New antievolution bills

Via Outside the Beltway and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), we see two new antievolution efforts in state legislatures:

In Texas, HB2454 is designed to prevent discrimination against faculty and students espousing intelligent design (ID).

Sec. 51.979.  PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RESEARCH RELATED TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN. An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.

SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as   provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this  Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2011.

This bill could face serious legal challenges if enacted.  For example, what if a biology professor were to discuss ID as a serious theory in her science class?  Does that fall under “conduct of research”?  If so, it violates the ruling of Judge Jones in Kitzmiller et al, the anti-ID ruling in Pennsylvania. If the bill does not pertain to professorial teaching, it would still prohibit discrimination against students who present pro-ID material in their classes—presumably the prof couldn’t prevent the presentation of such nonscientific material.  And of course, the bill would absolutely prevent discrimination against hiring a biology professor who is an adherent of ID or other forms of creationism (“alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms”).  So, for example, a Texas university could not refuse to hire creationist astronomer C. Martin Gaskell, as did the University of Kentucky.  I abhor discrimination against hiring simply because of someone’s religion, but adherence to ID (which, after all, claims to be a nonreligious theory) should be absolute grounds for not hiring a science professor.

In Florida, SB 1854 requires that certain topics be taught in certain ways, and evolution is to be taught “critically.” In America, of course, that means that evolution be presented as “only a theory,” and its purported weaknesses mentioned at every turn.  It’s a Trojan horse to let other theories (and you know which ones) be presented as valid alternatives.

An act relating to required instruction in the public schools; amending s. 1003.42, F.S.; requiring that the instructional staff of a public school teach a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution and certain governmental, legal, and civic-related principles; . . .

2.  Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required to meet the highest standards for professionalism and historic accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following:

a.  A thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution. . .

There are twenty-one other subjects mandated to be taught in certain ways, ranging from respect for the American flag through the Holocaust and the history of African Americans.  But the placement of evolution as item #1 shows you what the bill is really aimed at.  It is, according to the NCSE, the reworking of an earlier bill requiring the teaching of intelligent design.  That wouldn’t fly legally, so its sponsor Stephen R. Wise, a Republican (of course) rewrote it to make it sneakier.

The NCSE says that this is the eighth antievolution bill to be introduced in state legislatures this year—and it’s only mid-March.  I applaud the constant fighting of these brushfires by the NCSE and state organizations like Florida Citizens for Science, but antievolution brushfires will always keep appearing until religion loosens its grip on our country.

25 Comments

  1. daveau
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    “There are twenty-one other subjects mandated to be taught in certain ways, ranging from respect for the American flag through the Holocaust and the history of African Americans.”

    Let me guess:

    Any true American should display the flag from their “vehicle” like it’s the friggin’ Green Bay Packers flag.

    The Holocaust wasn’t all that bad, and anyway, it was caused by atheists.

    The founding fathers freed all the slaves in the Declaration of Independence.

    Close?

    • J
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      You forgot to say that the African Americans really had it quite easy ever since they were freed & don’t you know they caused a lot of crime?

      B-, a solid piece of work but could do better.

      • daveau
        Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        Oh, yeah. I forgot about all that welfare stuff. B- is fair.

  2. Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    “..but these brushfires will always keep appearing until religion loosens its grip on our country.”

    Well, that’s almost correct. I maintain that these brushfires will keep appearing so long as there are mentally weak people around to espouse and promote religious bullshit.

    These brushfires will disappear only when the mentally competent in this country say “enough,” and by penalty of law (or confinement to a mental institution), ban the dissemination of bullshit in school science classes, libraries and courthouses of this country.
    ~Rev. El

  3. Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Remember, it’s not intelligent design, the Flying Spaghetti Monster created life as we know it, and the proper term is “Using your Noodle”

    Actually, I want to mention the Conservative Converse Paradox.
    Conservatives don’t believe in Darwinian Evolution but rather Intelligent Design but they do believe in Social Darwinism, which the Puritans called Visible Gifts. That is, if someone is gratuitously rich, it’s because of survival of the fittest.

    Of course the facts support the converse. Evolution in the real world is not based on intelligent design whereas the overwhelming number of rich people are so because of intelligently designed government programs which they spend a pittance of their riches promoting and maintaining.

  4. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    So, I read the Florida one (SB 1854).

    Brrrr!

    On and on about character development (starting in Kindergarten!), patriotism and a whole section on ‘dating violence’ (no, really!).

    Not a SINGLE word on ‘writing, reading and arithmetic’ though.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      That might be because they don’t do ‘writing, reading and arithmetic’in that state. They replace it with Ignorant Arrogance 101, 302, 804.

  5. matt
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    “If the bill does not pertain to professorial teaching, it would still prohibit discrimination against students who present pro-ID material in their classes—presumably the prof couldn’t prevent the presentation of such nonscientific material.”

    maybe this is a dumb question, and forgive me if so, but, would you be able to fail a student for presenting such material? on the grounds of it not being a nonscientific presentation, of course.

  6. Kevin
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    All the more reason to never back down into accommodationism.

    Because if you give these people an inch, they will take the moon.

  7. Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    You know, it’s rather depressing.

    Here we are having spirited discussions over whether or not the question of the negligible possibility of unimaginable hypothetical evidence for an inexplicable phenomenon of spectacular proportions would be cause to believe in the existence of a heretofore-unknown deity that doesn’t even vaguely resemble anything any theist actually believes in…

    …and the rest of the country is debating whether or not we should be teaching our kids that the first humans were molded from mud by an angry giant in an enchanted garden with talking animals, and that this making of magic mudpies took place several centuries after the Egyptians had perfected the art of brewing beer.

    <sigh />

    b&

    • Kevin
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      You forgot the rib-woman. And the IQ-raising sin fruit.

  8. Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Your link to Florida Citizens for Science points to the wrong news release. That was the 2009 bill. The press release about this year’s bill is here: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=1267

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      I fixed it, thanks.

  9. Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    There is no theory behind ID or any other anti-evolution movement. Thus the Texas bill should have no teeth if it is enacted.

  10. Posted March 17, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    ID isn’t even a theory, at least from a scientific standpoint. It makes no predictions, and it’s not testable. It also doesn’t build on previous research in any way.

    Their “creation research” just means pouring over page after page of Bible verses. That’s not research, at least not for a biologist. Maybe for a theologian.

  11. Posted March 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    This could be cool.

    Are teachers really going to give a thorough presentation of, and critically analyze, “The nature and importance of free enterprise to the United States economy.”

    I can’t wait to see how much praise a socialist teacher is going to get for obeying the law.

    And what about, “Comprehensive health education that addresses concepts of community health; consumer health; environmental health; family life, including an awareness of the benefits of sexual abstinence as the expected standard and the consequences of teenage pregnancy; …” I can’t imagine the uproar if a teacher actually presented a critical analysis of the benefits of government run universal health care and the joys of sex with contraception. After all, this is what the new law expects, right?

    If this bill passes, the Florida public schools could become the most liberal public schools in the country.

    I’m not holding my breath, are you?

    • Kevin
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the law of unintended consequences…

    • Filippo
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      More precisely, the nature and importance of treating human beings as human “resources” and human “capital,” and having a strong military, for the purpose of sending the flower of our youth in harm’s way to be killed or maimed for a lifetime in the furtherance of U.S. (corporate) “interests.”

      No doubt, Newt Gingrich will be leading the “sexual abstinence” vanguard.

  12. Pilotkonp
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    And thus we come to the “underpaid” teacher dilemma currently the rage in Wisconsin, and other places. When we finally pay these people to teach the truth, falsifiable truth, then we can move past nonsense like ID.

    Any teacher in Texas who is not teaching evolution, and teaching it aggressively, should be fired.

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      That’s the thing — outside of a small atheist community, objective truth is one of the most scorned commodities in the world. Ever notice how people say things like “Oh, yeah, we’ll definitely get together soon,” in order to mean “I’m tired of talking to you, and I’m going to leave now and never speak to you again if I can help it, but I’m too polite to say so”?

      I think that most people value lies far more highly than they do the truth. Lying to each other, and pretending to believe those lies, is perceived as a social “glue” (although I’d personally consider it a lousy glue, but that’s not the point). Religion in general, and batshit insane stuff like YEC, are just more ways for people to prove that they’re buying into the whole lying-and-believing-lies thing.

    • Filippo
      Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Everybody rides the bucking evolution-teaching horse better than the gal/guy riding it. I’ve substitute taught full-time the last several years (not in TX, thankfully), mostly in science and math, and so far have declined to accomplish every jot and tittle of teacher certification, what with the tsunamiesque preponderance of student misbehavior across the fruited plain. It’s more than I’m inclined to tolerate over the long haul. Like parent like offspring.

  13. Andrew
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    For a nauseating inside look at how evolution is presented in a science classroom in a Christian school in Australia take a look at this video (particularly the minute or so after 1:45):

    http://news.sbs.com.au/insight/episode/index/id/17#watchonline

    • Graham Martin-Royle
      Posted March 18, 2011 at 12:51 am | Permalink

      That man should not be allowed in a classroom.

  14. Diane G.
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Florida bill:

    1003.42 Required instruction.—


    (k) The elementary principles of agriculture.
    (l) The true effects of all alcoholic and intoxicating
    liquors and beverages and narcotics upon the human body and
    mind.
    (m) Kindness to animals.
    (n) The history of the state.
    (o) The conservation of natural resources.

    An adult wrote this laundry list?

  15. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Anti-science bills, is more like it.

    An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.

    Intelligent design as an “alternate theory” failed in the 19th century. To not recognize that this failure is academically penalizing is to mandate state influence of the sort what would earlier have been called “communist state terrorism” (or “communism” for short) but today is perhaps better called “islamic state terrorism” (or “islamism” for short).

    As for the “critical” education bill, it is incumbent to teach the science as is, with all its strengths and the weaknesses of the historical alternatives. This is how biology is traditionally taught where I come from, and it works well.

    Maybe we need more scientists in US politics? (Not that there are so many here [Sweden], but a safe and not too poor society is apparently easily secular without much special effort.)


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