Call for Darwin Day Celebrations, February 12, 2014—A Letter from a Reader

January 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Inspired by the letter from a prisoner, "Looking at the World Differently, Scientifically—Thoughts on The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism" which appeared in the last issue of Revolution, #327, January 19, 2014, I have a radically simple proposal for Darwin Day, the international celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin.

Charles Darwin is the scientist who, in the 1850s, discovered how all life on planet Earth evolved from common ancestry and the earliest forms of life.

The great naturalist Charles Darwin caused a genuine revolution in human thought and understanding when he wrote a book published in 1859 called The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. This book presented a great deal of concrete evidence that living creatures had evolved over time. And Darwin went one giant step even beyond that, developing a comprehensive theory and proposing a concrete mechanism through which he thought evolutionary change could take place. Darwin called this basic mechanism of evolutionary change in living creatures "natural selection"; and, in the nearly 150 years since he published his breakthrough theory, natural selection has actually been proven (again and again) to be one of the most crucial and fundamental mechanisms through which life does, in fact, evolve.

The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak, pp. 21-22

Like the prisoner, and for many of the same reasons, I am a big fan of the book, The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak. I am a scientist by training and studying this book has given me new insights and appreciation of the science of evolution. While the blurbs from a range of people—from established and prominent scientists to prisoners—attest to the scientific rigor and the accessibility, I personally feel it's a masterpiece in "breaking down without dumbing down" the science of evolution and the scientific method—and there is a lot to learn from this.

In particular, the brilliant and colorful visual displays in the centerfold of the book and its accompanying text, are a concentration of this, walking and working through the entire science of evolution, Darwin's breakthrough, with illustrations and examples, and it seems to me was specially designed for precisely the purpose of popularizing the science of evolution for an audience not familiar with this subject matter. I have utilized this centerfold many times, actually walking through in order with folks, page by page, and this forms the heart of my proposal for Darwin Day.

The centerfold can be utilized in displays and presentations to walk through a presentation on The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters—which can form the theme and topic of this year's Darwin Day celebrations (on February 12 or around) in the neighborhoods of the oppressed, in community centers, church salons, local library presentation rooms, and even people's living rooms—with people from the neighborhood and others. All anchored by a formal showing with the centerpiece being such a presentation, keying off the centerfold of the book.

I have found people really heartened and provoked by readings from the prisoner letters that reference this grappling and debate with the science of evolution, and this could also be part of the celebrations. I understand the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) is inundated with many, many, many more requests for this book than can be met with current funding, and fundraising could be an important component of these celebrations.

On this basis, there should be a real effort to invite professors, graduate students, and others from local colleges and universities to participate and even potentially present at these celebrations. We cannot underestimate the number and sentiment among some sections of the intellectuals who look at this accursed divide in society—where a few are trained in and have facility in the realm of ideas, including science, the scientific method, and the science of evolution, and the vast majority who are locked out of it by the workings of this system and conscious policy—and are horrified and would like to do something to break down these barriers but don't have a vehicle to do so, don't have the means provided to them whereby they can play a role in transforming this.

This proposal for Darwin Day celebrations should be taken widely to the biology departments of the local colleges, and other intellectuals and students around the Revolution Clubs, Revolution Books, and other groupings that host such celebrations. Some may want to just come and celebrate with others, and some may want to present on accompanying themes, like an account of Darwin's life and his voyage to the Galapagos Islands that was decisive in his scientific discoveries, or new insights and research in the science of evolution, or on particular questions like race—whether it has a biological basis or is a social construct (see page 166 of Skybreak's book for more on this. I virtually always encounter this question when I present on the science of evolution).

I'd imagine these would be fun and lively celebrations—and they also should be full of grappling and debate, on how all life came to be, and on the broader epistemological questions of knowing what's real and why it matters. I am sure readers of Revolution would love to hear about these celebrations, and read about the debates and discussions that broke out.

Darwin Day Celebrations Matter—Some Quick Interrelated Reasons I Can Think Of

(I am sure there are more, and would love to hear from other readers on this website)

Everyone needs to understand the basic facts of evolution as well as the essentials of the scientific method ...When people are deprived of a scientific approach to reality as a whole they are robbed of both a full appreciation of the beauty and richness of the natural world and the means to understand the dynamics of change not only in nature but in human society as well.

The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters

I feel this brilliant concentration gives a real appreciation why readers of Revolution—not only those fighting for a radically different and far better world through communist revolution, but also those who care more broadly about humanity and about the masses of people who have been locked out of the world of ideas and science by this system—should celebrate Darwin Day, and really use it as an opportunity to popularize the science of evolution and Darwin's scientific discovery.

Darwin's breakthrough is a critical aspect of liberating humanity from the dark-ages of ignorance of how life came to be, especially concentrated in religious nonsense like the biblical creation stories that unfortunately pervade to this day. In particular, Darwin's theory of evolution—a scientific breakthrough and an application of the scientific method—really struck an epistemological blow against religion—that is, it went right up against the religious approach to the world that the Bible, rather than observation, experimentation, and analysis of the natural world, is the source of truth. And it struck an epistemic blow as well—that is, it actually gave a true picture and analysis of how life did develop, one quite different than the myths of the Bible.

It is also part of why there is such a fierce political battle over evolution and the teaching of evolution in schools across the country, with all manner of Christian Fascists and biblical literalists fighting for the myth of creationism to be taught instead of evolution. Or else they put biblical creationism "on a par" with evolution as "an alternative" theory, while at the same time undermining the epistemological certitude of Darwin's theory of evolution with specious arguments and plain falsehood, relying on and reinforcing the very ignorance propagated by the system that locks a vast section of humanity out of the realm of ideas. Darwin Day celebrations are a boost in this political battle to unite with others to defend and popularize science and evolution, and really take on the myth of creationism.

As a regular reader of Revolution and a student of Bob Avakian, I have been deeply struck by how the process of making revolution—and transforming the thinking of blocs of people—goes through "many channels," including struggles and debates not only in politics, but in the realms of art, culture, history, morality, and the world of ideas and intellectual discourse more broadly.

In this process, the battle over epistemology and approach to reality remains a touchstone question, and forms the crux of why this battle over evolution matters in the battle for revolution. Polemically commenting on this relationship, Avakian states in BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, [4:12,] "...Are we going to proceed according to a scientific approach—investigating reality, to accumulate experience and evidence about reality, and then drawing rational conclusions? Or, are we going to blindly adopt an outmoded way of understanding how the world works and what its driving forces are, and insist upon superimposing that on reality and on smashing down anything which conflicts with that non-rational (or irrational) approach? Are we going to insist on a priori notions of truth—dogmatic assumptions which are not drawn from reality and not testable in reality—and rule out of order things which are drawn from reality and have been tested and shown in reality to be true?"

Science and a thoroughly scientific method and approach to reality and its transformation has everything to do with whether the world remains "as is" or is radically transformed to bring about a far better world through communist revolution.

Epistemologically, religion and a religious approach is enslaving to the masses of humanity under the yoke of oppression and exploitation, depriving them of the critical scientific approach to knowing and changing the world. This goes with an utter slavishness of worshipping non-existing gods and looking to them for salvation and solution at a time of such needless suffering in the world. Evolution strikes a much-needed blow against this worldview. The must-read letter from the prisoner referenced above quotes a section of Skybreak's book on the meaning and purpose of human life—in a world without god—and then goes onto say, in one of my favorite statements, "it kind of throws the last shovel full of dirt on God's grave."

Epistemologically, Darwin's theory of evolution—and science and the scientific method and approach overall—also strikes a much-needed blow against the postmodernist fashionable nonsense of denying the very existence of objective reality, and what is more common, denying the existence of or possibility of ascertaining objective truth. This, it strikes me, is but a mere mirror-opposite of truth by revelation, the religious and dogmatic approach to reality and truth—and is enslaving to this system of capitalism-imperialism which benefits mightily from students and intellectuals going around denying the existence of objective reality—and enforcing this as norm on campuses and intellectual discourse. A fucking cartoon and caricature if it was not so harmful.

In light of all this, Darwin Day celebrations are a really good opportunity to explore and open up discussions more widely on major epistemological questions such as how do we know what is true, and what is science and the scientific method—as the title of Skybreak's book statesknowing what's real and why it matters.


Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.