West Virginia University is celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin with DarwinFest, a series of talks and presentations examining the naturalists workfrom his travels to his influential theory on evolution.

Darwin: Evolutionary Science and Its Impacts on Societyan interdisciplinary celebration involving colleges and schools across the Universitywill be held from February through early April. The events, which are free and open to the public, will feature leading scholars and scientists from around the world.

Darwin, who was born Feb. 12, 1809, is known as the father of evolution for his theory that all life develops through a process he called natural selection. 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication ofOn the Origin of Species,Darwins seminal work on the subject.

These speakers and presenters will explain Darwins complex work in terms the average person will understand, interim Provost E. Jane Martin said.They will also show Darwins influence on modern life, from science and medicine to human relationships and religion.

The activities are supported by various academic and administrative units, including Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, the Presidents Office and University Relations.

In addition to the lectures, the WVU Libraries will offer a display and recommended reading for the event. A Web site highlighting all DarwinFest activities and participants is in the works.

Events and dates follow. More information will be released at a later date.

The Life and Travels of Charles Darwin,Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m., Mountainlair ballrooms

Greg Good , a WVU professor of history, and Evan Widders, coordinator of WVU s multidisciplinary studies program , will present a biographical introduction to the life of Darwin and discuss his travels as a naturalist and his writings inThe Voyage of the Beagle.This event is sponsored by the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences .

Two Errors About the Evolution Controversy or What I Learned from My Trip to the Creation Museum,Feb. 9, 3 p.m., College of Law, Luger Courtroom

Jay D. Wexler, professor of law at Boston University, will speak about the legal issues surrounding the teaching of intelligent design in the public school system. This event is sponsored by the College of Law .

Bibles, Bigots, and Biology: American Religion After Darwin,Feb. 10, 7 p.m., Mountainlair ballrooms

Douglas Strong, dean of the School of Theology at Seattle Pacific University, will present this years Manfred O. Meitzen Distinguished Lecture in Religious Studies . Prior to the 7:30 p.m. lecture, Jerry McGonigle , WVU professor of theater, will direct a re-enactment of a segment of the TennesseeScopes Monkey Trial.

Implications of Evolution as Seen by Charles Darwin and Modern Evolutionists,Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m., Mountainlair ballrooms

William Provine, Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor at Cornell University, is well-known for engaging in debates about the existence of God, free will and the viability of intelligent design as a theory to explain the mechanism of evolution. His lecture will address those topics.

Systems Biology and Medicine,Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m., Ming Hsieh Hall, Room G21 *

World-renowned scientist Leroy Hood will present this years Nath Lecture on systems biology, which promises to transform the practice of medicine to be more predictive, personalized, preventive and participatory. Hood has played a role in founding more than 14 biotechnology companies and is the co-author ofThe Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project.His talk is part of WVU s Festival of Ideas.

*Local and Scandalous Darwin,March 5, 7:30 p.m., location to be announced

Leila Gmez, professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Colorado at Boulder, explores the ideological, political and social implications of the theory of evolution in South America and the intellectual debate it spurred between supporters and detractors in the formation of Latin American nations.

How Genetics Impact the Evolution of Human Relationships, March 11, 7:30 p.m., location to be announced

J. Phillipe Rushton, evolutionary psychologist at the University of Western Ontario, will present a lecture exploring how genetics impact the evolution of human relationships. This event is sponsored by the Department of Psychology in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

The Impact of Human Activity on Evolution,March 12, 7:30 p.m., Mountainlair ballrooms

Kevin A. Jarrell, president and chief scientific officer of Modular Genetics in Cambridge, Mass., is a recognized expert in RNA splicing and gene assembly. His lecture will discuss how humans influence the evolutionary processboth intentionally and unintentionally. His talk is sponsored by the Department of Chemical Engineering and the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources .

Singing His Praises: Darwin and His Theory in Song and Musical Production,March 26, 7:30 p.m., South Agricultural Sciences Auditorium, Room 1021

Betty Smocovitis, professor of zoology and history at the University of Florida, will explore a number of substantive issues in the history of evolution pertaining to controversies over Darwin and his theory in a lighthearted and engaging manner. Music will be played and discussed. Parking is available.


p. “Science, Evolution and Creationism: The Need for Science as a Liberal Art in the 21st Century,”March 30, 7:30 p.m., Mountainlair ballrooms


  • p. Jay Labov serves as senior adviser for education and communication for the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council. Hewasdirector ofa committee that authored”Science, Evolution, and Creationism”and oversees National Academy of Sciences efforts to confront challenges to teaching evolution in the nations public schools.

*A Look at Evolution from the Basis of Fossil Evidence in Africa,April 6, 7:30 p.m., Mountainlair ballrooms

Meave Leakey is a paleoanthropologist and zoologist who was part of a research team that in 1999 unearthed theflat-faced man of Kenya,a 3.5 million-year-old skull representing an entirely new branch of the early human family tree. Leakeys research also includes the evolution of monkeys, apes, carnivores and mammals. A masterful storyteller, she combines scientific observations with tales of her fieldwork in Africa. This event is sponsored by WVU s Festival of Ideas.

How Time Flies: The Molecular Architecture of Memory,April 8, 7:30 p.m., Mountainlair ballrooms

Tom Carew, chair and professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California at Irvine, will present the Eberly Distinguished Lecture on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of memory.

DarwinFest is one of two science-related anniversaries that WVU is marking this year. The other one is International Year of Astronomy, a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileos first astronomical discoveries using a telescope.