News and Events
Why Darwin Still Matters Conference Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of On the Origin of Species
Published on Nov. 24, 1859, Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species turns 150 this year. From Friday to Saturday, Nov. 20 to 21, Pepperdine University will host to a two-day conference in which celebrated scholars explore its grip on our intellect and imagination.
"Scientifically, it's our best theory for why we have such wonderful biological complexity in this world," explains Chris Doran, assistant professor of religion at Pepperdine's Seaver College, noting that very few areas of study of remain untouched by Darwin's theory. "Attendees of the conference will get to hear some of the greatest minds of now on why Darwin is still important historically, philosophically, and theologically, and why this is still a big deal 150 years later."
The conference will kick off at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, with Ron Numbers, Coleman and Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Numbers' talk, "Creationism Goes Global," will chart the path of creationism, or "antievolutionism," as, he says, "it has quietly spread from America throughout the world and from evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, and even Hinduism."
Pepperdine's own Ed Larson, University Professor and Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law, will also speak on Darwin's legacy. The Pulitzer-prize winning author of Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, will explore "Darwin and the Victorian Soul."
The final speaker of the conference will explain how Darwin's theory plays into reproduction and gender roles. Patricia Gowaty, distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary Biology at UCLA will give her talk, "What Darwin Didn't Want to Talk About: Difficulties in the Act," considering mechanisms of sexual selection and sexual conflict with effects on the fitness of females and males.
The Pepperdine Libraries Special Collections and University Archives will also be getting into the spirit of Darwin, displaying early editions of his major works related to
natural selection and heredity, including The Origin of Species, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, and The Descent of Man. The display will be available in n Elkins Auditorium during the conference, after which, it will move to the Payson Library lobby through Sunday, Nov. 29.
Larson hopes that students and community members alike will take the time to consider the influence of Darwin on this anniversary. "Most people are largely forgotten soon after they die. Not Darwin," says Larson. "In books, magazine, movies, and blogs, people throughout the world are still debating Darwin and his theories. As the world recognizes the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, this conference seeks to find out why Darwin still matters."
For more information or to register, visit seaver.pepperdine.edu/darwin.