Cornell celebrates “Darwin 200”

MOUNT VERNON – In celebration of the double anniversary of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday and 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, Cornell College will host a number of speakers and events commemorating Darwin’s life and work.

All lectures are free and open to the public.

Dr. Robert T. Pennock will kick off the month with “But Is It Science?: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/ Evolution Controversy” on Feb. 5, an examination of Darwin’s legacy in the 150 years since Origin of Species. Pennock is a professor at Lyman Briggs College and in the departments of philosophy and computer science and engineering at Michigan State University, and the author of Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. The lecture will be at 7 p.m. in 100 West Science and is sponsored by gifts from P. Roger Gillette ’37, and LACE.

Pennock will also give a second talk, “A new LENS tool: Learning Evolution and the Nature of Science using Avida-ED Digital Evolution Software” geared toward students interested in biology, computer science, mathematics and science education at 11:10, Feb. 6 in 100 West Science.

On Feb. 12, Darwin’s birthday, Associate Professor of Biology Andy McCollum will host a “Darwin 200” poster symposium on The Orange Carpet, featuring student presentations on topics related to evolution and its modern implications, ranging from genetic traces of the human migrations out of Africa into the other continents, to modern ideas about species formation, to HIV, cooperation, human mate choice, and the evolution of cannabis.

Monday, Feb. 9, Dr. Jill Ehnenn will deliver the lecture “Queering Darwin’s Body,” examining the potential contributions of Darwin’s biography and work to Disability and Queer Studies. The lecture will take place at noon in Hedges Conference Room and is sponsored by the English department, with funding by Dimensions and LACE.

Finally, Dr. Patricia Adair Gowaty, distinguished professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, UCLA, will be the Donna Fox speaker April 6-7. Gowaty is an expert in the fields of animal behavior, sexual selection, and feminism. In the November issue of Nature magazine, Patty was featured as one of an elite group of evolutionary biologists who help kick off Nature‘s Darwin celebrations.

Cornell will also host related lectures on Feb. 12 with noted anthropologist Ann Tsing and on Feb. 18 with environmental writer Scott Russell Sanders. Visit for more information on these and other Cornell events.

The theory of evolution has a long history at Cornell College, having been brought to the college by Professor of Geology William Norton in the 1890s, where Cornell was one of the few religious affiliated colleges to teach evolution without controversy. Norton was a firm follower of Darwin’s Origin of Species, and taught courses on evolution for over 30 years, even after retirement.

If you’re not in the area and cannot attend Cornell events, the University of Northern Iowa is sponsoring their own “Darwin Week.” Information on those events can be found at