Westport Group to Hold Fourth Annual Darwin Day Dinner

Brandon T. Bisceglia

The Southern Connecticut Darwin Day Committee will hold its fourth celebration of science and humanity on Feb. 11 at the Inn at Longshore

A recent Darwin Day celebrant with Old Charlie. PHOTOGRAPH BY CARY SHAW. USED WITH PERMISSION.

in Westport. This year’s Darwin Day Dinner will feature a talk by Rene Almeling, assistant professor of Sociology at Yale University. She will discuss her 2011 book, Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm.

The event will include a cocktail hour and a full course dinner. There will also be a science quiz in which each table will collaborate on the answers. The table with the highest score on the quiz will win prizes.

“I first learned about the celebration of Darwin Day when the organizers of the event called me to speak, and I think it is a wonderful way to promote science education,” Almeling said in an email interview.  Committee Treasurer John Levin said he feels “quite fortunate” to have Almeling speak at this year’s event. “Human reproduction has resonance with every person, and the processes are really changing,” he said.

The dinner is held every year around the birthday of naturalist Charles Darwin, who is most famous for describing the process of biological evolution through natural selection. Darwin was born Feb. 12, 1809.

The first Darwin Day Dinner was held in 2009 on what would have been his 200 birthday. Levin said he and several of his friends began organizing the dinners that year after learning that there were celebrations planned in other cities around the world, but none in Connecticut.

Since then, he said the event has grown “moderately,” drawing 133 people last year. In previous years, the dinner took place on a Friday; this is the first year it will be held on a Saturday. Aside from that change, however, Levin said the event will be similar to the earlier ones. “We think that we’ve had a winning formula, and as a consequence we have kept that same formula,” he said, adding that no one has had any major complaints or suggested any meaningful changes in past years.

Levin said that Darwin Day as an international phenomenon seems to be growing in subtle ways. He would like to see it become as popular as more recognized holidays that have religious or national themes. “There’s nothing right now really devoted to enlightenment, science, or rationality,” he added.

The Darwin Day Dinner is sponsored by The Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Fairfield County, The Wilton Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Unitarian Church in Westport, and the Norwalk Public Schools Science Department.

The deadline to register for the event is Feb. 3. The cost is 55 dollars per person. Excess proceeds will be donated to the National Center for Science Education. To learn more about the Darwin Day Dinner or to register, visit www.darwindayct.org.