Celebrating Darwin in Congress

Sometimes the most trivial things can seem, in context, like brave stances. Here is ex-physicist and current New Jersey representative Rush Holt standing up in Congress to say nice things about Charles Darwin.

Admittedly we’re not talking super-brave here — Princeton and surrounding townships aren’t exactly hotbeds of young-Earth creationism. But it’s sadly true that forthright statements in favor of evolution have become “controversial” among national politicians in this country. Happy to see someone do the right thing.

(Aside to WordPress/YouTube wonks: there are two ways to embed a YouTube video on the blog, the new “iframe” way and the old way. It seems that the old way means that videos don’t show up on mobile devices, but the new way means that videos don’t show up in the RSS feed. Any wisdoms?)

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13 Responses to Celebrating Darwin in Congress

  1. Bob F. says:

    We’re all very proud of Rush, here in central Jersey. He, Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell are some of the best and most progressive members of Congress.

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  2. Good for Rush! I met him long ago when we were both Physics majors at Carleton College in Minnesota–he was two years ahead of me.

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  3. David Yerle says:

    As a European it baffles me that in America defending Charles Darwin is considered brave. Not even the most reactionary of our politicians would dare to support creationism in public… I really hope the wave of fanaticism wears off sooner or later.

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  4. Leon Kolankiewicz says:

    Great to see this! Darwin is one of my all-time heroes. It’s a sad commentary on the state of human affairs in the USA in the century and a half since the publication of On The Origin of Species that his discoveries and views should be controversial at all. But something like half our population refuses to believe in evolution by natural selection. And yet, as Rep. Holt rightly observes, it is the foundation of modern biology and everything that derives from it.

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  5. edward hessler says:

    I’m glad you posted this; otherwise I suspect I’d have missed it. I was very impressed by his statement. He knows how to say some important things in those famous “25 words or less.”

    I’ve sent this link to several science educators around the state and owe you an apology. I forgot the attribution!

    By the way I like the new blog which always makes me think of the profound contribution to physics of Ludwig Boltzmann. I look forward to the contributions…always.

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  6. rick says:

    Here’s a good read:

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jennifer-fulwiler/the-atheists-pope

    There might be hope for you, Sean, after all. :)

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  7. Paul Reiser says:

    What is sad is that this whole subject has been turned into a political football. Too many people profess an opinion on this subject, not because they understand it, but because to disagree would be disloyal to their political “team”. What, 37 percent of the population disputes evolution? No, 37 percent are on the Republican “team” and only a fraction of that believe or care what the truth is. All they know is if they express any doubts, they are lending support to the unborn-child-murdering communist left. Only a fraction of Democrats believe or care what the truth is about evolution. All they know is if they express any doubts, they are lending credence to the gun-toting, flag worshipping right. As a Democrat, Rush Holt is no more courageous in his support of evolution in front of a Republican house than a Republican supporting creationism in front of a Democratic house would be.

    Another mistake the “evolutionists” make is to present the theory of evolution as an article of faith, faith in logic and deductive reasoning. They are banging their head against a brick wall. To a true creationist, their faith in the revealed word of God supercedes everything and they have a right to their beliefs. They also should bear the responsibility for their beliefs. Same for the evolutionists. I am not an “evolutionist”, I do not have an irrevokable belief in logic and deductive reasoning. I am a scientist, however, and I see and use the immense power of logic and deductive reasoning in my job. As a result, I think that the theory of evolution is on the right track. But I don’t have faith that it is correct.

    If we had an educational system which taught kids the meaning of faith, the meaning of logic and deductive reasoning, and how and when to use both, 99% of them would come to the “right” conclusion. But that is never going to happen in a public education system controlled by one political party or the other. Evolution/creation is about politics, politics is about control and power, and the truth gets lost in the shuffle.

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  8. @ Reiser
    Amen. The entire subject is politicized such that few are willing to approach it dispassionately. Science informs, but it cannot determine what we ought to do with the information. Shouldn’t there be room for both faith and science?

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  9. Paul Reiser says:

    Yes, but that viewpoint has no ideological or political traction. Only understanding the nature of political power gives any coherence to the whole thing. If Democrats truly believe in the theory of evolution, then a Democrat politician might take one moment out of his/her day to ponder the wisdom of trying to create a society in which the least economically productive are made more fit, while the most economically productive are made less fit. But, to a Democrat politician, that is a moment wasted and a vote lost, making that politician less politically fit, and only the fittest politicians survive. If Republicans truly discount the theory of evolution, a Republican politician might take a moment to ponder the fact that their precious free market operates on the same principles as the theory of evolution, and that perhaps God intended us to bring a little love and charity into that dog-eat-dog world. But that would be a moment wasted, a vote lost, etc.

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  10. MF says:

    Paul Reiser writes:

    What is sad is that this whole subject has been turned into a political football. Too many people profess an opinion on this subject, not because they understand it, but because to disagree would be disloyal to their political “team”. What, 37 percent of the population disputes evolution? No, 37 percent are on the Republican “team” and only a fraction of that believe or care what the truth is. All they know is if they express any doubts, they are lending support to the unborn-child-murdering communist left. Only a fraction of Democrats believe or care what the truth is about evolution. All they know is if they express any doubts, they are lending credence to the gun-toting, flag worshipping right.

    I think you’re wrong here, Paul. A lot of people care what the truth is about evolution. That is, after all, the only reason to believe the theory in the first place — because it is true, in as strong a sense as anything outside of mathematics can be true. I think you’re falling into the “both sides do it” trap, whether out of honest confusion or defensiveness about your religious beliefs I don’t know.

    Your comment may be true about Republicans — certainly I don’t believe that 50% of the Republican presidential candidates were honestly creationists — but I can’t speak to that.

    For some amazing examples of evolutionary leaps, some of which are genuinely not well understood, I’d recommend Life Ascending by Nick Lane (really all of Lane’s work is terrific).

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  11. Paul Reiser says:

    Well, maybe I am falling into that trap, or maybe you are falling into the “my side is good, the other side is evil” trap that I was ranting against. I keep trying to make sense of things by applying both theories, and only ask that you do the same. I am suspicious of scientific “truth”. The history of science is that yesterdays “truths” become today’s “well, yes, in your limited world, but really the truth is…” or “well, yes, in your limited world, but really you are making false implicit assumptions and the truth is…”. So scientific “truth” is an illusion. In my limited world, evolution is scientific “truth”, but I expect a thousand years from now, a good scientist will look at my understanding and smile and shake his head, the way we look at anyone who wonders how far you will fall if you jump off the edge of the earth. So yes, I am sure I am honestly confused, aren’t you? I think it is arrogant not to be. My religious beliefs are not based on science, because, as auntybelle cracker says, science only informs, it does not provide a value system. (Its descriptive, not prescriptive.) Any time science tells me what to do, or religion tells me how things work, my bullshit buzzer goes off. So my rant is not a defense of my religious beliefs.

    I just have a problem describing Democrat politician Russ Holt as “brave” in his defense of Darwin. His political fitness is not seriously jeopardized by his stance, he has not ventured outside the ideological defense perimeter established by his party. If he stood up and delivered MY rant, now THAT would be brave. (LOL, in my mind, anyway).

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  12. Gizelle Janine says:

    All I really said to myself was “Woah, this guy is awesome.” And the physical act of standing up for Darwin, in itself, is specifically awesome. I won’t get on anyone’s bad side here, but its as brave as reciting Frost for your English class. It’s something that should be done on the floor more than once or twice. Avoiding science as a subject for politics is counterproductive.

    Sean: it made me giggle with happiness hearing this man speak. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like that in the history of C-SPAN. (Question: Am I a nerd for liking C-SPAN?)

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  13. Gizelle Janine says:

    Also: Speaking of Darwin- http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=YSAmUDlUUhQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DYSAmUDlUUhQ

    Yeah, evolution/God let’s things like this happen. Specifically, the 1970’s.

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