Political Science: Happy Darwin Day!

Feb. 12, 2013—As nature nerds and their allies celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin, the man who made the most important scientific breakthrough of all time, a bill in Congress seeks to make Feb. 12 a national holiday.

Pointing out that “the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems,” US Rep. Rush D. Holt (D- New Jersey) touted Charles Darwin as "a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge."

"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.

Holt, one of the few members of Congress with a Ph.D. in a scientific discipline, taught physics and religion at Swarthmore College during the 1980s. From 1987 until 1989 he headed the Nuclear and Scientific Division of the Office of Strategic Forces at the U.S. Department of State.

Holt's bill was introduced on Jan. 22 and sent to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee—where it will likely die.

As Phil Plait points out in his Bad Astronomy column, that committee includes "far too many members of Congress [who] think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old." Among them: Todd Akin (R-MO), whose "knowledge—or really, the profound lack thereof—of female anatomy made him the laughingstock of the planet."

Writing on this topic last year, Plait lamented the fact that the committee also includes another Republican, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), who has gone on the record regarding evolution:

"All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said at a Sportsman’s banquet in Hartwell, Georgia. “You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says."

If Holt's bill passes, it will be the second time Feb. 12 has been set aside as a national holiday. Until the creation of Presidents Day, this was the day we celebrated the birthday of Abraham Lincoln—who was born on the same day in 1809 as Charles Darwin.

See the full text of Rep.Rush Holt's Darwin Day resolution here.