Darwin Year is drawing to a close — just in time.
The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day.
They’ve burst your pretty balloon and taken the moon away.
It’s time to wind up the masquerade.
Just make your mind up — the piper must be paid.
The party’s over, the candles flicker and
You danced and dreamed through the night, it seemed to be right just being with him.
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end.
Take off your make up, the party’s over. It’s all over, my friend.
— “The Party’s Over” (Words by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; music by Jule Styne; performed by Nat King Cole)
Darwin Year is drawing to a close.
The festivities went into full swing on February 12 (Darwin’s 200th birthday), with parties at hundreds of locations in scores of countries. There were birthday cakes galore. At least two (in Wagga Wagga, Australia and Sopot, Poland) boasted 200 candles; one cake (in Pune, India) was shaped like a finch. At two parties, guests were served “primordial soup.”
In Arcata, California, the Department of Biological Sciences at Humboldt State University invited partygoers to bring ornaments representing their favorite organisms to put on the “tree of life,” and it offered a prize to those who came dressed as Darwin. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy sponsored “the largest party in town,” including birthday cake, 200 free drinks, and “science-themed student rock bands.”
The New York State Museum in Albany not only served birthday cake in Darwin’s honor, but also presented four cooking demonstrations by local chefs paired with biologists, each demonstration to “focus on a different branch of the Tree of Life: vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and fungi.”
For those wanting to honor Darwin online, New York-based Internet consultant Phil Terry set up a “Join Darwin on Facebook” site where well-wishers could record videos, pen poems, draw pictures, and otherwise wish the Father of Evolution a happy 200th. According to Kendall Crolius, who assisted Terry, volunteers working on the project referred to themselves as “proud monkeys.”
For those wanting souvenirs, the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in England sold “limited edition Darwin and Beyond mugs” for £7.50 each. The American Association for the Advancement of Science offered “Viva la Evolución” T-Shirts, with Darwin wearing a Che Guevara-style beret.
Celebrations continued throughout the year. In England, the Rambert Dance Company put on a show that was “a distillation of Darwinian ideas about evolution, particularly sexual selection.” The Linnean Society of London  hosted Kelley Swain, who was inspired by the works of Charles Darwin to write a book of poetry, Darwin’s Microscope, and read selections from it in a talk titled “The Poetry of Science.” Tea was served in the library, followed by a wine reception.
The list goes on. And on. And on. And on.
FESTIVITIES BUILT TO A CLIMAX until November 24 (the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species). The University of Binghamton in upstate New York hosted a performance of “The Rap Guide to Evolution” by hip-hop artist Baba Brinkman. “In the real world the most important ideas are communicated through art, and fusing science and art is extremely important and interesting,” said David Sloan Wilson, a professor in the Evolutionary Studies Program. Jim DeVona, project coordinator for the program, called Brinkman’s rap “an example of how evolutionary thinking can inform our understanding of humanity itself, not just the rest of the animal kingdom, but humanity as well.”
At Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, the Theatre Workshop in Science and Technology Studies (TWISTS) performed a play, Living Darwin, while the School of Visual Arts sponsored Singing Darwin: A New Media Exhibition that included a vocal rendition of the entire text of The Origin of Species. The performance took twenty-four hours.
The Darwin Year delirium reached such an extreme that even evolutionists grew weary of it.
Cambridge University paleontologist Simon Conway Morris wrote in Current Biology, “More than one of my colleagues has cast her eye around the packed conference room and then murmured sotte voce that, well, she was suffering a little from Darwin fatigue.” Conway Morris wondered whether the “obsession” with Darwin and the “endless cycle” of centennial celebrations reflected “a loss of way, an eclipse of confidence,” and he criticized those who “caper around the Darwinian totem” while ignoring the contributions of others.
University of Florida biologist Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis wrote in Science, “Just when it looked like the ‘ultra-Darwinists’ were winning the ‘year of Darwin’ with their interminable love-fests, triumphalist narratives, and self-serving revisionist histories; when we were starting to think that Darwin was the only evolutionist to have lived in the past 150 years; and when we might conclude that nearly the entire evolutionary community had drunk the Kool-Aid of antiquarian Darwinism,” David Prindle published a book on Stephen Jay Gould that “would likely challenge much of the ultra-orthodoxy passing as reflective history and science written expressly for the year of Darwin.” Smocovitis concluded: “Darwin is dead. Long live evolution.”
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