The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, has launched a provocative outdoor campaign in the United States with a billboard message: “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief”. The campaign was timed to coincide with the February 12 birthday of Charles Darwin in 1809. Billboards have been placed in Madison, Wisconsin, Dayton Tennessee, the site of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial”, and Dover, Pennsylvania, where an attempt to introduce “intelligent design” to the science syllabus was quashed in 2005.
The billboard image was designed by Adams Outdoor Advertising, Madison, Wis., using the Foundation’s ironical signature stained-glass window motif and King James biblical style, with the iconic image of Charles Darwin.
The phrase “Evolve Beyond Belief” is directed at the 50% of Americans who still reject evolution and believe 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.”
I believe that this campaign is an understandable response to the literalist Christian fundamentalism found in many parts of the world, particularly the United States. However this kind of approach, which suggests that anyone can have such absolute certainty about life, the universe and everything that belief or faith is no longer needed, belongs in the same category of fundamentalism. See my post on my personal blog, on the religious organisations that are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the Origin of Species.