January 19, 2003February 23, 2003Meeting Report

Darwin Day

February 15, 2003

Featured Speaker
Martina Newell-McGloughlin

The 2003 Darwin Day Celebration was held at the Hart Community Center at 27th and J Streets, in Sacramento.

The annual Darwin Day program brings together several freethought, educational and scientific organizations in a celebration of Charles Darwin and of science. This year’s Darwin Day program concentrated on 21st century research and technology. The speaker was Dr. Martina Newell-McGloughlin, Director of the University of California Systemwide Biotechnology Research and Education Program. She has an international reputation and we were lucky to have her as a speaker.

Paul Geisert, a member of HAGSA, who emphasized that evolution is a fact and that natural selection is how it happened, opened the meeting. He was highly critical of so-called "intelligent design" theory that the more sophisticated creationists are trying to have accepted as science. Mynga Futrell then introduced the speaker.

Dr. Martina Newell-McGloughlinDr. Newell-McGloughlin1 used a PowerPoint presentation, dealing with the principles of biotechnology, to illustrate her lecture. She gave a quick tour of the subject, noting that 2003 is the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the structure of the DNA molecule. She mentioned that she had met Dolly, the first cloned sheep. Biotechnology has been around a long time, but its power has been greatly enhanced in recent years by the use of recombinant DNA technology. Such technology can insert genes for a desired trait into the DNA of a species that lacks them. This can enable the resulting organisms to be more resistant to disease and pests. This in turn has enabled farmers to use smaller amounts of toxic pesticides or fungicides than in the past. The technology has also been used to increase tolerance to salinity, remove toxic heavy metals and to increase the yield of vitamins and other human nutrients. There are medical benefits. The speaker herself uses a medicine developed with modern biotechnology to fight her own autoimmune disease! As with any new technology, we need to rationally compare the costs and risks with the benefits, but there is no question that this speaker is enthusiastic about this technology and its future.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, HAGSA Recorder

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1 For biographical information on Dr. Newell-McGloughlin, click on the following link:

Newell-McGloughlin Biography

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