I got a stack of emails yesterday referencing how wonderful it is that House Resolution 81 was introduced in Congress:
Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) just introduced H. Res. 81 to Congress, expressing support for designation of February 12, 2011, as Darwin Day.
This resolution is a culmination of collaboration between Representative Stark, 2008 Humanist of the Year, and the American Humanist Association.
The AHA didn’t hold back its enthusiasm:
… Executive Director Roy Speckhardt issued a statement calling Stark’s resolution “a thrilling step forward for the secular movement. Not only is this an opportunity to bring the scientific impact of Charles Darwin to the forefront, but this also signifies the potential for greater respect for scientific reasoning on Capitol Hill.”
The Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy said this was important, too:
This Resolution recognizes the importance of science and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection.
“It is important that we support this Resolution during a time when the education system allows an anti-science presence in the classroom,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president & CEO of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). “CFI stands with Rep. Stark and scientists and teachers throughout the country in recognition of this day and the importance of Darwin.”
I think we’re all happy that Congress is pushing a Resolution that honors Darwin.
But let’s not go overboard here. This is legislation that can be summarized by saying “science is good” and “Darwin was important.”
That hasn’t stopped conservative groups from commenting on it…:
Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the conservative Family Research Council’s legislative action arm, said after reading Stark’s bill he “had to look at my calendar to see if it was April 1. … If he really thinks this is a priority, I guess it shows why he’s not in the majority anymore.
“I don’t think he gives a good reason of why someone like Charles Darwin needs to be celebrated and recognized by the federal government. It’s a waste, I think, of taxpayers’ time,” McClusky said, asking why Congress shouldn’t instead honor someone like Booker T. Washington or Thomas Edison “who actually invented things, not just threw out theories.”
*sigh*… that’s obviously a dumb thing to say. We’ll get back to McClusky in a second.
But he raises a point that I want to raise as well: Is this just a waste of time?
There’s no increase in science funding from this. School boards aren’t going to all-of-a-sudden unanimously support the teaching of evolution now. This won’t affect the lives of those who teach students how science works. Hell, most Americans won’t even know if and when this resolution gets passed. (Which it probably won’t in a Republican dominated House.)
Just take a look at a few of the other recent House Resolutions to get an idea of how seriously we need to take them:
- H. Res. 80: Expressing support for the goals and ideals of National Marine Awareness Day.
- H. Res. 75: Recognizing National Nurses Week on May 8 through May 14, 2011.
- H. Res. 71: Honoring the life of Dr. D. James Kennedy.
That last one, by the way, honors the life of a Christian preacher and televangelist and who, among other accomplishments, “lived modestly and was never tainted by any moral or financial scandal.”
Glad to see Darwin is now in such esteemed company.
(I’m waiting for Tom McClusky to make a comment about how the Kennedy Resolution is a waste of time since he didn’t invent television…)
But you know what? I didn’t even hear about that Kennedy Resolution. It didn’t matter because it wasn’t a big deal.
These Resolutions all matter to people whose interests are served by them, but they don’t offer any substantial change.
Believe me, I’m thrilled that Congress might “officially” recognize Darwin’s contributions — and I know Resolutions like this one don’t happen everyday — but this just isn’t terribly meaningful to me.
When Congress puts aside funding to hire more highly-qualified science teachers or increases the budgets of NASA and the NSF, I’ll be much more excited. Until then, all the hype about this just seems overblown.
Should I be making a bigger deal about this?
Here’s the full text of the resolution for anyone interested:
Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2011, as Darwin Day and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.
Whereas Charles Darwin’s 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;
Whereas the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is further strongly supported by the modern understanding of the science of genetics;
Whereas it has been the human curiosity and ingenuity exemplified by Darwin that has promoted new scientific discoveries that have helped humanity solve many problems and improve living conditions;
Whereas the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change;
Whereas the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States’ education systems;
Whereas Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s peoples; and
Whereas, February 12, 2011, is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809 and would be an appropriate date to designate as Darwin Day: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
(1) supports the designation of Darwin Day; and
(2) recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.