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UNIFI hosts 10th annual Darwin Week

The 10th annual Darwin Week is to take place Monday, Feb. 13th through Thursday Feb. 16th. Darwin Week is hosted by UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI)
The 10th annual Darwin Week is to take place Monday, Feb. 13th through Thursday Feb. 16th. Darwin Week is hosted by UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI)

The 10th annual Darwin Week is to take place Monday, Feb. 13th through Thursday Feb. 16th. Darwin Week is hosted by UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI)

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

The 10th annual Darwin Week is to take place Monday, Feb. 13th through Thursday Feb. 16th. Darwin Week is hosted by UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI)


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Beginning today and ending Thursday, Feb. 16, Darwin Week kicks off its annual lecture series revolving around evolution, skepticism and the progression of science.

UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI) has been hosting the Darwin Week lecture series since 2006, according to Casey McGregor, UNIFI public relations director. McGregor said the event is intended to “bring attention to Charles Darwin’s significant contribution to the scientific community.”

This year, there will be 15 presentations given by faculty and guest lecturers. All lectures will be in the University Room, located in the basement of Maucker Union. The event is annually held in early February to align with Darwin’s birthday, which is Feb. 12.

To begin the week, Tyler O’Brien, associate professor from the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology, will be presenting a lecture entitled “Bones, Beetles and Birds: Darwin’s contribution to physical anthropology.”

“I plan to not only introduce how Darwin has contributed to our better understanding of what it means to be human (i.e., anthropology), but also to offer some brief insight into who Darwin is [and] was,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien first participated in Darwin Week five years ago, when he presented on human fossil records. O’Brien said he supports the concepts the event acknowledges.

“Darwin, evolutionary theory and science are extremely important and relevant issues to demonstrate and discuss in today’s educational environment,” O’Brien said.

Wrapping up Monday’s lectures will be keynote speaker Kavin Senapathy, an author, writer and science activist.  The topic of Senapathy’s talk will be “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Your Grocery Cart.”

Tuesday will offer another keynote speaker, Hiba Krisht. Krisht is a writer, editor, translator and volunteer activist who will present “Veils, Virginity and (In)Visibility: On being a woman in Hezbollah culture.”

UNIFI member Anna Nett, sophomore Spanish TESOL education major, attended the event in 2016 and said she looks forward to what this year has to offer.

“My favorite thing about Darwin week is the Q&A at the end of lectures,” Nett said. “It is amazing how much more curious people seem to be when they aren’t worried about being graded.”

Each lecture is scheduled to run 50 minutes with time for questions at the end. There are three to four separate presentations throughout the four days at various times, beginning as early as 12:30 p.m. and as late as 7:30 p.m.

Since the lecture series has evolved beyond its original purpose of commemorating Darwin’s discoveries and contributions to physical science, lecturers are welcome to share their research in other areas involving skepticism, humanism and critical thought, according to McGregor.

Edgar Boedeker, associate professor of Philosophy and World Religions Department, will be giving a lecture centered around nihilism as it relates to science and skepticism.

His lecture is entitled, “Is God ‘Dead?’ Friedrich Nietzsche on Nihilism.”

“Nietzsche’s distinctive form of skepticism with regard to our values is key to understanding what he’s most famous for saying, but that he never actually said: ‘God is dead,’” Boedeker said.

Students can look forward to a variety of different topics during the week.

“[There will be] talks that present a skeptical view of various topics such as the phenomena of fake news in modern society, prevalence of GMO’s and whether or not they are good for us — and even a talk about a journey to Mars from a NASA engineer,” McGregor said.

McGregor was referring to Kathryn Crowe of NASA, who will be concluding the lecture series on Thursday night. Crowe is set to speak about “Skepticism, Objectivity and the Journey to Mars.”

McGregor said he hopes that people in attendance will find “an appreciation for critical thought and a mind-opening experience that is not presented in many other places.”

For more information about the schedule of events, www.darwinweek.com has a list of the presenters and times.

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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa
UNIFI hosts 10th annual Darwin Week