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Anti-science panel dooms Darwin Day

Published February 14. 2014 4:00AM

On this isolated workday (maybe) for state employees - on Wednesday they stayed home for Lincoln's birthday, Thursday because of the snow, and Monday they celebrate President's Day - we turn our attention to a whimsical piece of legislation offered by Connecticut's Fourth District Congressman James Himes. It calls for creating a Charles Darwin Day.

We use the word "whimsy" because Rep. Himes acknowledges the bill has "zero chance" of becoming law or, we might add, probably ever being heard from again.

Charles Darwin, the English scientist whose theory of evolution offers scientifically recognized evidence of how the universe evolved over time, was born in England on Feb. 12, 1809, the same day Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky. Mr. Lincoln's birthday, once a national holiday, has been merged to an all-encompassing observance that is known as President's Day and is devoted to the marketing of automobiles. This leaves, theoretically, an opening for Mr. Darwin. (Except in Connecticut, where state workers already manage to get both presidential observances off.)

In any event, Rep. Himes and fellow congressmen from New Jersey and California want to honor Darwin because his "theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection, together with the monumental amount of scientific evidence he compiled to support it, provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth."

They also want to take a poke at those who advocate teaching creationism in public schools, a curriculum pushed by a group of extremely conservative Christians who accept as fact the Biblical account of the creation of the universe in seven days about 6,000 years ago. This group is practically nonexistent in this part of the country, but it thrives in the South and Midwest where there have been debates about teaching creationism alongside evolution. The Darwin resolution criticizes attempts to teach this religion-based theory of "intelligent design" because it "compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems."

Rep. Himes, an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, characterizes himself as a religious person and says he "completely respects people's right to believe what they wish" but not necessarily teach it in school as scientific fact.

The bill likely will never come to a vote because it has been referred to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which seems devoted to compromising the scientific and academic integrity of the United States. Its former chairman and now "chairman emeritus," Rep. Ralph Hall, an 80-year-old Texan, doubts humans influence global warming because, "I don't think we can control what God controls." Many of its majority, Republican members share similarly unusual scientific perspectives. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California believes global warming is "at best ... unproven and at worst a liberal claptrap, trendy." If it is a problem it can be addressed, he suggests, by clear-cutting rain forests; and replanting, of course.

And then there's Rep. Paul Broun Jr. of Georgia, who told those at a town hall meeting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "want to give all the power to the federal government to force you to eat more fruits and vegetables. This is what the federal, CDC, they gonna be calling you to make sure you eat fruits and vegetables, every day. This is socialism of the highest order!"

It seems a lot of our moms were also socialists. Who knew?

For the past year, the committee has had to do without the scientific contributions of former Rep. Todd Akin, who lost a race for the Senate in Missouri after he announced women can't get pregnant from a "legitimate rape" because "the body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down" to avoid pregnancy after a rape.

Try getting this crowd to give a nod to the birthday of Charles Darwin.

Rep. Himes and his co-sponsors deserve some creative points for using their "Darwin Day" bill to expose the anti-science strain in the House GOP. In the meantime, if they are looking for an interest group to please, rather than offend, we note that there is no national holiday honoring a woman.

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