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Celebration of Darwin conference on Nov. 4 to mark 150th anniversary of 'Origin of Species'


BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 5, 2009 – Charles Darwin enthusiasts and scholars will offer contemporary perspectives on the English naturalist's theory of evolution through natural selection at the Nov. 4 Celebration of Darwin conference at Virginia Tech.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species and the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. The Celebration of Darwin will take place at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“Darwin’s ideas are as important today as they were in his own day,” said Ron Lewis, associate professor of animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The ‘Celebration of Darwin’ will give us a chance to explore how we’ve come to be where we are today in science, contemporary thinking, and philosophy.”

The morning session will feature three internationally renowned Darwin scholars:

  • Robert Richards, Morris Fishbein Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Chicago, will address historical issues bearing on the proper interpretation of the Origin.
  • Frank Sulloway, visiting scholar in the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss current scientific topics that arise from the Origin.
  • Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy and James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization at Columbia University, will focus on conceptual and social issues raised by the Origin and modern Darwinism.

The afternoon agenda will include three concurrent sessions of presentations, each aligning with a theme addressed by the keynote speakers. The program concludes with an evening reception followed by an original performance of Living Darwin created and produced by Virginia Tech’s Theatre Workshop in Science and Technology Studies.

The Celebration of Darwin is one of several university-sponsored events commemorating the life and writings of Darwin:

  • Theatre Workshop in Science and Technology Studies will offer free showings of the Living Darwin stage productions at the Squires Studio Theatre from Oct. 7-9.
  • The Choices and Challenges forum on Nov. 5 will bring several distinguished speakers to discuss the inner life of animals, a topic that Darwin addressed in his writings.
  • The Armory Gallery of the School of Visual Arts in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies will offer Singing Darwin: A New Media Exhibition from Nov. 4-25. Singing Darwin, directed by Carol Burch-Brown, professor of art, will culminate in a 24-hour Web-streamed performance art event on Nov. 23 and 24, coinciding with the actual publication date of the Origin.
  • Several Virginia Tech courses and guest lectures will also address Darwinian topics this semester.

For more information about the content of the conference, contact Ron Lewis at (540) 231-1906. For details about registration, lodging, travel, and other conference logistics, contact Dinah Girma at (540) 231-2559. The registration deadline is Oct. 21.

Free parking is available at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. Find more parking information online or call (540) 231-3200.