Last week, Trinity celebrated Charles Darwin’s 206th birthday by hosting a lecture with Dr. Eugenie Scott, former Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, who spoke on the topic of why people still reject good science, such as climate change and, in the spirit of Darwin, particularly on the subject of evolution.

Dr. Bob Blystone, a professor of biology here at Trinity, explains how Dr. Scott began her career as a proponent of rational science and a debater of creation scientists.

“Eugenie Scott created, along with a few other people, the National Center for Science Education, and she essentially became both an explainer of creation science and a debater with creation scientists. Her goal was to have rational discussions about creationism and evolution. Scott started this center, and was for a very long time, probably twenty years, not an apologist, but a rational person who would engage in what I thought were very productive discussions,” Dr. Blystone explained. “I don’t think I ever saw her lose a debate. There were some times where I didn’t see her win, but I never saw her lose. She’s been honored a great deal for her very even-handed approach to comparing creationism and evolution.”

Blystone went on to share his perception of how Dr. Scott handles herself in her role as a proponent of Darwinism dealing with creationists.

“I think she’s very rational. What she offers is very disciplined and fair. She recognizes that many people have religious overtones that they need to personally hold on to and explore, and she’s willing to allow that. At the same time, she expects others to allow her to explore the issue on her side as well,” Blystone said.

The main portion of Dr. Scott’s lecture concerned itself with the debate between Darwinism and Creationism. Dr. Blystone expounded on his own perspective of the debate.

“We are still understanding evolution. There’s a couple of things that come into play here. In terms of the evolution debate and the creationist debate…. A goal of science is that it will refute itself. Science tries to find fault. It tries to say that, though we believe this now, with time and more information we will come to a different understanding. It’s called refutation,” Dr. Blystone explained. “Science is always trying to prove itself wrong, or at the very least prove itself better. That means that sometimes we have to change our positions on some topics. The point is that when a scientist views a problem, it’s with the idea that the accepted norm might have to be abandoned. People who believe in creationism tend to be absolutists. It takes absolutely cataclysmic events in order for them to change position, and that’s just not the way science works.”

Asmara Lehrmann, a first year at Trinity who attended the Darwin Day celebration and lecture, shared why she attended, and what about the topic caught her interest.

“Not going to lie, cake was a big motivator. But I also thought it was interesting. I knew that it was going to be about the controversy behind evolution, which is really interesting to me personally. My family is Muslim, and I’ve gone back to Indonesia where, if I made an evolution joke about a chicken being a dinosaur, my cousins would freak out about me believing in evolution. It was then that I realized there is such big gap with religion and science, and I found the question of why to be fascinating,” Lehrmann said.

Lehrmann went on to explain what she found personally interesting about Dr. Scott’s lecture.

“I think it was fascinating to hear that it wasn’t merely the facts that were the issue. You would assume that the answer would just be to bombard people with facts, you know, explaining why this is real. There’s a whole social tie and connection that, to believe in evolution, you have to renounce your faith, and then there’s all this backlash from family and friends and everything like that,” Lehrmann said.

Dr. Scott’s lecture shed light on many of the issues behind the controversial debate between darwinism and creationism, and was ultimately a great way to celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin himself.