01/24/2013 03:42 pm ET Updated Mar 26, 2013

It's the Right Time for Congress to Recognize Darwin

Darwin Day is an international celebration of science and humanity that is held on the anniversary of Charles Darwin's February 12, 1809 birth. It's a time to celebrate the important discoveries and life of the person who first described biological evolution through natural selection with scientific rigor. Darwin Day is also a chance to express gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed towards the advancement of humanity.

Modern biology is built on the foundation that Darwin set, and without his contributions it's likely that we'd have made less progress in our understanding of the natural world and be far less healthy as a result. Evolutionary biology, which Darwin pioneered, helped us to better understand public health epidemics like obesity and antibiotic resistance. It also helped scientists to learn more about the HIV/AIDS virus and how that affliction spreads throughout the world.

You'd think that with all of the health benefits that are derived from evolutionary biology, most governments would be enthusiastic supporters of Charles Darwin and his work. Unfortunately, many politicians in America are gripped by an anti-science fervor, and several have become infamous for recently making anti-science statements. This fervor isn't just rhetoric: many in Congress reject teaching science-based health and sexual education in public schools. Meanwhile, numerous politicians around the country remain opposed to teaching evolution in public schools. And some support religious texts being introduced into science classrooms as a counterweight to scientific knowledge that their dated religion rejects.

That's why it is so important that humanists were able to work with Representative Rush Holt on a Darwin Day resolution, which was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This resolution signifies that there are some members of Congress dedicated to promoting science and committed to scientific literacy among our youth.

It also shows that the religious right might just be losing their grip on our nation's lawmakers. Fundamentalist Christians would oppose many parts of the resolution, which states that evolution "provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth" and demands that the "advancement of science be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change." The resolution also takes aim at the religious right's attempt to inject intelligent design in the classroom by confirming that the "teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States' education systems."

Hopefully, this is a sign that the 113th Congress will be more science-friendly than the 112th. It's definitely an indication that the defenders of science, be they in government, business, or in the classroom, are determined to fight back against those that are openly hostile to it.

So this Darwin Day, celebrate the memory of a person who did so much for humanity. And applaud those like Representative Holt who have carried on his legacy by defending science from its enemies and by bolstering new scientific research.