2009 is Darwin Year, the bicentennial of Darwin's birthday, and sesquicentennial of publication of his book The Origin of Species. (I think sesquicentennial means 150 but I could be wrong!). We are therefore having a session on Darwin and his theory at the Stoa to celebrate this double anniversary.
There is a mass of information on the web covering Darwin, his theory and his detractors and I have tried to provide links to a large chunk of it here. Ironically, although Darwinian evolution is currently one of the best attested scientific theories, with over 99.99% of biologists accepting it as valid and true, it is still highly controversial in the political and religious arenas. I have therefore also listed a lot of links to material relating to the Creationist and Intelligent Design disputes.
For those who are bit rusty on their Darwin I recommend you begin by paying a visit to the “Brush up your Darwin” page. Here you will find links to sites that will provide a painless introduction and also attempt to dismiss some of the common misunderstandings people commonly have about evolution. If you only have time read one introduction I recommend printing off The Big Picture on Evolution.
A lot of people think they know exactly what Darwin said but the page on Common misunderstandings about evolution will help to dispel some of the myths have lodged themselves in the popular imagination. If you don't read anything else at least read A skeptic's take on the public misunderstanding of Darwin
In 2002 the geneticist Steve Jones gave a lecture arguing that owing to the development of human culture and technology our evolution has effectively stopped. Others disagree and think that humans have undergone a huge amount of change over the past just 5,000 years. Take a look at the page on human evolution to see how the argument goes. But if you don't read anything else read The future of Man – How will evolution change humans?
Despite the huge amount of convergent evidence that continues to accumulate in favour of the Darwinian account of evolution there is still a large lobby, mainly in the USA, that vigorously denies the truth of the theory. Their opposition is principally based on fundamentalist religious belief and a fear of what are perceived as the malign moral and political consequences of Darwinism if it is taken seriously. The Creationism and ID page provides a lot of background to the controversy. However, opposition to the creationist and ID lobby can sometimes be a little disingenuous, naively pointing out that Darwinism is simply an explanatory theory in biology. Proponents of Darwinism often fail to acknowledge how far Darwinism has been used as justification for a variety of different social philosophies and that the anti-darwinists do indeed have a point in viewing Darwinism, at least from one point of view, is an ideology. The page on Evolution, Society & Culture details how Darwinism has been presented as social and political philosophy. If you don't read anything else read Is Evolution a Secular Religion as it makes some good points that will provide grist for a lively discussion.