Once a year, the people of the Palouse community gather to celebrate rationality.
The sixth annual Darwin on the Palouse event will focus on clearing up the misconceptions associated with vaccines and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The event is free, and will take place at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 in the 1912 Center. There will also be a social gathering with guest speakers after the main event at the Hunga Dunga Brewery.
Darwin on the Palouse is sponsored by the Humanists of the Palouse and the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Idaho. Cassie Suebert, the president of Humanists of the Palouse, said the goal of the event is to celebrate humanity, science and rational thought.
“In recent years, we’ve brought in interesting speakers to talk about science, or rational thought related topics such as history and philosophy,” Stuebert said. “This year will be pretty focused on science, and science advocacy.”
This year’s event is headlined by Cheryl Miller, a postdoctoral scholar at Washington State University, and Kevin Folta, chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida.
Miller has more than a decade of experience researching infectious disease. She will present on vaccines and the perceived health risks associated with getting children vaccinated. Folta will address the contemporary food war and its subsequent effects on farmers, consumers and the ecosystem.
“In the past, we’ve focused on a lot on subjects that have dealt with religion such as evolution, or philosophical questions,” Suebert said. “This year we’re excited to branch away from that, and focus more on science denialism that is pretty prevalent today.”
Seth Hull, president of the Secular Student Alliance, said there are many falsehoods about certain subjects like vaccines and GMOs that are accepted without examination. He said it is because of these misunderstandings that people should attend the event and listen to the science behind these subjects.
“Misinformation is not a new phenomenon, but it’s a very visible and disconcerting phenomenon,” Hull said. “I think this event will specifically target the misconceptions of vaccines and GMOs.”
In reference to GMOs, Hull said there are many activist groups that are concerned genetically modified organisms can be dangerous, especially when it comes to eating genetically modified food.
“(Folta’s) presentation will mostly be focused on the war for food,” Hull said. “He’ll present on the process of field to table, biotechnology and the benefits that biotechnology has to offer. Especially in a world that struggles with hunger as much as we do.”
Hull said Miller will present on the history, use and benefits of vaccines, as well as address commonly perceived misconceptions about them.
“There is a perceived link between vaccines and autism, the same way there are perceived dangers of genetically altered food stuffs,” Hull said. “(Darwin on the Palouse) is here so we can hear the facts about these subjects from professionals who’ve devoted their entire lives to studying them.”
Andrew Ward can be reached at email@example.com