There is some very sad news from over the weekend. Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Prize winning chemist teaching at Florida State University, passed away Saturday. I worked with him briefly through Florida Citizens for Science. During the big fight over evolution in the state standards back in 2008, Kroto personally helped in many different ways. I featured him a few times in chapters 9 and 10 of Going Ape. It was an honor to work with him. He’ll be missed.
Kroto was enthusiastic about evolution, writing, in a post on his website, “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is supported by an avalanche of synergistic cross-disciplinary evidence from almost every branch of the sciences: Paleontology, geology, biology, genetics, chemistry, physics etc.” And he was correspondingly concerned about creationist assaults on the teaching of evolution, telling a New Zealand newspaper that people who insert creationism into the science curriculum “really p… me off” (bowdlerism in original). His concern was not expressed only to the media. In 2008, for example, he publicly decried legislative efforts to undermine evolution education in his adopted home of Florida, as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (April 15, 2008) reported.
He had no problem speaking his mind about the evolution issue. He wrote an op-ed column for the St. Augustine Record in 2008 taking Florida legislators to task for trying to meddle in the state science standards debate: Evolution is a ‘Theory’ in Name Only.
It is disgracefully unethical for individuals who rail against the teaching of evolution to young people as a proven “fact” to accept, either for themselves or their families, the humanitarian benefits accruing from medical scientific research underpinned by the theory. Evolution is the backbone of biology. Many medical treatments including most drugs could not have been developed if previous generations of young biology and medical students had not been taught evolutionary concepts.