Sunday, February 12, 2006

Happy Darwin Day

Today being the 197th birthday of the great Charles Darwin, the Dude and I attended a symposium at the Sydney branch of the Australian Humanists Society that was advertised on the Darwin Day website. The meeting began with a brief DVD viewing showing the argument at the Royal Society between Bishop Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley that included the noted (but partly apocryphal) exchange:
"Do you claim descent from an ape on your grandfather's side or your grandmother's?" and Huxley's brilliant put-down in reply.
There was also a short section of footage of modern studies of finches in South America that the Dude, in mini-naturalist mode, found intriguing. Then the symposium was opened up for discussion. Opinions were bandied about but the chairperson did an excellent job of allowing everyone to have their say and reminding those who interrupted to wait their turn. The Dude, unfortunately, fell asleep in his chair, but was inspired enough to ask to visit the bookstore on the way back to the car, where we found and purchased a slim volume about Charles Darwin and his work.
I was surprised that there was next to nothing about Darwin/evolution/natural selection in the Children's science section, but I think the (adult) book we did find is simple and concise enough for the Dude to enjoy and comprehend.
On the way home we had a great chat about natural selection, which branched into cosmology and Stephen Hawking's statement that the Big Bang leaves room for God (the Fun Policeman and I had been discussing that a couple of days ago and the Dude was intrigued).

Now I've just got to finish reading The Origin of Species... I'm up to the last chapter, so it won't be too long!

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