Monkey Business over Ohio City’s Proposed “Science Month”

January 31, 2009


The Columbus, Ohio suburb of Whitehall is awash in controversy over a proposal to designate February as “Science Month.”  

According to the   Columbus Dispatch , Councilwoman Jacquelyn Thompson originally proposed that the city declare February 12 to be “Darwin Day” in Whitehall.  This February 12 marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.  (2009 is also special in marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s   On the Origin of Species .)  After other council members raised the inevitable objections, Thompson modified her proposal to declare February as "Science Month" in honor of both Darwin and Galileo, whose birthday falls on February 15.   Yet even this modified and modest proposal has divided the council, which is scheduled to vote on a final resolution sometime in February.

What could be wrong with a bland recognition of the value of science and open inquiry?  Other council members have trotted out every conceivable objection, apparently without regard to credibility.  Councilman Jim Graham reportedly charges that it would be unfair “to the hundreds if not thousands of other scientists to not name them” in addition to science giants Darwin and Galileo.  Others object that the proposed declaration would conflict with other February designations, including Black History Month.

One exchange between councilwoman Thompson and her detractors, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch, is both illuminating and depressing:

  "The whole idea of this was to recognize the events," [Thompson] said at a council meeting yesterday. "I thought it was a great opportunity to show that we value science, we value inquiry and we encourage our students to open up to the world."

  A few council members replied with shouts of "Not my children!"  

Of course the unspoken controversy is evolution versus creationism.  The Whitehall controversy appears to have captivated the attention of creationists across the U.S.  Ray Comfort, the southern California evangelical TV host and proponent of creationism’s famed and cunning   Banana Argument , charges that the Whitehall city council is “trying to deitize [sic] Darwin."  He characterizes the proposed declaration as a celebration of “atheist Christmas.”    Tom Flynn, are you listening?