Resolution to observe Darwin Day finds backlash in ASCSU Senate

Stuart Smith

Charles Darwin and his ideas stirred debate over a proposed CSU holiday celebrating his work in chambers of the Associated Students of Colorado State University Senate Wednesday night.

Sen. Connor Cheadle, fresh off a semester in Washington D.C., brought a resolution to the floor asking the Senate to “strongly urge” the University to designate February 12 as Darwin Day.

Ad

“Darwin Day is an international movement… to recognize Darwin’s contribution to science and biology,” Cheadle said.

According to the Darwin Day website, International Darwin Day “will inspire people throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.”

The resolution was meant to honor the work and foundations Darwin laid for scientific discoveries in biology and anthropology in the nearly 160 years since he published “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” More than 60 students and an adjunct anthropology professor sponsored the resolution. 

However, the resolution found pushback from many senators from Student Diversity Programs and Services offices, including the Black/African American Cultural Center and Native American Cultural Center, mainly about his quotes on Europeans being superior to “savages” and the later use of his theories to justify genocide.

Sen. Jaquikeyah Fields read a direct quote from Darwin’s book, “The Descent of Man.”

“‘The western nations of Europe… now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors, and stand at the summit of civilization… The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races,’” Fields read.

“He’s basically saying Caucasians are more evolved and going to take over anybody who’s not Caucasian. I think if even one person finds this offensive, we should not be celebrating this man.” Ren Bergeron

Senator Ren Bergeron voiced concern about the resolution and how it could be taken by students because of Darwin’s theories.

“He’s basically saying Caucasians are more evolved and going to take over anybody who’s not Caucasian,” Bergeron said. “I think if even one person finds this offensive, we should not be celebrating this man.”

Based on Darwin’s writing, Fields said she was concerned about how observing the holiday could affect and be perceived by other students.

Ad

“I think it’s not necessarily about politics, more about making sure all the students on campus feel inclusive,” Fields said. “I think it would be kind of problematic to celebrate a man who dehumanized a lot of people’s identities.”

Stuart Smith can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @stuartsmithnews.