Darwin Day 2012

By Dan Tang

On Sunday, 12 Feb 2012, the Humanist Society (Singapore) celebrated Darwin Day 2012 at Onepeople.sg. That day was also extraordinarily special as for the very first time, our friends in Malaysia joined us to commemorate Darwin’s 203th birthday together along with two invited distinguished speakers. Altogether, around approximately 80 people turned up for this event.

In the first hour, our first guest speaker, Dr John Elliot, gave a talk on “Can Morality Evolve?”. He addressed the basis for which why moral rules and frameworks are found in all societies and the fallacy that it is in human nature that people would inevitably behave in immoral ways without religious belief. Rather, the positive contribution of religions has been to harness such moral propensities, and direct them beyond immediate communities and family to a more universal ideal.

Dr John Van Wyhe delivered his talk on “Darwin’s life and what his work really achieved” to an enthusiastic audience in the second hour. He cleared the air on what is commonly believed about Darwin, explaining who Darwin really was and outlines what Darwin really said. Both talks accepted questions from the floor which generated lively discussions and laughter.

The progress of the talk was also broadcasted via a webcam to some of our friends in Malaysia who cannot make it to Singapore but simultaneously held a similar Darwin Day celebration in Kuala Lumpur. During the intermission between talks, members introduced themselves and interacted with each other over complimentary drinks and light snacks, shared their personal experiences, views on religion and forged some new friendships in a socially casual and relaxing environment.

Before the event closed for the day, Colin, a representative from UM, urged members of the HSS to forge closer links and give moral support to our friends from across the causeway as they, due to different social environment and realities, deal with much greater obstacles of as secular humanists, atheists and agnostics.

After the talk, lucky draws were held and 3 participants walked away with lovely book prizes sponsored by the Humanist Society (Singapore). We also thanked our distinguished speakers by offering them a special commemorative plaque featuring a tiger and a deer which symbolises the constant struggle between life forms in the evolutionary race for survival.

The father of modern evolutionary biology is a figure worth commemorating. His great work, “On the Origins of Species” has not only revolutionized modern biological sciences but also the outlook of many people worldwide, allowing them to understand how life could arise elegantly, without having the need to resort to unsatisfactory supernatural explanation of creation or divinity. We look forward for the next Darwin Day for more exciting things to come.