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Join the celebration of natural selection
Darwin Day at the Essig is Tuesday, Feb. 8

| 02 February 2005

Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology will throw open its doors on Tuesday, Feb. 8, as part of a worldwide celebration of Charles Darwin and science education.

The open house, scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m., has become an annual event at the museum, which holds millions of insect specimens and is normally closed to the general public. Kipling Will, the Essig’s associate director, says this year’s festivities are a way of “gearing up for 2009,” Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark work On the Origin of Species.

Darwin Day will also feature experts from Berkeley, the California Academy of Sciences, and the National Center for Science Education, who will present a series of “vignettes on modern Darwinism and anti-evolutionism” under the rubric “Setting the Record Straight.” Scheduled speakers include Brent Mishler, professor of integrative biology and director of the Jepson and University Herbaria, who will discuss “Genomics and Darwin,” and the Essig’s director, Rosemary Gillespie, who will address the misuse of research on Hawaiian spiders by proponents of creationism and its close relation, “intelligent design.”

This year’s celebration comes at a time of rising political influence for creationists. A Pennsylvania school district, for example, now requires high-school biology students to consider “intelligent design,” the belief that life was shaped by a higher power, along with natural selection. Will, however, says the Darwin Day festivities are meant to “promote the idea of right science thinking,” and to commemorate evolutionary theory as “the unifying principle” in scientific research.

As part of its open house, the Essig — located at 211 Wellman — will hold half-hourly tours. The museum will supplement its vast collection of insect specimens with birds, barnacles, and carnivorous plants from other museums. Speakers will make their presentations from 7 to 9 p.m. in 145 Dwinelle Hall.

In addition, the event’s sponsors — the Essig Museum, the Entomology Students Organization, and Bay Area Biosystematists — will offer daily lunchtime screenings of the five-part Nova/WGBH series Evolution beginning Monday, Feb. 7.