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Darwin foes, fans to mark birthday

Festivities include singing, sermons, and badminton

PHILADELPHIA -- Thanks to the ''intelligent design" movement, Charles Darwin's birthday is evolving into everything from a badminton party to church sermons this weekend.

Defenders of Darwin's theory of natural selection are planning hundreds of events around the world Sunday, the 197th anniversary of his birth, saying recent challenges to the teaching of evolution have re-emphasized the need to promote his work.

''The people who believe in evolution .. . really just sort of need to stand up and be counted," said Richard Leventhal, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ''Evolution is the model that drives science. It's time to recognize that."

The museum's celebration will include birthday cake, a little badminton (reportedly a favorite game of Darwin's), and a reading of his ''The Origin of Species" by Penn junior Bill Wames, who volunteered to dress up as the 19th-century naturalist. ''Come to my party," Wames bellowed around campus while handing out fliers.

At the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, philosophy students will get a jump-start on Darwin Day today by singing Darwin carols they composed.

Darwin, who was born in England on Feb. 12, 1809, and died in 1882, was 50 when he published ''The Origin of Species." His conclusion that species evolve was based in part on zoological and geological discoveries made during a five-year voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle.

The intelligent design movement challenges Darwin's theory, contending that organisms are so complex that they must have been created by a higher being. Critics of intelligent design say it is creationism camouflaged in scientific language.

Intelligent design proponents suffered legal setbacks last year in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but Kansas education officials have approved science standards that treat evolution as a flawed theory.

To show religion and science are not at odds, more than 400 churches of many denominations -- most of them in the United States -- have agreed to participate in ''Evolution Sunday" by giving a sermon, holding classes, or sponsoring discussions.

Organizer Michael Zimmerman, a biology professor and dean at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, said there is ''no reason that people have to choose between religion and science."

The Darwin Day Celebration was formalized six years ago as a California-based nonprofit organization, but some tributes go back much farther. Salem State College in Massachusetts has had a Darwin festival for 26 years.

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