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David Horton Headshot

Before Lincoln

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I picture one of Obama's staff as a kind of ye olde town crier, with one of those ancient rolled up scrolls, a huge one, which is slowly unrolling across the floor as he reads out item after item from a list headed "Bad things done by the Bush administration that must be reversed, and good things not done by the Bush administration that must be done urgently", and after he reads out each item Barack Obama scribbles a note and hands it to another aide who rushes out of the Oval Office to take action.

Look I know it is a very big scroll, and there are so many urgent things on it that I bet Mr Obama already thinks he should legislate to double the number of hours in a day. And I bet he is getting constant buzzes on his Blackberry from people wanting their own pet item moved up to the top of the list. So I hesitate to make a special plea for mine, and anyway, for some unaccountable reason, I don't appear to be on the list of people who get issued with his Blackberry number.

But, just in case he is dropping in to check out my posts from time to time after hearing I had compared his gang to the gang from Wind in the Willows, here goes. I'd like him to sign an Executive Order forbidding the teaching of creationism (aka "Intelligent Design") in any American educational institutions. Look I know the people who have been teaching this ancient mythology are slow thinkers and have needed time to adjust. But the President could point out that this year marks the end of a changeover period of 150 years since the publication of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and 150 years is enough of a phase in time for even the slowest of thinkers among our fundamentalist brethren. He could also point out, as an admirer of Lincoln, that it has not been possible for an intelligent person to believe in creationism since a year and a half before Lincoln's inauguration. So enough is enough, time to move on.

Does it matter? Of course it matters. As a result of both shilly shallying, and active encouragement, from the conservatives, the number of Americans who don't understand evolution is growing in the 21st century. The fundamental basis of all the biological sciences is not accepted by large chunks of the population. Children are being taught that ancient middle eastern mythology has equal, if not greater weight, than the scientific studies of the last 150 years. Their understanding of the world around them, at a time of growing devastation of the biosphere, is hopelessly corrupted. No chance of encouraging conservation, or of fighting global warming, if large parts of the population think that god created the world in 6 days 6000 years ago.

And finally, I'm sure you are a man of your word, and when you said "We will restore science to its rightful place", you meant it. Hard to think of an action both symbolic and practical that would more clearly confirm your intention than of clearing out the ancient rubbish of creationism from American education. And would be another way of leading the world, since under Mr Bush's watch the insidious mental disease of creationism has been creeping into schools around the world.

Oh, and if you want some background reading Mr President, you will find plenty more on The Watermelon Blog to justify this bold and enlightened and courageous move. But (spoiler alert) you will find I am occasionally rude about creationists. You could be more gentle if you want to keep reaching out to these people even more than you have done by having Rick Warren at your party.

Oh, almost forgot, good job so far Mr President, an A+ I reckon on your first week's assignments. Keep up the good work.