanley, Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island
I first heard about “Darwin Day” at the American Ethical Union’s Delegate Assembly in 2005. It when here that I first found out that many of our sister societies have celebrated this event for many years.
The American Humanist Society began their International Darwin Day Foundation over 10 years ago. Since I have always had an affinity toward secular holidays, I was eager to jump on the evolution bandwagon and coordinate this event here on Long Island.
The question of “Why Celebrate Darwin Anyway?” came up more than once. I needed to find the answer to this question to justify the idea to have this event.
In order to find out more about this man Charles Darwin, I planned to read his book. With lofty plans of “plowing through” this book, when I actually sat down and tried to read The Origin of Species I could not even get past 2-3 pages and I’m embarrassed to admit, I had no desire even try! I don’t find him to be a compelling writer.
My father thankfully suggested I read Stephen Jay Gould’s writings about Darwin; and here I could find the answer to the question “Why Darwin?”
There were two things that struck me as being examples of Ethical Humanism’s core beliefs. Darwin actually had a difficult, ethical dilemma during his scientific research. In 1839 Charles Darwin was a theist when he arrived at his theory of Evolution. He waited 20 years before releasing this book, The Origin of Species. He feared that the public was not ready to hear that conditions other than those stated in the Bible created our natural world. He was also afraid of retribution for such shocking insights. He did not publish his book until 1859. His bravery took 20 years, but he finally did the right thing.
This reminds me of one of our core beliefs in Ethical Humanism: “Deed before Creed.”
Gould also points out that Darwinian Evolution dispelled some of the myths that were at the roots of racism. His theory eventually proved that there is no inferior race, so therefore there is no master race. Genetically, we all came from the same place. Here was our second core belief illuminated: “Ethical Humanism believes in the inherent worth of every one.” Our common humanity brings us together. Darwin is a great example of someone who overcame his own discomfort in order to help humanity.
Apparently, Darwin was an ethical humanist and he didn’t even know it!
To find out more about how Sharon’s group celebrated Darwin Day, read her article in this month’s The Humanist: Why Aren’t More Kids Celebrating Darwin Day?
To find Darwin Day events in your area, visit the International Darwin Day Foundation.
Past PBB articles on Darwin Day and Evolution: