February 12 is the anniversary of the birthday of Charles Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Since 1997, when it began at the University of Tennessee, events have been organised annually in the USA to mark this day, under the title Darwin Day. It has came about because many scientists are concerned about the number of schools and colleges in the US which — under pressure from the religious right — either do not teach evolution or teach creationism instead. The purpose of the day is to raise the profile of the ideas behind evolutionary theory, to encourage debate, and to rebut fundamentalist ideas.
A campaign was launched in the USA two years ago to make Darwin’s birthday an international day of celebration of his life and achievements and of the theory of evolution. The organisers are placing particular emphasis on getting the Day established in Britain, where Darwin was born, and where anti-evolution sentiment is rare. It is hoped to have the Day in place by the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth in 2009.
It’s going to be rather harder getting Darwin Day widely accepted in the US, because 12 February 1809, by an odd coincidence, was also the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.