Darwin Day at Duquesne

Tomorrow is the Darwin Day celebration at Duquesne University. A full schedule of events is posted online.

Why Darwin Day, and why at Duquesne? The very thoughtful folks at the University have a full page devoted to those questions. Here's an excerpt:
Science is not dogma, but a “way of knowing”. Scientists rely on the scientific method, which is a particular way of going about exploring the natural world. Observations are made, hypotheses are formed from them, and then these hypotheses are tested again and again until we gain confidence that we understand what is going on in nature. We think the scientific method provides us with an accurate description of nature mainly because it works, often and well. This is as true of evolutionary biology as it is of physics or chemistry. Among non-scientists, there is often confusion about what science is, how it is performed, and what constitutes “good” science and “bad” science. This is particularly true with regard to evolution. Those people interested in learning about the overwhelming evidence that establishes evolution (e.g., common descent and natural selection) as a scientific fact can go here or attend Darwin Day!

It gets better. Duquesne cites and quotes John Henry Newman (that is, Cardinal Newman), whose philosophy lies at the core of modern higher education:
If I were asked to describe as briefly and popularly as I could, what a University was, I should draw my answer from its ancient designation of a Studium Generale, or "School of Universal Learning." This description implies the assemblage of strangers from all parts in one spot; - from all parts; else, how will you find professors and students for every department of knowledge? and in one spot; else, how can there be any school at all? Accordingly, in its simple and rudimental form, it is a school of knowledge of every kind, consisting of teachers and learners from every quarter. Many things are requisite to complete and satisfy the idea embodied in this description; but such as this a University seems to be in its essence, a place for the communication and circulation of thought, by means of personal intercourse, through a wide extent of country.

I don't know whether Newman and Darwin knew one another, but their era was full of intellectual blockbusters. Newman's classic work, The Idea of a University, was published in 1854. On the Origin of Species was published in 1859.


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