Students celebrate Darwin’s birthday, discuss controversy behind evolution

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Blanca Murillo picks up a piece of cake made by the students of Texas Freedom Network to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday Thursday night. The organization brings students together for the purpose of educating them on issues surrounding science education.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

While advocates from both the scientific and religious communities are debating whether or not the State Board of Education should decide if Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution will be taught in Texas public schools, some University students celebrated the theorist’s birthday.

The University’s chapter of the Texas Freedom Network hosted a celebration Thursday in honor of the 19th century scientist Darwin’s birthday. The group brings students together with the goal of mobilizing them as advocates of issues surrounding science education, said Mackenzie Massey, government senior and president of the chapter. Its main objective is to help students compete in a global market with countries that teach evolution in their curriculum, Massey said.

Massey said the goal of Thursday’s celebration was to educate students about the irresponsible efforts of the public school system to simplify their teachings about evolution and to highlight that the debate over evolution is still an issue.

“We want to ensure that students get a 21st century science education that prepares them for college and the jobs of the future,” Massey said.

She said next year the State Board of Education will adopt new science textbooks for public schools and that evolution may not be taught if the board decides to only include intelligent design.

“We want for the decision to be made by experts and educators,” Massey said. “A lot of the time politics play into the decision because the board are elected partisan members.”

Julian Villarreal, Middle Eastern studies and sociology freshman, attended the event hoping to understand more about the debate around evolution being taught in schools.

“I want to understand the various factors like politics, religion and science that influence the teaching of evolution,” Villarreal said.

Ecology, evolution and behavior graduate student Patrick Stinson said Darwin’s theory of natural selection offers a plausible explanation for the appearance of design in evolution.

“Before Darwin, most philosophers did not have a compelling explanation for the appearance of design except for actual design by an omnipotent force such as the Christian God,” Stinson said.

Biology freshman Cassandra Rodriguez, who was raised Catholic, said her religious perspective has influenced her to stand against Darwin’s theory, and said she does not agree with evolution.

“I haven’t seen any evolutionary theories to convince me to believe in it,” Rodriguez said. “Opportunities to learn more about evolution are not readily available.”

Rodriguez said she thinks if the theory is taught in schools, it should not be taught to grades younger than high school, as she feels high school students are old enough to make their own decisions about what they believe.

Darwin’s theories are regarded as very perceptive, thorough and well thought out and are an excellent starting point for any person who needs to understand evolution, said ecology, evolution and behavior graduate student April Wright.

“As an evolutionary biologist I am often in awe of his writing and how his ideas have stood the test of time,” Wright said.

Printed on Friday, February 10, 2012 as: Students discuss evolution dispute, celebrate Darwin