OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Democratic governor of the state of Washington recently issued a proclamation recognizing Sunday, the 208th year of Darwin’s birthday, as “Darwin Day.”
Gov. Jay Inslee signed the proclamation on Jan. 31, which urged all Washington residents to join him in “this special observance.”
“Darwin’s discovery of natural selection continues to serve as the foundation for ongoing advances in science, health, philosophy, art, education and many other areas of public life,” it reads. “Darwin’s strength of character is evident in the great courage, wisdom and honesty required to explore and publish the findings supporting natural selection as the mechanism by which biological evolution occurs.”
“[T]he anniversary of Darwin’s birthday is an appropriate period on which to celebrate, reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity and hunger for truth, which contribute to the well-being of all people,” the proclamation asserts.
The organization Humanists of Washington states that it had requested that Inslee issue the proclamation in recognition of Darwin’s Feb. 12 birthday, which is part of a nationwide effort spearheaded by the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America.
“Humanists value the strength of science in helping us understand and protect our natural world,” representative Rebecca Friedman remarked in a statement. “Darwin Day is more than just a celebration of the man Charles Darwin; it’s a celebration of human ingenuity, intellectual bravery in the face of rebuke, and the promise that science holds in helping secure the future of our planet and its living things.”
The idea to mark “Darwin Day” was reportedly birthed by Dr. Robert Stephens in 1993, as he urged humanists in California’s Silicon Valley to observe an annual day celebrating Darwin.
Since that time, others have joined the movement across the country, including in the nation’s capital, where as previously reported, Democratic Rep. James Himes of Connecticut recently proposed a resolution in the House of Representatives in celebration and recognition of Darwin’s contributions. Himes’ resolution never moved out of committee, according to Congress.gov.
Hundreds of liberal “churches” nationwide have likewise sought to commemorate Darwin’s birthday with special “Evolution Sunday” services, although the effort has been decreasing in recent years, with over 200 congregations marking the day this year as opposed to nearly 600 in 2013.
“Statistics show that Biblical [young earth] creationism has more public support than theistic evolution,” Tony Breeden, the founder of the counter effort “Creation Sunday,” writes on his website. “According to Gallup polls beginning in 1982, an average of 44% of Americans espouse the view that God created everything over six days less than 10,000 years ago compared to nearly 40% who hold the theistic evolutionist position implied in atheist Michael Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project.”
“Only about 14% affirm the sort of all-natural evolution taught exclusively in our public schools,” he states.
However, Breeden also notes that Creation Sunday hasn’t been that large of an observance either.
According to historical documentation, not all of those who accompanied Darwin on his journeys supported his theories. During the 1860 Oxford evolution debate, Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who had once served as the captain for Darwin’s voyage to the Galapagos Islands and played a significant role in the development of the Origin of Species, repented of his participation.
Reports state that FitzRoy walked to the front of the room during the debate, “lifting an immense Bible, first with both and afterwards with one hand over his head, [and] solemnly implored the audience to believe God rather than man.”