It's a Dead Man's Party: Integrative Evolutionary Education through Darwin Day


Although evolution is one of the most transformative and integrative theories in science, it remains difficult to entice university students to pursue evolution-oriented courses. Evolution is the only theory that ties together all life and behavior—including ultimate, proximal, physiological, and developmental explanations. Students who are not exposed, lack a fundamental STEM building block which may severely limit their understanding of the natural world and future career options. Darwin Day provides an important opportunity to showcase the interdisciplinary applicability of evolutionary theory in an engaging, accessible manner. In this paper, three biological anthropologists discuss initiating Darwin Day events in diverse university settings with a goal of building annual, sustainable programs. The purposeful lightheartedness of Darwin Day events engage non-science majors while highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of evolution for science students. Although our goal was the same—connect more people with evolutionary perspectives—our route, scope, successes, challenges, and access to resources differed. Combined, we model a variety of opportunities to encourage students to pursue further evolution-based courses and conversations, especially those specifically addressing human evolution. This template will be useful for others wishing to implement similar low-stakes opportunities to connect students with evolution education at their own institutions.

Darwin Day, evolution education