01/29/2014 01:06 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2014

On Darwin Day, We Honor Science and Scientists

This February 12th is Darwin Day, a day in which we celebrate the anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the role of science and scientists in improving the quality of life for mankind. This year's celebration is especially meaningful given the numerous legislative threats that the scientific community faces and the lackluster level of government funding of scientific research.

Some members of Congress continue to be antagonistic to the scientific community and unconvinced of settled science like global warming and evolution. For example, the new head of the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on the Environment, Rep. David Schweikert, has said that human-caused global warming is "folklore" and insisted the changes are "part of a natural cycle." All the while, the budget cuts known as sequestration greatly impacted scientific and medical research over the past year, as cancer research projects were stalled and research agencies across the country were forced to award fewer grants to federal scientists and research universities.

Things have gotten so bad that, according to an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology survey, nearly 20 percent of scientists are considering moving oversees to get better funding for their work. This potential brain drain has drastic consequences for the American scientific community and for the American economy, as scientific innovation helps create and improve many products and services that are a mainstay of our economy.

Thankfully, some members of Congress are standing up to show the country and the rest of the world that America still cares about science and the numerous benefits associated with scientific and medical research. In fact, Rep. Rush Holt is introducing the Darwin Day resolution, which honors Charles Darwin and modern scientists while reaffirming the validity of the theory of evolution. This resolution has been continuously introduced since 2011 by various representatives and garnered several new co-sponsorships each time it was introduced.

The Darwin Day resolution couldn't have come at a better time, not only to address Congress's tepid support of science and scientific research, but also to address many Americans' continuing uncertainty about evolution. Reports on a new Pew poll show that one in three Americans don't believe that human beings have evolved over time, while another one-third of those surveyed believe that evolution is a natural process, and most of the remaining indicated they believe that evolution was guided by God.

We need leadership from our elected representatives on this issue if America is finally to join the rest of the world in accepting the true origin of our species. We also need Congress to show that support of scientific research is still part of the American identity and an important aspect of what makes us a great nation.

Our shared national emphasis on scientific discovery has put our country on the forefront of technological and medical progress, and our acceptance of reason and empirical evidence as the basis of decision making, to the degree we emphasize it, is a secret of our success. So for this Darwin Day, let's honor science and the scientists who have dedicated themselves to finding out more about the physical universe we inhabit and the practical applications that derive from that knowledge.