When Paul Broun–a Georgia congressman and member of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee–characterized evolution and the Big Bang Theory (not the TV show either) as “lies straight from the pit of hell,” many were glad to learn that the pit of hell, for all its legendary discomforts, is at least a place where you can think up some cool stuff. Though re-elected without friction–a force he has neither endorsed nor denied–Mr. Broun did encounter unexpected electoral comeuppance last Tuesday in the ghost of Charles Darwin, who received 4000 write-in votes from some protesting pranksters.
Darwin himself, we suspect, would be sympathetic to Broun’s caution. After all, he was slow to come around himself. Greek philosophers had suspected a theory of adaptation thousands of years before Charles sailed on the Beagle. Mr. Darwin’s own grandfather, Erasmus, wrote that the animal world was “continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and delivering down those improvements by generations to its posterity.” That was 15 years before poky Charles was born. Some theories, it’s true, eventually get debunked–Broun apparently equates physicists and naturalists with phrenologists (and Freudians?). The way the congressman sees it, if he’s wrong about the Big Bang, so what? But if he sides with the science, someone else goes to Congress–and there’s that pit. Who wants that?