So this is one of the weirder moments from last week’s election, and one that probably deserves wider recognition, especially as it’s a transatlantic deviation from a specifically American moment.
It begins before the election, back in September, when Paul Broun, a Republican candidate (unopposed, no less) for Georgia’s tenth Congressional district: Athens-Clarke County, and a member of the US House of Representatives’ Science, Space and Technology Committee, gave a speech before the election, in which he said that the theory of evolution, and the Big Bang Theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
(Note: he means the scientific premise about the origins of the universe as we currently understand it, not the TV show.)
Now, this is a controversial viewpoint to express, or at the very least, not a universally held one, and it led Jim Leebens-Mack, the plant biology professor at the University of Georgia to set up a Facebook campaign suggesting that anyone who did not hold that viewpoint should send in a write-in vote for Charles Darwin instead. Darwin, as far as we can tell, was not a skilled administrator, had no local knowledge of modern Georgia and the needs of the people that live there, and has definitely been dead since 1882. Also, he was never certified as a write-in candidate, but this did not stop 4,000 people voting for him.
Explaining his campaign to ABC News, Lee said: “We don’t feel our interests are being best served by an anti-science fundamentalist representing us on the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Mr Broun did win the election, receiving 16,980 votes, but Jim is still hopeful that by raising a quarter of those votes on a candidate that had no chance of winning, it will encourage candidates who also oppose Mr Broun’s point of view to step forward, and maybe even win:
“I think there could be Democratic opposition, but even more likely is having a rational Republican who understands issues like global warming, scientific reasoning more generally.”
For his part, Mr Broun issued a statement noting that his campaign “received a higher level of support from his constituents in Athens-Clarke County this election cycle than in any of his previous campaigns.”
And Mr Darwin said nothing. He’d already done enough.