• Creationism Bills in the States

    Well, it’s the opening of the 2013 legislative session for many states, which means it’s time for ignorant Christian politicians to start promoting anti-science, pro-ID bills that will set up some poor, stupid school district for another Dover Trap.  “Dover Trap” is the name given to these state bills because if, at any point, one of these bills passes and any school district attempts to teach ID or creationism using this bill, then there will be another lawsuit, just like in Dover.  Everyone should remember that case, when ID was declared (by a Christian, Republican judge) to be not science and unconstitutional to teach.

    I’ll talk a minute about the structure of these bills, because, in reality the legislator didn’t write them.  They were given to the legislator by a pro-ID organization.  These bills all follow the same pattern: critical thinking ESPECIALLY about evolution (and maybe human cloning and global warming).  This version is Missouri’s.  There are already 5 such bills in 4 US States.

                Section A. Chapter 170, RSMo, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 170.335, to read as follows:

    170.335. 1. The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, superintendents of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution. Such educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution.

    2. Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, superintendent of schools, or school system administrator, nor any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of biological or chemical evolution whenever these subjects are taught within the course curriculum schedule.

    3. This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. Scientific information includes physical evidence and logical inferences based upon evidence.

    4. No later than the start of the 2014-15 school year, the department of elementary and secondary education shall notify all public school superintendents of the provisions of this section. Each superintendent shall then disseminate to all employees within his or her school system a copy of this section.

    Section 1, well who wouldn’t want to encourage critical thinking, learning about scientific evidence, and explore scientific questions.  The problem is that students are not in a position to do this very well.  Honestly, the vast majority of teachers can’t do this very well.

    But then we get into the meat of it “controversial topics like biological and chemical evolution”.  There is so much wrong here, it’s hard to know where to start.

    1. Why is evolution singled out?  Why not include Newton’s laws of motion, which we know are actually wrong under some conditions?  Why don’t we teach kids to accurately use Einstein’s equations all the time instead?
    2. There’s no such thing as ‘biological’ evolution and ‘chemical’ evolution.  There is evolution.  If there is a population of anything that can change over time, then it’s evolution.  Whether that population be of humans or pre-biotic RNAs.
    3. Evolution is not a controversial topic… at least among those who understand it, study it, and know the evidence for it.

    Such educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.

    Look, do you talk to your 5-year-old about the controversy surrounding the debt limit in the US?  Of course, you don’t.  The child doesn’t have the background knowledge and skills to deal with such a complex topic.  A high school science classroom, likewise, isn’t the place for controversial topics.  Most sixteen-year-olds don’t care about the kerfluffle surrounding the concept of species.  Now, there’s a real controversy.  A friend of mine who studies this says that relationships among bird species are changing so quickly that no one is even writing books on the topic, because they are out of date before they go to print. High school students don’t care.  It’s a bird.  When they get to graduate level courses in ornithology, then you can teach them all the controversy, they will understand it then.

    Teaching children with little or no background in science about modern controversies is counter-productive, they don’t have the knowledge and skills to deal with the controversy effectively.

    Oh and, there’s no controversy about evolution at the high school level.  Sure, there’s advanced subjects like the relative difference between selection and gene flow in speciation, but we shouldn’t present or even discuss this at a high school level.

    Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution.

    So, teachers in this state are not permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review now?  Really, what kind of crappy-assed curriculum exist in your schools now?

    I have written to the ‘authors’ of more than 8 bills that use this language.  Not a single one of them has yet to actually present a ‘scientific weakness’ of evolution.  The ones I’ve actually heard from can’t even correctly define evolution, much less name a valid weakness.

    Again, we have to ask, why is evolution singled out here.  Is discussion of the weaknesses of Newton’s Laws of Motion not allowed?  Is discussion of the weaknesses of the Periodic Table not allowed?  Because that’s exactly what it sounds like.

    This is obviously an attack on evolution.  This bill isn’t about critical thinking or analysis or anything else.  It’s purely intended to give science teachers (and principles) a license to teach ID and creationist concepts in science classes.  But, again, the state will not be paying the court costs when, inevitably, the school that uses this bill is sued and, inevitably, loses the case.

    No, the Kitzmiller vs. Dover decision technically doesn’t apply everywhere in the US.  But that decision was written so precisely, with such an abundance of statements and evidence from both sides, that any court ignoring it in similar decisions will be a laughing stock.

     2. Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, superintendent of schools, or school system administrator, nor any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of biological or chemical evolution whenever these subjects are taught within the course curriculum schedule.

    Again, no weaknesses that I’m aware of.  Any science teacher worth their pay does all this anyway, regardless of the topic.  This is just a license to support pro-ID teachers.

    3. This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. Scientific information includes physical evidence and logical inferences based upon evidence.

    I actually love that this bill has this statement in it.  This statement practically guarantees a loss in a court case.  Why?  Because ID and creationism have no scientific evidence.  And, they are provably religious based programs. William Dembski said it best:

    Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.

    If you read the Kitzmiller trial transcript, the evidence is solidly in favor of evolution.  Michael Behe, the only pro-ID scientist to testify, was busted when his only recourse was to redefine science.  Unfortunately, that redefinition also included astrology… and would have included pyramid power, healing crystals, chakra points, etc.

    4. No later than the start of the 2014-15 school year, the department of elementary and secondary education shall notify all public school superintendents of the provisions of this section. Each superintendent shall then disseminate to all employees within his or her school system a copy of this section.

    This is a rather novel part.  This basically ensures that every creationist teachers knows that it is OK to teach creationism (at least by this bill).

    I was a teacher for 5 years.  I never once received a notice from my principle or superintendent about an educational bill and the text of that bill.

    All of these bills use the same language and have the same purpose, to tell teachers that it is OK (according to the legislature) to teach creationism and attempt to debunk evolution in science classrooms.  Many teachers will do it… heck, many have been doing so without the benefit of these bills.

    But there is not a single thing in here that actually enhances science education.  First, it’s not needed.  As I mentioned, any science teacher worth the pay already does critical thinking, analysis, comparisons, etc.  Second, any science teacher should be presenting the evidence.  “Here’s the Germ Theory of Disease… now let’s look at some bacteria.”  Fourth, these bills are obviously attacking a single topic and do not discuss any other concept.  Finally, no one can identify a valid weakness of evolution that would be needed to have support by this bill.  If scientists find a weakness in evolution, you can bet that everyone will be hearing about.

    When you see these bills in your state, here’s what you need to do:

    1. Write the author of the bill.  Ask for specific examples of the weaknesses of evolution that have scientific support and would be supported by this bill.
    2. Write the members of the science/education committee to which this bill has been referred.  In your letters remind them that the scientific consensus is firmly supportive of all aspects of evolution, including abiogenesis concepts.  Remind them about the Kitzmiller trial and the federal court decision that Intelligent Design is really religion.  Finally mention the points I made above, telling them that there is no education purpose to this bill as teachers should be doing the important points already and the rest is meaningless.
    3. Contact the National Center for Science Education. They are experts in dealing with this and can provide you with local information, local contacts, and reams upon reams of useful information about this matter.
    4. Share this with friends and family.  Write to newspapers.  Offer to speak to groups about this bill.  Offer to find someone to come speak about these bills (like local biologists, science educators, even some lawyers).  If you’re in Texas, let me know and I’ll be happy to come speak.  I know people all over, so let me know.
    5. If the bill passes and you have a child in a school, be willing to file suit.

    Category: CreationismCultureEducationEvolutionGovernmentScienceSociety

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    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • ZedZero

      Me and 5 or 6 CFI members just started a committee to track bills and events here in Austin and see if we can get our views at least heard in congress.
      Let me know if you see anything interesting. We got 6 or so bills to review so far but, they just getting starting with filings.