14 February: Darwin Memorial Lecture – Alexander von Humboldt and his influence on Darwin

We have reserved seats for the Darwin Memorial Lecture, and a table at The Armoury for lunch beforehand (arrive 12 noon). Members, partners and friends welcome.

The lecture is on Sunday February 14th at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn, starting at 2.30 pm. The tickets for the lecture cost £10 each. Pay for your choice of meal on the day.

Please tell us if you’ll be joining us for lunch and lecture or just lecture. Payment must be made by  December 12th.

Please contact Ron Falder at falder [at] hotmail.com.

The Invention Of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt And His Influence On Charles Darwin, by Andrea Wulf

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a visionary scientist who created the way we understand nature today. His writings, though unfortunately often ignored now, was enormously influential in its day and shaped the work of Darwin and many other scientists and thinkers of his day. Andrea Wulf will examine these relationships and outline the contribution that Humboldt made to the study of nature and scientific method.

Andea Wulf is a historian whose work has focussed on the relationship between humankind and the natural world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her book Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation was published to great acclaim in spring 2011. Her most recent book The Invention of Nature published in 2015, makes the case for the recognition of Humboldt as a key figure in nineteenth century science as the thinker who understood the interconnectedness of nature and who saw earth as a living organism.

Darwin Festival in February in Shrewsbury

Darwin during the Shrewsbury Flower Show, August 2014  © Richard Burnham 2014

Darwin during the Shrewsbury Flower Show, August 2014 © Richard Burnham 2014

The SHG doesn’t hold a meeting in February, as there is a wealth of events at the Darwin festival in Shrewsbury, Darwin’s birthplace. Of particular note is the memorial lecture that some of the group attend.

Sunday 15th February 2015, 14.30. The Darwin Memorial Lecture: “A ‘brilliant blunder’? Darwin and Mendel revisited.” by Dr Gregory Radick

A long tradition holds that Charles Darwin blundered badly on inheritance and how it works. He wrote at the same period when Gregor Mendel, the “father of genetics,” laid the foundations for what later scientists judged to be the correct account. With February 2015 marking 150 years since Mendel presented his views, this lecture will explore the questions of what Darwin believed about inheritance, how he came to think about inheritance in the ways he did, and why we might lose more than we gain if we classify his efforts under “brilliant blunder.”

Greg Radick is the Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Leeds. His main area of research is the history of biology and the human sciences from the eighteenth century to the present, with particular emphases on Darwinism, genetics and animal behaviour. His books include ‘The Simian Tongue: The Long Debate about Animal Language’ and ‘The Cambridge Companion to Darwin’. Since 2012, he has been Editor-in-Chief of the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Promoted by the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. TICKETS £10. See more details at http://www.theatresevern.co.uk/shows/talks/darwin-lecture-2015/

Wallace 100 – the other ‘father’ of evolution by natural selection

 This year is the 100th anniversary of the death of Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace and Darwin came from very different backgrounds – the subject of the lecture in Shrewsbury on 10 February. Darwin was a wealthy man, who could devote his time to his work. Wallace earned his living by travelling and finding specimens for collectors. It was a letter from Wallace that spurred Darwin to publish the theory he had been working on for so many years.

Find out more about Wallace through the Natural History Museum in London.

Darwin Lecture 2013

The 2013 Darwin Lecture in will take place on Sunday 10th February at 2.30pm in the Walker Theatre (within the Theatre Severn Complex) in Shrewsbury.

The lecture will be given by Professor Jim Moore of the Open University and will be entitled “Making Livings – The Economic Worlds of Darwin and Wallace”. Tickets will cost £10 each.

The programme of forthcoming events comments that…. “Alfred Russel Wallace, who wrote about evolution at the same time as Darwin, died in 1913. To recognise his contribution this year’s lecture focuses on the relationship between the two men, their differences and their similarities”.

Details of the lecture and of the Theatre Severn Complex can be found at http://www.theatresevern.co.uk/WhatsOn_focus.asp?ShowId=1087&sC=page10

As in 2012, the Shropshire Humanist Group will be arranging a group booking to the lecture itself along with an optional lunch at or close to the theatre (a suitable venue will be selected shortly).

To be sure of our seats it will be prudent for us to book them well before the festive season gets underway. Although it may feel rather early, if you would like to attend this event could you please let us know as soon as possible and, at the same time, indicate whether you would be interested in meeting for lunch beforehand.

 

Programme of meetings and socials for 2012

Meetings are on Thursdays at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG. All are welcome.

Note that Shropshire has the Darwin Festival in February and members of Shropshire Humanist Group are attending events during that time (see the News pages).

15 March

“Christian Zionism”, a talk by Hilda Reilly.

19 April

“A right to object? Conscientious objection and religious conviction”. Helen Taylor will lead a discussion  on this recent publication from the Humanist Philosophers’ Group.

17 May

Scientology, a Humanist Cult? Birmingham Humanist group chair, Adrian Bailey, on his experience of Scientology.

21 June

A talk by David Brittain, UK Armed Forces Humanist Association Chaplain.

July

A weekend walk and pub lunch.

20 September

Simon Nightingale will tell us why he is happy.

18 October

AGM followed by a led discussion “Torture for Humanists”.

15 November

Steve Hurd, chair of the Uganda Humanist Schools’ Trust, will give us the latest news from Uganda.

December

A festive meal.

If you have any suggestions for next year’s programme Chris Smith will be very pleased to receive them.

Darwin Festival and Memorial Lecture, February 2012

In February next (in place of a Thursday evening meeting) we are arranging for groups to attend events during The Darwin Festival.
This year the Darwin Memorial Lecture is given by Dr Jim Endersby, with the title Sympathetic Science: Charles Darwin, Joseph Hooker and the passions of Victorian Naturalists. It takes place at 2:30 pm, Sunday 12 February, Walker Theatre, Shrewsbury, and all tickets are £10.
If you are a Shropshire Humanist Group member, or would like to join and attend as part of the group, please contact Chris Smith, the group’s secretary. Payment is required by 15 December.
Nearer the time we will suggest a venue where we could meet for lunch before the lecture.
Details of the lecture and of other Darwin Festival events can be found at http://www.discoverdarwin.co.uk/darwin-festival/

Creationists crashing the Darwin Festival

A.C. Grayling on Darwin and the Darwinian Controversy

A C Grayling Sue Willson wrote this report for the BHA Groups Newsletter…

Groups (and the weather) working together

Sometimes it seems as if Humanists are a combative lot of people who cannot agree about anything. However, recently five local groups co-operated to perfection. Here’s how it happened.

A year ago during the Darwin Festival in Shrewsbury, representatives from five local groups met for the first time. They came from Shropshire, Chester and Greater Manchester Humanists, Marches Secularists, and S Cheshire / N Staffordshire Humanists. We discussed hosting a public event in his birthplace to celebrate Darwin’s bicentenary. We decided that a talk given by a well-known speaker might well attract an audience that would not be embarrassingly small. This event could perhaps be part of the bicentenary festival being planned for 2009 by the local council.

Sue Falder of the Shropshire Humanists group did a great deal of the ground work, writing to several possible speakers, getting details of venues in the town, and arranging that the local theatre would sell some of the tickets. She asked for our views via email, and we had a very pleasant meeting over lunch in an excellent riverside bar in Shrewsbury. Professor AC Grayling had already been booked as the speaker, and Sue had booked his rail ticket and sent it to him. The Lord Hill hotel in Shrewsbury was confirmed as the venue, with an optional and prepaid buffet on offer. Sue then disappeared off to New Zealand on holiday, much of the work being done, and left the rest of us to it.

Perhaps surprisingly, the remaining tasks were shared out without any problems – liaising with the hotel, publicising the event, selling tickets and banking the takings in one group’s account, keeping in contact with Professor Grayling, and making arrangements for getting him from Stafford station to Shrewsbury and back again after the talk: all was going smoothly. We had another enjoyable lunchtime meeting – why not mix business and pleasure? We thought we were doing well when nearly 100 tickets were sold, and we booked the larger room available in the hotel. But it quickly became clear that nearly 200 people would be attending, and 60 for the buffet. Success in all respects, we thought.

BUT TWO DAYS BEFORE OUR EVENT, THE GREAT SNOW FELL: trains were cancelled, roads were treacherous, and a flurry of emails between us rivalled the snowflakes. What if our speaker couldn’t get out of London? What if people couldn’t get through to Shrewsbury? What if an angry mob attacked us for cancelling at short notice?

However, the weather forecasters predicted the best day of the week on Our Day, and all was well. Professor Grayling arrived in good time, and a friendly crowd of over 200 listened to the talk after 70 of us enjoyed the buffet. Many looked at our publicity displays about Humanism and our groups, and picked up leaflets. As this was our first attempt at organising an event together, there were a few hitches, including a less than perfect microphone and failing to record the lecture as planned. And with hindsight, we should have done more to ensure that the buffet provided an adequate choice for vegetarians.

The reps from the five groups are now planning another lunch together, and thinking of organising another event. And we have to decide what to do with the large surplus we made!

Group news 2008: Groups celebrate the Darwin connection

In 2008, discussions and speakers covered a variety of subject areas: Can science explain faith?, Islam: benign delusion or radical threat?, Transition Towns, Peak Oil and its consequences and Religion and the Law.

Then, for Darwin’s birthday, the group arranged an event which drew in people from five other humanist groups and resulted in the formation of an area committee which organised a bigger event for the centenary in 2009.

Over 30 members from six different Humanist Groups gathered in Shrewsbury on the 14th February to celebrate the week of Darwin’s birth in the town of his birth. Meeting up at the Morris Hall, site of the Bell Stone which is reputed to have been the stimulus for Darwin’s interest in geological change, the thirty or so visitors split up into smaller groups for a guided walk taking in the places related to Darwin’s years in the town.

Outside the old Shrewsbury School, now the library

Outside the old Shrewsbury School, now the town library. (Click on the thumbnail to see the picture.)

The group re-assembled to warm up and have lunch at the Armoury pub on the riverside and then in the afternoon they gathered back at the Hall to talk about inter-group links and preparations for next year’s bi-centenary celebrations.

Lunch in Armoury pub

Lunchtime!

Left to right: Bob Churchill from the B.H.A. with leaders of five groups: Connor Birch, Bishops Castle Secularists, Allan Muir, Chester, John Cross, Manchester, Sue Willson, South Cheshire/North Staffs, Derek Woodvine, Shrops.

Left to right: Bob Churchill from the B.H.A. with leaders of five groups: Connor Birch, Bishops Castle Secularists, Allan Muir, Chester, John Cross, Manchester, Sue Willson, South Cheshire/North Staffs, Derek Woodvine, Shrops.

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