An official resolution to commemorate the birth date of Charles Darwin has been proffered by Democratic Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) in concert with the American Humanists Association. Citing the British naturalist’s momentous contributions to human knowledge and the untold advances rushed in by his ideas, Rep. Holt has asked Congress to dedicate February 12, 2013 to the timeless icon.
Holt, only the second research physicist to hold Congressional office, commented in yesterday’s press release, “Only very rarely in human history has someone uncovered a fundamentally new way of thinking about the world – an insight so revolutionary that it has made possible further creative and explanatory thinking. Without Charles Darwin, our modern understandings of biology, ecology, genetics, and medicine would be utterly impossible, and our comprehension of the world around us would be vastly poorer. By recognizing Darwin Day, we can honor the importance of scientific thinking in our lives, and we can celebrate one of our greatest thinkers.”
Similar resolutions have appeared before Congress over the past decade, yet none has escaped the cutting room floor of the House. Pete Stark, another Democratic representative, lobbied for the same concession back in 2011, where it then lay dormant before a GOP-controlled House committee.
From a political vantage point, Holt’s overture might have more opportunistically been seized by the party beset with the graver image problem. The GOP have long regarded evolution science as their bête noire, and virtually all of this past election’s candidates held dissenting views on established science. A similar gesture originating from a member on the right could possibly have kickstarted a partisan-wide reformation, one focused on ensuring voters that it is more in touch with reality in contrast with the past election cycle.
For the moment, however, a GOP rebranding appears far from imminent, and Holt’s resolution, once again, seems dead on arrival. It now lies in the hands of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, occupied by Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who last October decried evolution and the big bang as “lies straight from the pit of Hell”. Moreover, the committee’s senior chair, Ralph Smith, rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, stating: “I’m really more fearful of freezing. And I don’t have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us they’re not basing it on real scientific facts.” The views of the other GOP members on the committee are not well-advertised, which is itself a troubling sign.
One can scarcely hold back a chuckle, or perhaps a frightful shriek, upon making contact with the roller coaster of contradiction described here. To the outsider, such statements might seem to connote some warped version of reality or a rather low attempt at humor. Indeed, science denialists lining our science and intelligence committees sounds more like linguistic staccato than a faithful description of America’s leadership environment. Were Jefferson and his contemporaries alive at this moment, they might describe such a paradigm as symptomatic of collective psychosis.
And while all this political posturing and heel-digging prevails on Capitol Hill, America’s reputation continues to fall behind in the scientific arena. A greater percentage of its population rejects evolution compared with most other developed nations.
Darwin Day may seem like a trivial measure, but it could be a good step in lifting the mephitic stain of antiscience and scientific illiteracy long-effused by America. If you’d like to get involved, contact your representatives and urge them to cast their support for this resolution.
Feature image courtesy of kT LindSAy, a hood mockingbird indigenous to the famed Galapagos Islands.