Billboards Celebrate Darwin Day


To celebrate and call attention to the Year of Darwin, the national Freedom From Religion Foundation unveiled a new billboard message: “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief.”

The message debuted in late January in Madison, Wis., on Regent and Randall Streets, near the University of Wisconsin campus.

Billboards with the Darwin message went up in time for Darwin’s Feb. 12 bicentennial birthday in two significant locations: Dayton, Tenn., and Dover, Penn. Dayton was the site of the infamous 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.” Dover was the Pennsylvania hamlet where an attempt to promote “intelligent design” by the local school board was quashed by a federal judge in a historic 2005 decision.


“And 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, so it’s a blockbuster year for science,” said Dan Barker, Foundation co-president.

The handsome billboard image, designed by Adams Outdoor Co., of Madison, Wis., utilizes the Foundation’s ironical signature stained-glass window motif and King James biblical style, but adds the iconic image of Charles Darwin.

The phrase “Evolve Beyond Belief” is directed at the 50% of Americans who still reject evolution and accept creationism–the Genesis myth that the earth was created out of nothing by a god less than 10,000 years ago.

“We want to ‘Praise Darwin,’ to give credit to human intelligence, not the supernatural, for answering the question, ‘Where do we come from?’ And who greater than Charles Darwin?” asked Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.

“America’s willful ignorance over evolution and the scientific method is an embarrassment and impediment. It’s time our nation and its public schools enter the 21st century and embrace this keystone of biology,” added Barker.

The Dover billboard is on Rte. 74, 1.4 miles north of Dover, Penn., and was put up with great help from area members and donations from PA Unbelievers. The 12×25-foot Tennessee billboard is on U.S. Highway 27 at the Hamilton-Rhea County line between Dayton and Chattanooga. Two billboard owners with billboards within Dayton city limits refused to lease them to the Foundation, so area members helped scout out the alternate locations.

The Foundation notably brought a lawsuit dubbed “Scopes II,” challenging more than 60 years of classroom religious indoctrination in Rhea County schools, taught by bible students from William Jennings Bryan college. A federal court ruled in favor of the Foundation’s local plaintiffs, a decision upheld in 2004 by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Two “Praise Darwin” billboards also went up in time for Darwin’s birthday in Grand Junction, Colo., at 1713 U.S. Hwy. 50 (see photo), and in Whitehall, Ohio (see story about stolen billboard, page 3). The Foundation and friends had fun coming up with a slogan. Considered were lighthearted suggestions from Darwin scholar and poet Philip Appleman, editor of the Norton Critical Edition, Darwin and Darwin’s Ark, including: “Honk If You’re Evolving,” “Creationism? Just Say No,” “Dude– ‘God’ Is Just a Theory” and “Evolution–When You’ve Outgrown the Missionary Position.”

Barker’s alternate suggestions included “Don’t Start the Evolution Without Me” and “Nonbelief–The Natural Selection.”

The Foundation launched a national billboard campaign in late 2007, which has reached more than 15 states so far.

“We’d be delighted to take our pro-Darwin and pro-freethought messages around the country, especially where Darwin vs. Dogma rages.” 

Freedom From Religion Foundation