The BHA marks Charles Darwin’s birthday, 12 February, every year with a public lecture and supports the international campaign to have it recognised as a public holiday. Most humanists would agree that one of the greatest and most influential thinkers who ever lived should be commemorated and celebrated. 2009 was the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth (and the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species) and marked the year with a series of events as well as by re-doubling our efforts to have the day recognised as a holiday.
The BHA includes Darwin Day holiday in its education policy aimed at creating schools that include and accommodate pupils of all religious and non-religious beliefs. One aspect is to campaign for more school and public holidays for non-Christians, including Darwin Day to be a day for the non-religious. The Times Educational Supplement of 19 April 2002 couldn’t resist featuring this aspect of BHA policy under the headline “Darwin Day makes natural holiday selection”.
What are we doing?
The BHA highlights the campaign in various ways.
- In January 2009 the late Dr Ashok Kumar, then Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and BHA Distinguished Supporter tabled the following Early Day Motion (EDM 377) which was signed by 79 MPs:
That this House notes the extraordinary achievements of Charles Darwin; notes that 2009 marks both the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species; welcomes proposals for the creation of a Darwin Day in recognition of the ground-breaking work of the British scientist responsible for the theory of evolution by natural selection; and calls for Darwin’s birthday, 12 February, to be designated a public holiday in honour of one of the fathers of modern science and one of Britain’s greatest, if not the greatest, scientific minds.
- We have held annual Darwin Day Lectures since 2003. See Darwin Day Lectures.
- In 2008-2009 we worked with the Darwin 200 coalition and coordinating our own celebratory events for the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. A number of our affiliated groups are holding their own bicentenary events and we are assisting them in finding high profile speakers.
- We wrote to BERR in January 2009 asking for Darwin Day to be made a public holiday. Read their response here.
- On 12th February 2003 over 40 distinguished academics, philosophers, scientists and writers called for a new public holiday.
- Read about the BHA campaign against the teaching of Creationism in British schools.
- See Countering Creationism for answers to 21 anti-evolutionary questions and arguments.
- See also the Darwin Day website for news and information about the international campaign for a Darwin Day holiday, and for ideas about what to do to mark Darwin Day.
What can you do?
You can lobby local councils or developers to name a new street or square or building after Charles Darwin - it may just need enough people willing to ask.
You can support the BHA by becoming a member. That helps in itself, and you can help even more by supporting our campaigns in the ways suggested above. But campaigns also cost money – quite a lot of money – and we also need financial support. You can make a donation to the BHA.