As a tribute to the founder of the modern theory of evolution, Trinity hosted the 2013 Darwin Day celebration in Northrup’s basement lecture hall from on Tuesday, Feb. 12 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The lecture hall was almost full, with faculty, students and San Antonio community members attending both to celebrate Darwin’s legacy and also to hear speakers recount their battles with the Texas State Board of Education regarding creationism.
The evening featured a talk with Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, an advocate for the teaching of evolution in public schools, as well as Michael Soto, professor of English at Trinity and former member of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). According to Soto, Darwin Day is an important tradition in its celebration of science.
“From my perspective, Darwin Day serves as a useful reminder that science education is too often politicized in crass and backward ways,” Soto said. “It’s up to all of us to stand up for true science, which knows no political labels.”
According to a flyer for the Darwin Day event, Miller has played a significant role in “combating creationist revisionaries on the Texas State Board of Education.” Miller still has strong feelings towards the board.
“Someone with zero expertise is given the same weight by many board members as somebody with years of experience in that subject. That’s crazy,” Miller said. “We have a State Board of Education member that said critical thinking is gobbledy-gook.”
According to Miller, some schools have used creative interpretations of the rules to subtly get around requirements that schools teach evolution.
“All the rule about textbook standards in public schools says is you’ve got to teach them, but you wouldn’t necessarily have to assert them as true,” Miller said. “You can use them as a critical thinking exercise. I’ve particularly seen that technique used in the social curriculum standards, but even in the science curriculum standards that’s a possibility.”
Some audience members had a hard time believing that there is still debate over the twin issues of teaching evolution and teaching creationism in classrooms.
“Until I came to Texas, I didn’t realize there was scientific difficulty with evolution,” said one audience member.
According to Soto, battles over things like creationism in the classroom can be fought and won.
“If you work really hard and play your cards right, and build momentum towards a goal, the good guys can win,” Soto said.
Soto believes that the battles that he used to fight on the SBOE are important, and is glad to have advocates like Miller on his side.
“Kathy Miller and the Texas Freedom Network are important assets to our state,” said Soto in an email. “Having her on campus made this Darwin Day a huge success.”
According to Soto, the event itself was a huge success, as evidenced by the number of people that attended the celebration.
“The room was almost full,” Soto said. “So I’d put the number [of attendees] at 100 or so.”