Adrien Wulff

Darwinian politics. Biologist James Leebens-Mack is limiting his foray into politics to organizing a Facebook campaign against his Congressman.

Would Charles Darwin Have Made a Good Congressman?

Staff Writer

It's a good 130 years too late to answer that question empirically, but at least symbolically Charles Darwin has won support from more than 4000 voters in the 10th congressional district of Georgia, thanks to an initiative headed by James Leebens-Mack, a plant biologist at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Like many others, Leebens-Mack was deeply troubled by a speech his Congressman, Paul Broun (R-GA), gave at an Athens church in October deriding teachings on evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory as "lies straight from the pit of Hell." Broun, a medical doctor, is a member of the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and chair of its Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

The researcher decided to channel his outrage by setting up a Facebook page titled "Darwin for Congress" that invited voters in the district to vote for Darwin as a write-in candidate against Broun—who was running unopposed.

Broun won comfortably. But Darwin got enough write-in votes to gladden the hearts of Leebens-Mack and other organizers of the campaign. Write-in votes of unregistered candidates are not tallied by election officials, so Leebens-Mack did the tallying himself after getting the write-in list from officials in his county. "There are 24 additional counties for which we don't have a tally," he tells ScienceInsider. "The total number of write-ins for Darwin could be a lot more than 4000."

Leebens-Mack says the "protest vote should make it clear to future opponents that there are a lot of people in the district who are not happy with antiscience statements."

Why doesn't Leebens-Mack run against Broun himself in 2014? "I am a scientist, not a politician," he says. "I enjoy my job as a plant biologist. It would be too big a sacrifice to give that up to run for Congress."

See more coverage on science and the U.S. 2012 elections.

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