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Speakers and musicians commemorate Darwin Day

BY JORDAN MONTGOMERY | FEBRUARY 09, 2012 7:20 AM

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Six years ago, the first Darwin Day celebration was planned at the University of Iowa, but a blizzard forced all of the events to be canceled.

Since then, the yearly tradition has grown larger, and this year's celebration will end with a biology-based rap performance on Feb. 12 in the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St.

Darwin Day 2012 is actually three days in Iowa City, from Friday to Feb. 12. Throughout the three days, events will take place in various locations about campus.

"Our list of speakers this year is stellar," said John Logsdon, the director of the Pentacrest Museums, a UI associate professor of biology, and a cofounding member of Darwin Day in Iowa City. "[They] are top-notch scientists from the United States and Canada."

The speakers will present talks on this year's Darwin Day theme, the origin and evolution of birds.

Among the presenters are Ellen Ketterson of Indiana University, Scott Edwards of Harvard University, and Philip Currie of the University of Alberta. 

Darwin Day cofounder John Stamler said that Darwin Day gained popularity at Stanford University around 1995, and that the idea is not just to celebrate Darwin but scientific discovery in general.

"Holidays and celebrations are often narrowly defined for a certain group, religion, or nation," he said. "But the idea behind Darwin is a celebration about scientific achievement and the benefit to humanity that science has brought out. So this celebration encompasses everyone in the world.

The three-day celebration will culminate with a performance by Baba Brinkman, a hip-hop artist who gained national attention with his unique and educational raps.

Brinkman first received widespread media attention with his one-man show "The Rap Canterbury Tales." 

He developed the rap while he was working on his master's thesis in which he argued that modern hip-hop freestyle battling is the closest parallel to the way in which Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and the poetry of William Shakespeare was recited.

After literature, he began studying human evolution and primatology and developed 'The Rap Guide to Evolution." The show enjoyed a five-month run Off-Broadway in New York. At 7 p.m. on Sunday in the Englert, he will be perform the one-man production. Admission is free. 

"Rap is definitely a diverse culture," he said. "And when it comes to my music, educating people is part of my agenda."


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