Darwin Day resolution introduced in U.S. House

by Greg Mayer

The New York Times reports that Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to support the designation of February 12, 2013 as Darwin Day. Holt, a former research physicist and Jeopardy champion, represents Princeton, New Jersey, where his supporters, with a slight exaggeration, sport bumper stickers proclaiming “My Congressman IS a Rocket Scientist“. Holt worked with the American Humanist Association in introducing the resolution, H.Res. 41, on January 22, and commented:

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.

Holt once told the Times, “420 [of the House’s 435 members] don’t know much about science and choose not to. … We know more than our colleagues, but not more than they could know.” (The “we” refers to Holt, Bill Foster (D-Illinois), and Vernon Ehlers (R-Michigan), the only physicists in congress; Ehlers has since retired.) Curiously, the Times chose to emphasize the fact that Holt is a Quaker in its coverage, even putting the article in its “Beliefs” section. The Times also notes in the same article that the Worst-Congressman-Ever ™, Paul Broun (R-Georgia), is going to run for the Senate in 2014. Here’s the text of the resolution; note that it mentions global warming denialism as well as creationism:

Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2013, 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, 2013, 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.

Given that it’s already February 3, I suspect no action will be taken by the House on the resolution.

 

46 Comments

  1. Hempenstein
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey): It’s nice to be able to applaud something said or done by someone whose first name is Rush.

    • gbjames
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      +1

  2. Strider
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I almost wish it’d been a republican introducing the bill.

  3. Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “Given that it’s already February 3, I suspect no action will be taken by the House on the resolution.”

    It is a good idea to start now to get this and similar resolutions passed by governments in Canada and the US for February 12,2014, the 205th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.

    • marycanada FCD
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Would support this for Canada. Not sure how the Conservative government would respond.

      • Mark Fuller Dillon
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        Most likely with another secretive “trade” deal. That’s how they respond to anything. :/

  4. SLC
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Hey, how about Dec. 25 as Isaac Newton day and March 14 as Albert Einstein day.

    • Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      I suspect there would be less resistance to Isaac Newton day and Albert Einstein day than to Darwin day.

      • RFW
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget Galileo.

        • Veroxitatis
          Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Nor Feynman.

  5. spinkham
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Excellent, except for the fact that the global warming dig is a bit out of place. Darwin is controversial enough on his own without tying in the climate change issue.

  6. alpha079er
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Embrace Doubt and commented:
    I was actually a little proud to be from New Jersey after reading this.

  7. Posted February 3, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    My favorite memory of Frederic Church’s “Olana” is to have seen a copy of Charles Darwin’s book on his shelf. They had just opened it as a New York State Historic Site. I urge New York legislators to agree to this, though it does compete with other days the Congress declares important, like a “Kielbasa Day” or whether the State of New York declares Mercenaria mercenaria, the quahogs, the scallop, or the oyster to be the State’s shell. The scallop won. “Darwin” should not be “Dar loses”. Australians would tell you that.

  8. phosphoros99
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    A little thought will show that Darwin’s theory and Darwin Day are going to be the death of atheism.

    Accepting “descent with modification” is accepting the information processing nature of living organisms. Darwin wasn’t aware of the concept but even the child in kindergarden appreciates this today. It will take a major propaganda campaign to hold the line that this information was created by “chance and necessity” when kids will inevitably realize that we humans are the ultimate “meat robots”

    Game. Set. Match.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      And therefore magic is the refuge? Hardly.

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Accepting “descent with modification” is accepting the information processing nature of living organisms. Darwin wasn’t aware of the concept but even the child in kindergarden appreciates this today. It will take a major propaganda campaign to hold the line that this information was created by “chance and necessity” when kids will inevitably realize that we humans are the ultimate “meat robots”

      What on earth are you talking about?

      • Hempenstein
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        That’s what I was wondering too.

        Whenever you see something about information processing, it seems that something scrambled is about to follow. There seems to be a creationary sect out there that thinks that it has found the Achilles Heel of evolution in this concept, which they largely misunderstand.

        • Brygida Berse
          Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          I’m not there yet. I simply do not understand the sentences that Phosphoros99 wrote, especially the one about “a major propaganda campaign”.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        p99 has posted this “information” argument on WEIT about one dozen times. It’s his only argument. I’ve only ever seen him defend his position once that “science can’t explain it thus there’s a designer”

        p99 is claiming that higher order functions like cognition cannot be derived from chemistry & physics ~ hence “meat machines”.

        P99 is probably basing his ideas on Charles Thaxton’s “specified complexity” [which Thaxton hijacked & mangled from information theory] or it’s one of the variations on that proposed by Stephen Meyer, Bill Dembski or David Abel. All four of these “Intelligent Design” proponents have merely dressed up Paley’s watch argument from design in some sciency language & [in Dembski’s case] misapplied probability mathematics.

        • Brygida Berse
          Posted February 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          Michael Fisher: thanks for the info, I think I’ll pass on that discussion :-).

        • raven
          Posted February 3, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          p99 is claiming that higher order functions like cognition cannot be derived from chemistry & physics ~ hence “meat machines”.

          Fallacy of Arguments from personal ignorance and incredulity.

          We don’t know something so goddidit.

          It’s not actually an argument. It is an excuse to believe in sky fairies despite no proof whatsoever.

      • raven
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

        What on earth are you talking about?

        You need a Gibberish to English translator.

        when kids will inevitably realize that we humans are the ultimate “meat robots”

        We are meat machines. Inside most people’s skulls is a 3 pound organic brain.

        Although people victimized by toxic fundie religions are often hard to tell from meat robots.

    • Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      “…the information processing nature of living organisms.”

      What specific implications do you think this has for the atheism/theism debate? You don’t really flesh this out. It seems like a pretty neutral observation to me; everything can be described as some form of information processing. Information is not a magical substance that can only be called into existence by a deity. Information reduces to physical entities. Different arrangements of physical entities lead to other arrangements of physical entities and your flow chart is off and running.

      “… we humans are the ultimate “meat robots”.”

      This is not a point in favor of theism.

      • Phosphoros99
        Posted February 4, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

        Please explain why the proposition that human beings and other living organisms are constructed by an information processing system does not support theism.

        I need bring no other argument than information to explain what living organisms are because that is what they are.
        It is you who are still in “the flat earth paradigm” when it comes to the nature of biology.

        • Posted February 5, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

          No, you need to explain how information -> god.

          You’re the one suggesting a positive relationship.

          I’m sticking with the null hypothesis until we actually have empirical evidence for any kind of deity. Information can exist fine and dandy without a god.

          • phosphoros99
            Posted February 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

            The null hypothesis on semantic information, at least from the prospective of the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy the last time I visited the website, is that it is produced by an intelligence.

            One does not have to know the source of a thing to accurately explain what it does further we may infer possible causes for phenomena by forensic analysis .

            The undeniable fact is that a fertilized egg is an object which contains both the information and the infra-structure required to build a body by extracting the required material from the environment.

            It is a type of information technology.

            Whilst one must be open to the possibility that there is a “4th Law of thermodynamics” which leads to complexity what can be the scientific basis for excluding a known cause which achieves the same end ?

            • Posted February 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

              This will be my last reply.

              You’ve moved the goalposts by referring specifically to “semantic” info. Skimming the SEoP’s article on simply “Information”, I see that many types of information are outlined, of which not all require an agent or intelligence to produce it process it. And I don’t see anywhere where it is explicitly stated that information necessitating intelligent agents is the “null hypothesis”. Are you aware of what a null hypothesis is? Mr. Occam would not approve of calling information -> god the null hypothesis.

              You’re conflating semantic content of the narrow type that is created by us and for our consumption with information in general. A rock rolls down a hill, and strikes another rock. They both continue down the hill striking other things, their paths being affected by bumps and other topology. There is information here. What’s happening with the rocks is describable mathematically. You can even call the strikes and bumps a kind of processing: depending on the exact circumstances of the strike there will be one of a number of different consequences. Where is the intelligence?

              • phosphoros99
                Posted February 8, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

                we define the null hypothesis and then do statistical analyses to accept or reject it.

                Calculations have been done to find out whether statistical analysis would accept that “chance and necessity” are sufficient to explain living organisms by processes such as you describe.

                Those analyses reject “chance and necessity” as the null hypothesis.

        • raven
          Posted February 5, 2013 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          Please explain why the proposition that human beings and other living organisms are constructed by an information processing system does not support theism.

          This is gibberish. Again.

          Please explain why stringing words together in meaningless combinations proves that god exists.

          I’m going to have to say it. This poster is showing the disordered thought processes typical of schizophrenia.

    • Mark Fuller Dillon
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      “It will take a major propaganda campaign to hold the line that this information was created by ‘chance and necessity’ when kids will inevitably realize that we humans are the ultimate ‘meat robots'”

      That sentence refuses to make any sense….

    • Gary W
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Accepting “descent with modification” is accepting the information processing nature of living organisms. Darwin wasn’t aware of the concept but even the child in kindergarden appreciates this today. It will take a major propaganda campaign to hold the line that this information was created by “chance and necessity” when kids will inevitably realize that we humans are the ultimate “meat robots”

      Gibberish.

    • Jim Sweeney
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that “information” is trotted out because of a simple misunderstanding of information theory which is the root of the creationist argument from the second law of thermodynamics.

      The argument is that a faulty system of reproduction can’t lead to increasing complexity because that would violate the general tendency toward disorder.

      For whatever reason they get Claude Shannon’s identification of information with entropy exactly backwards. Shannon, like everyone since, equated order with simplicity and low information content. It’s a rare instance of something which is simultaneously self-evident and profoundly counter-intuitive.

      Complexity is a sand castle, a house of cards likely to collapse in the gentlest breeze, the antithesis of a junk heap, but indistinguishable in terms of information theory, whose measure is how compactly a given state can be described.

      I wonder how many of us, if polled, would agree that human culture and technology inexorably increase entropy. We do, though.

      Once upon a time our radio and TV antennas radiated very simple signals which could be easily demodulated by our equally primitive receivers, and which could perhaps be easily deciphered by alien eavesdroppers. Nowadays our electromagnetic transmissions are typically compressed and perhaps indistinguishable from noise by any naive observer.

  9. Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Richard Dawkins once noted the irony, that
    while England has an official state church,
    it has an image of Charles Darwin on its
    currency (the 10 pound note) while we have a
    secular government, but have “In God We Trust” on ours.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Yep, and they have(/recently had) Newton, Faraday, and Watt. too, along with Shakespeare and Christopher Wren. We could do with a few scientists on our currency, at the expense of some dead presidents. I suggest starting with Thomas Edison and George Washington Carver, which ought not be controversial.

      • Veroxitatis
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and Scottish banknotes have had Alexander Graham Bell, Lord Kelvin and Fleming. Serious omissions are James Hutton and Sir Charles Lyell (the founders of geology) and James Clerk Maxwell.
        Unaccountably, Jack Nicklaus has appeared on a Scots banknote. Great guy – but ?

      • StuartG
        Posted February 3, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Not to be left out, New Zealand has Ernest Rutherford (Lord Rutherford of Nelson) on the $100 note.

    • bric
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      We also had a Darwin £2 coin (4 million produced for the bi-centenary in 2009): Mr Darwin gazing into the eyes of a chimpanzee.

  10. Posted February 3, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    This would be really great!

  11. Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Would that include recognizing Darwin’s work? Cancel that request.

    Most have probably wandered the long and tedious journey of the bible as Jerry, did recently. Though if you really want to understand the Creationist and so called Intelligent Design, try a documentary titled “Darwin’s Dilemma”. Ya gotta love when they point to one fossil and declare, this was created at 2:00pm on a Tuesday. Trouble is, you will recognize some of the scientists.

  12. Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on suzzeq's Blog.

  13. Posted February 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Oufiero Lab and commented:
    I thought this was interesting. Also makes me proud to be from NJ.

  14. CheyenneKayCheyenne
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Cheyenne Charlie welcomes you to my digital ranch.

  15. Diane G.
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    sub

  16. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    New Jersey, where his supporters, with a slight exaggeration, sport bumper stickers proclaiming “My Congressman IS a Rocket Scientist“.

    My bedtime reading for a few days has been a memoir of a “rocket scientist”, or to be more precise, a propellant chemist. Full of little hints like “dissolving high explosives into dangerously explosive candidate propellants is not likely to produce a stable mixture”.
    My Dad doesn’t know how glad he is that I’ didn’t find this book as a teenager. But he’ll find out when I send him my copy. with an SEA.

  17. Posted February 4, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Sarvodaya and commented:
    From both a historical and scientific perspective, I wholly support this effort.

  18. DV
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Rocket scientist is not an exaggeration. In the literal sense it is just wrong. The guy is a nuclear physicist for crying out loud. Rocket scientist is a demotion.


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