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UWFox Hosts ‘Darwin Day’ Session: ‘The Great Divide - Can Science and Religion Co-Exist?’

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In recognition of the 200th birthday of English naturalist Charles Darwin on February 12, the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley is hosting a special presentation and discussion on Friday, February 13, from 2:30 p.m. to approximately 4:00 p.m. in the campus’ Barlow Planetarium. The session is titled, “A Celebration of Darwin Day: The Great Divide - Can Science and Religion Co-Exist?”  Charles Darwin

Dr. Terri Gonya, associate professor of biological sciences at UWFox, is one of the event’s coordinators. “There is a significant misconception in many minds that science and religion cannot co-exist without conflict, especially concerning the teaching and acceptance of evolution.  ‘Evolution Weekend’ events are celebrated around the time of Darwin’s birthday to open the dialogue between people of faith about science and evolution,” she said.

The Darwin Day event includes the viewing of the documentary film, “Kansas vs. Darwin,” that explores the connection between faith and evolution education, followed by a post-viewing open discussion. Scientists from the UWFox campus will join Rev. John McFadden and Rev. Roger Bertschausen for the viewing of the film and the subsequent discussion.

Assisting Gonya on the “Darwin Day Committee” are UWFox faculty members Dr. Dubear Kroening, associate professor of biological sciences, and Dr. Teresa Weglarz, lecturer in biological sciences.

According to the Clergy Letter Project, an endeavor designed to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible and to elevate the quality of the debate of this issue, “Many religious denominations have respect for evolutionary theory and embrace it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.”

Citing the Clergy Letter Project, Gonya points out that, “The first step to understanding how science and religion can both play an important role in society is to learn the basic truth about the questions that can be answered by each discipline.”

Darwin, who died on April 19, 1882, realized and demonstrated that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection.

His 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, established evolutionary descent with modification as the dominant scientific explanation of diversification in nature. Evolution became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime, while his theory of natural selection came to be widely seen as the primary explanation of the process of evolution in the 1930’s. It now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory.

Darwin later published The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. His research on plants was published in a series of books. In his final book, he examined earthworms and their effect on soil.

Gonya said, “One goal we have is to demonstrate that people from different faith traditions can understand evolution as sound science that does not pose a problem for their faith.”

The “Darwin Day” activities at UWFox are free and open to the public with unreserved seating. For more information about the event, contact Gonya at 832-2693 or email teresa.gonya@uwc.edu, or visit www.uwfox.uwc.edu.

Posted on 2/10/09