Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a symposium on evolution. Penn is putting together a year -long celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and this symposium was part of that celebration. I was able to hear talks by incredibly famous scientists from all over the country on topics such as the Big Bang, Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands and baboon behavior in the wild. It was a really great day. The last talk, however, was the one that really got me thinking. It was given by Judge John E. Jones III who is the Federal Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. He ruled in a landmark case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in late 2005 on the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in public classrooms. He found that ID is thinly veiled New Earth Creationism and that teaching that alongside the well tested and widely accepted scientific theory of evolution would be violating the First Amendment of the Constitution. Judge Jones gave a really intriguing and thought-provoking speech that got me thinking about our society as a whole and what on earth we're trying to do with it. His speech mainly focused on education, both in civics and science, and that we are really doing a disservice to our children by not emphasizing these subjects in schools. He noted that only 15% of people polled could name on judge on the Supreme Court, but most could readily name the judges on American Idol. I find this really sad and completely unacceptable. And I just wonder if I'm in the minority, having a natural curiousity for the world around me and what's going on in it? When I didn't understand how the Electoral College works, I looked it up. When the Judge talked about the "Establishment Clause" and I wasn't sure what that was about, I looked it up. I have so much curiousity about the elections coming up, I can't stop myself reading the NYTimes every day (especially the Opinion section, I eat that UP!). I listen to NPR most afternoons and sometimes in the mornings. I realize that perhaps I am somewhat of an extremist, and there are sometimes when the election and the rhetoric and the slinging of lies gets to me and I just have to shut it down. But, I must admit, I am fascinated by how our government works. And I'm so unbelievably thankful for some of the rights that the Constitution is afforded me. The right to vote? Thank you very much! Separation of church and state? Thank you very much! Freedom of the press? Yes, please. Abolish Slavery? Yeah, that's a good idea. When Sarah Palin could not name one Supreme Court decision other than Roe v. Wade - that really gets to me! I think that our elected officials should be experts at government. I think they should know the Constitution and the rights afforded us in this way. For a governor of a state to not know this stuff is ridiculous. But I think what irks me the most is that people in the US want to shove their values on me. They want my kids to learn their fucked up religion based idea of how the world came about, they want my friends to not be able to marry each other, they want women to be unable to choose what they do with their bodies....and on and on and on. I'm all for beliefs, religion, what ever you like. Have at it. Wear a burka, for all I care. But don't try to pass off your fucked up religious "values" as law. And just so my little history lesson doesn't stop there...as a reminder, the preamble to the constitution states:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
If you don't know what your rights are, then you are going to lose them. Vote No on Prop 8. Oh, and for good measure, vote Yes on Prop 2. Animals need protection, too.