Evolve 2009 will celebrate the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. This San Francisco city-wide celebration will enable our City to take a leading role in the ongoing discussion of evolution: where we have come from and where we are going. The time-frame is February through June, 2009.
Evolve 2009 will include a lecture series comprised of some of the world’s foremost scientists, writers, and thinkers, programs from diverse disciplines influenced by evolution, and various other celebratory events and educational programs. This endeavor represents an unparalleled opportunity for community outreach involving science education.
Evolution is a central concept in modern science. Darwin was the first to identify natural selection as a primary mechanism driving evolution. He noted that some life forms thrive, reproduce, and adapt as conditions change, whereas others disappear. Later discoveries of DNA and molecular inheritance confirmed evolution as a central concept in biology, geology, and astronomy, among other modern sciences. The scientific centrality and importance of evolution will be the backbone of our programming. For example, MacArthur Fellow Michael Ghiselin of the California Academy of Sciences is planning to lead a panel discussion among scientists from all over the world on the Galapagos, tailored to a lay audience.
Virtually every category of human inquiry has been influenced by this seminal concept, and Evolve 2009 will also explore the intellectual idea of evolution as it has impacted literature, visual and performance art, psychology, and anthropology. Friends of the San Francisco Library (Friends), the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, and the Commonwealth Club plan to host lectures and panel discussions on a wide array of evolutionary topics. The Exploratorium is planning a series of related book groups. The SPUR Urban Institute will delve into the evolution of cities. The San Francisco Botanical Garden plans to offer a guided tour of its Primitive Plant Garden; the Conservatory of Flowers will exhibit the orchids central to Darwin’s research. Other participant institutions like the San Francisco Film Society are currently working out programming that may include “The Evolution of Film.” KQED Public Broadcasting, the Mayor’s Office, the San Francisco Zoo, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Academy of Art have all expressed their intention to participate.
The two institutions driving Evolve 2009 are The California Academy of Sciences and Friends. The Academy will open its new building in Fall 2008 with permanent exhibits that are central to evolution. These will include a clearer explanation of the importance of the historic Africa Hall, and new exhibits about the Galapagos and climate change. Science in Action will focus weekly stories on evolution throughout 2009, and evolution outreach will be made to middle and high school teachers. In addition to hosting lectures and other events, Friends is serving as the central organizing umbrella for the city’s myriad Evolve 2009 programming.
One of our aims with Evolve 2009 is to cross-pollinate audiences, thus broadening the impact of each institution. In so doing, we can showcase San Francisco as the vital intellectual and cultural center we are. Another intention of Evolve 2009 is to come together as a city for the purpose of celebrating an idea – to build community. As perhaps the most enlightened city in the United States, we are taking the opportunity provided by one brave idea to put forth another. There is a dangerous drift in our country away from scientific fact. As we head into the fragile future, embracing the truth is more important than ever. Sustainability, for example, depends on biodiversity. To deny this evolutionary concept endangers our survival. Instead of intelligent design, San Francisco is rallying around intelligent thought.