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(Very Gradual) Change We Can Believe In

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
(Very Gradual) Change We Can Believe In
Author(s): 
Mike Rosulek
Volume: 
29
Issue: 
6
Year: 
2009
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
16
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Last February, I wanted to acknowledge Darwin's 200th birthday on my blog, so that my vast readership of approximately ten people would be aware of it. In order to spice up what would have been an otherwise short and boring blog post, I thought it would be nice to include something light-hearted but still in the spirit of Darwin Day.

Having only limited creativity, my first instinct was to repeat something I'd done before: make a parody of the now-famous Shepard Fairey Obama "HOPE" poster, this time featuring old man Darwin and his bushy beard. When you think about it, the Obama campaign's rhetoric of "change" is right in line with the Darwinian idea of adaptation. Once I hit upon the "adaptation" of the Obama slogan "(very gradual) change we can believe in," I knew I was on to something good (even though "believe" is not the best word when referring to established scientific fact).

Picture of Charles Darwin in the style of 2008 Obama campaign posters with the caption Very gradual change we can believe in

Well, I did not get the design done in time for Darwin Day, but I kept at it. In the back of my mind, I figured that there might be some people (myself among them) who would want the design on a poster or a t-shirt. I thought to myself, if I could come up with a way to sell these, I might make a few bucks out of this whole deal. Perhaps even $50, if I got lucky! With that in mind, I unsuspectingly and casually posted the design to my website. Maybe eventually I would get around to finding a way to sell the design on t-shirts.

I thought it would make sense to donate any profits to some appropriate charity. NCSE seemed the most obvious beneficiary for Darwin-themed sales, and I was sure that they would appreciate the twenty bucks I was expecting to raise. In the spirit of procrastination, I wrote on my blog that I would "soon" be selling the design on some t-shirts and posters, with proceeds benefiting NCSE.

As it turns out, my idea caught on faster than a drug-resistant bacterial mutation. My blog post was picked up by Reddit, then Pharyngula, boingboing, and so on. I woke up the next morning to almost 100 emails from people asking me when they could get Darwin on a t-shirt. When the dust finally settled, my estimate of this idea's popularity was off by a mere factor of 100! At the time of writing this, sales from the merchandise (posters, shirts, buttons, and stickers) have generated almost $4500 for NCSE,and orders are still trickling in three months later.

The designs (old man Darwin with a variety of slogans) are still for sale, and all proceeds will continue to benefit NCSE.You can find all the designs and a link to the Zazzle storefront at http://mikero.com/darwin. Thanks to everyone who bought merchandise to support NCSE and to support my fifteen minutes of fame!

About the Author(s): 

Mike Rosulek
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
info@ncse.com

Mike Rosulek is an assistant professor in the University of Montana's Department of Computer Science.