Cardiff Humanists held their inaugural Darwin Day Dinner on 12 February, at the Juboraj restaurant in Cardiff Bay, with guest speaker Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan, distinguished member of the BHA, former MP, and former First Minister of Wales. Rhodri retired from the Welsh Assembly in 2011, as did BHA celebrant Lorraine Barrett, who is secretary of the Cardiff Humanist group and organiser of the event.
The title of Rhodri’s talk was ‘Evolution and Devolution: Darwin and Wallace’ and he held members spellbound with his oratory and knowledge of the subject interspersed with humour. He told members that any such dinner in Wales should be renamed the Wallace-Darwin Day Dinner – Wallace was born in Usk and worked in Radnorshire, and the Vale of Neath, as a land surveyor preparing for the building of the Neath to Merthyr railway line; and what kept him going was an obsession with the species question. Rhodri made the point that whilst most of us think of Darwin when we talk about the theory of evolution, we should give Wallace the recognition that he deserves. Rhodri also compared the two men from a societal perspective. Darwin was the ultimate establishment scientist, independently wealthy with a big country house in Kent. Wallace was the ultimate outsider and Rhodri felt that Wallace never had a realistic chance of getting proper recognition in Victorian society. Wallace wasn’t a ‘gentleman’ but the most important thing is that both were taking on THE establishment, namely the settled Christian belief that God created all the species on earth. Rhodri went so far as to say ‘having read Roy Davies’ book The Darwin Conspiracy, I am more and more convinced that in 50 years’ time, Wallace will be seen as the senior partner in the Wallace-Darwin Theory of Evolution’.
Everyone enjoyed the evening and expressed the hope that it becomes an annual event. Rhodri writes a Saturday page for the Western Mail each week, and the 15th February edition has a column headed ‘Wallace is the true father of evolution’. In the article Rhodri mentions that he spoke at our Darwin Day Dinner and also encourages everyone to visit an exhibition entitled ‘Wallace – the forgotten evolutionist?’ which is on at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff until 9th March. The dinner concluded with votes of thanks from our Chair, Richard Paterson, and also from one of our committee members Robert W Griffiths who wrote ‘Slaying the Dragon – An Everyman’s Rejection of God and Religion’ – available online and select bookstores.