To Mark Bicentennial Year
(Left: Debbie Cardinal took this photo and it found its way into a power point presentation by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.)
To celebrate and call attention to the Year of Darwin, the national Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is unveiling a new billboard message: "Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief."
The message is debuting in Madison on Regent Street, near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Billboards with the Darwin message will also be going up in time for Darwin's Feb. 12 birthday bicentennial in two significant locations: Dayton, Tenn., and Dover, Penn.
Dayton was the site of the infamous 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," and 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 and author of Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists.
Darwin Day (Feb. 12) is celebrated around the world annually by scientists and science aficionados. But the bicentennial celebration of Darwin's birth in 1809 (coinciding with Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday) will kick off a year of educational events, books and celebrations recognizing evolution and Darwin's achievements.
The beautiful billboard image, designed by Adams Outdoor Co., in 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 Foundation co-president Dan Barker.
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, included: "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 visited more than 15 states so far. Other billboard messages include: "Imagine No Religion," "Beware of Dogma" and "Keep Religion OUT of Politics."
"We'd be delighted to take our pro-Darwin message around the country, especially where the Darwin vs. Dogma debate still rages," said Gaylor. "Donations to make that possible and help locating good sites are much appreciated," she added.