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Darwin Day Celebrations at UTA

Darwin Day at UTASecular Student Alliance Board Secretary Becky Robinson leads the Freethinkers of the University of Texas at Arlington. Here, she writes about her group's exciting and successful events on Darwin Day this year.

As we did last year, the Freethinkers of the University of Texas at Arlington planned an all-day Darwin Day event on February 12th, the 199th birthday of Charles Darwin. We hoped to spread awareness of science and education, mixed in with some political activism and good old celebration with birthday cake!

Our Darwin Day festivities began with a tabling event in which we were set up in the University Center with a table full of information both on the group and on evolution. We had handouts with our spring schedule and an evolution FAQ in an attempt to address common misperceptions about the theory of evolution.
Tabling for Darwin at UTA
UTA Freethinkers members Jon Snow, Rick Jackson and Michael Natishyn spread materials and read through a PA system as part of their Darwin Day events.
We had a small PA system set up, through which we read aloud facts about evolution and Charles Darwin. This set up some interesting interactions. One woman walked by, and when we wished her a Happy Darwin Day, she got flustered and exclaimed, "I love Jesus!" Ah, good times.
One particularly interesting interaction occurred during the day, as a creationist came to our table, espousing that evolution defies the second law of thermodynamics. Now, we have all heard this creationist claim before, but the outcome of this interaction was much different than what I am accustomed to. One of our members, Matthew Benson, took the time to explain how this was not the case and that the man was mistaken about what the second law of thermodynamics really entailed. He explained to the man, using examples from the internet to further clarify. And the man changed his view! It was quite exciting to witness.

During our tabling event, we had people fill out postcards in support of sound science in Texas classrooms. The Texas Freedom Network's "Stand Up For Science" campaign is collecting these postcards to then mass mail them to the Texas Board of Education to show that we, the voters of Texas, are paying attention to their upcoming textbook selections. For those of you who do not follow Texas politics, our creationist-laden Texas State Board of Education will be choosing the new textbooks for science and health later this year. Since Texas is one of the biggest consumers of textbooks, many smaller states go along with what Texas chooses, as the more books that are produced, the cheaper they are.

Our Darwin Day continued as we had UTA biology professor Dr. Tim Henry give a talk about the history behind evolution, various creationist legends, and how the Christian creation myth is recycled from earlier creation myths. Evolutionary psychologist Dr. Roger Mellgren spoke about his field of study and how we can find evolutionary patterns in our behavior across cultures. We had about 25 participants for this part of the day's celebration.

Happy Birthday Chuck! Following the talks, we paused to eat some Darwin birthday cake and socialize. We continued on with an Activist Training on the Texas Board of Education in an attempt to bring more awareness to the recent events taking place that seem to favor the far-right faction of the Board. We finished up our Darwin Day by viewing the documentary A Flock of Dodos.

All-in-all, it was a long and eventful day. We hope we accomplished our goals of bringing to light our group, the subject of evolution, and the current battle with the creationists in Texas. To us, Darwin Day is about education, outreach, and fun. We are already looking forward to next year, where we will have to outdo ourselves for the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday.

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