The following is a press release about an upcoming Darwin Day event in Lawrence:

The KU Society of Open-Minded Atheists & Agnostics (SOMA) are making sure Darwin Day is celebrated this year in Kansas, come Hell or high water, although snow drifts are of greater concern since they don’t believe in hell or world-wide floods. “We first looked to the Natural History Museum or the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department, for an event” says group President Joey Ralph. “But when we found out they were not holding any public events specifically for Darwin Day, we were determined to put something on for the science lovers here in Lawrence.”

Darwin Day is a celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin on February 12, 1809 and is celebrated each year on or around February 12th. According to the International Darwin Day Foundation, it is a global celebration of science and reason with more than a hundred registered events across campuses and communities. This year, the anniversary falls on a Saturday, so SOMA decided to hold an event on Tuesday, Feb 8th in place of one of their normal bi-weekly meetings.

SOMA Vice-president Conrad Hudson insists the event is not just for the non-religious. He explains, “There are obviously issues we disagree with believers on, but there are many others where we can stand together. One in particular is fighting the current wave of anti-science sentiment. This is a great chance for all lovers of science and reason to put aside other differences for a day, and celebrate together.”

The group decided to invite Midwest skeptic Michael Blanford, Director of Educational Programs at the James Randi Educational Foundation. JREF, as it’s commonly referred to, works to promote critical thinking, and most famously offers a 1 million dollar prize to anyone who can demonstrate psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability of any kind under scientific conditions. They agreed to sponsor Blanford to visit the Kansas campus. Blanford says, “The knowledge science brings us about the world is awe-inspiring. I hope to show why everyone should take an interest in what evolution teaches us. It’s more than just information gathering, critical thinking can also give meaning and empowerment.”

The talk, entitled Actual Events: Teaching Critical Thinking and Inspiring Awe by Examining What’s Real, will take place on the Kansas University campus and is free to students and the public. It starts at 7:00 pm, in the Relays room of the Burge Union, Tuesday, February 8th. In addition, SOMA will be tabling at the Kansas Union on Tuesday to gather signatures for a petition to President Obama to make Darwin Day a national event. The petition, found at darwinday.org, currently has more than 12,000 signatures.

For more information, see the Facebook event page.