Himes, Blumenthal press for ‘Darwin Day’

Charles Darwin at age 45Washington – Americans observe Feb. 12 as President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but Rep. Jim Himes and Sen. Richard Blumenthal want that date also celebrated as the birthday of Charles Darwin.

The Connecticut lawmakers have introduced resolutions in the House of Representatives and Senate that would “recognize Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.”

The resolution praises Darwin’s curiosity, ingenuity and promotion of new scientific discoveries, including the theory of evolution. It also says federal recognition of Darwin’s achievements is timely because “the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change” and “the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the education systems of the United States.”

Blumenthal said he doesn’t want to bar the teaching of creationism in schools, but wants Darwin’s theories to also be taught in those schools to promote “the importance of science and STEM education.”

“The best way to raise awareness is through a particular person or a particular story and Darwin’s birthday presents that opportunity,” Blumenthal said.

Himes, D-4th District, said “without Darwin’s contributions to science, philosophy and reason, our understanding of the world’s complexity and grandeur would be significantly diminished.”

Logo for International Darwin Day sponsored by the American Humanist Association.

Logo for International Darwin Day sponsored by the American Humanist Association.

The resolutions, which have the backing of other Democrats, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, were praised by the American Humanist Association  which maintains a “Darwin Day” web site.

“With climate change deniers endangering our environment and the anti-vaccination movement threatening our children’s health, there has never been a greater need for our politicians to stand up for science,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.The AHA has a “Darwin Day” web site, darwinday.org.

Darwin would be 206 this year. He was an English naturalist and geologist who has been a controversial figure since he published his book, The Origin of Species, in 1859.

In the book, based in large part on observations in the Galapagos Islands, Darwin established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors and have evolved through a process known as natural selection that favors traits that help living organisms survive and thrive.
The National Center for Science Education, whose motto is “Defending the teaching of evolution and climate science,” also praised Himes and Blumenthal for their efforts.

But Drew Crandall, co-chairman of the Vernon-based Creation Coalition of Connecticut, said the Darwin Day resolution is a bad idea.

“I would question why they want to give Darwin this honor when evolution is not a proven scientific fact and has led people away from a creationist world view,” Crandall said. “They are honoring a man who has led people astray.”

This is the fourth year lawmakers have introduced a resolution trying to honor Darwin, but the first time the effort is led by Connecticut lawmakers.

Himes said he worked on the resolution for years with it’s former sponsor, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., and decided to lead the effort after Holt retired.

“Darwin wasn’t afraid to stand up for science when it was unpopular and dangerous to do so,” Himes said.

The introduction of Himes’ and Blumenthal’s legislation came just days after Delaware approved a resolution marking Feb. 12 as Darwin Day, the first state to do so.

With the GOP in control of both chambers of Congress, it’s not likely the Darwin resolution will be approved, or even considered, anytime soon.

“It’s probably not going to go anywhere immediately,” Blumenthal said. “But hopefully it has some symbolic and educational value.”
Blumenthal also said the effort on Capitol Hill to honor Darwin could prompt similar actions in Connecticut and other states.

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