Professors celebrate 200 years of Darwin

How does the College of William and Mary celebrate a 200th birthday? With a symposium, of course.

Eight faculty members of the College and one guest professor and alumni from Duke University celebrated Darwin Day with a packed Commonwealth Auditorium in a seminar titled “Darwin Across the Disciplines” Thursday night — the 200th birthday of evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin.

This year also marks 150 years since the publishing of the author’s best-known work on evolution, “The Origins of Species.”

Each professor in the symposium discussed how the famed evolutionary biologist’s theories affected their modern fields, which ranged from anthropology and biology to geology and religion.

“When we celebrate Darwin, we celebrate the primate in us, the bird in us, the reptile in us,” anthropology professor Barbara King said.

Some professors took the opportunity to tout their respective fields.

“Darwin told later generations that feathers, fur, and fear are developed through adaptation,” Hispanic studies professor George Greenia said. “Here’s to linguistics being one of the brightest candles on the cake.”

John Maxwell Kerr, the College’s Episcopal chaplain, spoke about the effect of Darwin’s theories on theology.

“Darwin showed how much life on earth is affected by chance, which was unimaginable before him,” Kerr said. “Happy birthday Darwin, secular saint.”

The professors’ talks were followed by an hour-long question and answer period moderated by biology professor George Gilchrist.

Gilchrist said Darwin has become a scientific icon in modern society “because of the cultural war that we as scientists and Darwin himself faced.”


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