Nothing surprises me any more when it involves Republicans and evolution (or science, or abortion, or immigration, or health care—the list is a long one). Yet this story, bizarre as it is, shows how truly benighted the members of that party are when it comes to science—and pandering to creationists.
From Americans Against the Tea Party comes a sad report: sad because it involves a little girl’s attempt to put some science into the state of South Carolina—an attempt stymied by two damn Republican politicians. The report:
Earlier this year eight-year-old Olivia McConnell wrote her state representatives to suggest that since South Carolina doesn’t currently have a state fossil, it should be given one! Olivia decided that she needed a legitimate reason to suggest this besides liking fossils, so she came up with three:1. One of the first discoveries of a vertebrae [sic] fossil in North America was on an S.C. plantation when slaves dug up wooly mammoth teeth from a swamp in 1725.
2. All but seven states have an official state fossil.
3. “Fossils tell us about our past.”
She sent the letter to Representative Robert Ridgeway (D) and Sen. Kevin Johnson (D), asking them to sponsor a bill officially making the woolly mammoth the official state fossil.
“We can’t just say we need a state fossil because I like fossils,” the third grader told The State. “That wouldn’t make sense.” She ended the letter “Please work on this for me” before signing, “Your friend, Olivia.”
Both Ridgeway and Johnson—note that they’re Democrats—agreed to sponsor two bills that made the mammoth the state fossil. As Ridgeway noted, “Why not? It can’t hurt anything. But the benefit to this is to the children and young people of South Carolina, letting them realize that they do have a say-so in what happens in South Carolina and, No. 2, it gives them experience and information about the governmental process and legislative process in South Carolina.”
Well said! And here’s Ridgeway and Johnson’s bill, an amendment to the existing law about the state emblems of South Carolina:
Whereas, giant mammoths used to roam South Carolina; and
Whereas, scientists have identified the fossils of about six hundred and fifty species of vertebrates in South Carolina to date; and
Whereas, it has been recognized that fossilized mammoth teeth were discovered in a swamp in South Carolina in 1725; and
Whereas, this discovery has been credited as the first scientific identification of a North American vertebrate fossil. Now, therefore,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Article 9, Chapter 1, Title 1 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:
“Section 1-1-712A. The Columbian Mammoth is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina.”
SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
The consequences were predictable. While the bill passed the state House with overwhelming support, the damn Republicans then got into the act, led by state Senator Mike Fair (my emphasis):
Fair, who has compared the President to Osama Bin Laden, helped to block funding for a rape crisis center, called climate change a hoax, and blocked evolution from the state’s science standards, saying “I don’t have a problem with teaching theories. I don’t think it should be taught as fact,” stood up for Biblical representation in the state fossil–after all, what’s science without Jesus?
Bryant proposed an amendment to the bill to include a passage from Genesis explaining the Biblical creation of life–because why not?
“I think it’s a good idea to designate the mammoth as the state fossil, I don’t have a problem with that. I just felt like it’d be a good thing to acknowledge the creator of the fossils,” Bryant told the Daily Beast.
That of course would kill the bill because mentioning Genesis would violate the American Constitution.
Then the Lieutenant Governor, also a Republican, derailed the amendment by also injecting some religion:
Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell [JAC: I presume he’s no relation to Olivia] blocked the proposed amendment because it introduced a new subject. He has since amended the amendment to describe the Columbian Mammoth as “created on the Sixth Day with the beasts of the field.”
The article ends on a down note:
In response to the Lt. Governor’s ruling Senator Mike Fair placed an objection to the bill, which has been put on hold until they can take what was a simple thing that would benefit children across South Carolina and make one little girl very happy–and figure out how to please the Creationists.
I predict that the mammoth is dead in the water, not only physically extinct, but symbolically extinct as well. Boo to South Carolina, its creationists and their political flacks!
A side note: a week ago McConnell was named President of the College of Charleston, where I spoke on evolution a while back and encountered some pushback from creationists (and from biologists like Rob Dillon who were pro-religion). To be fair, the College students had some objections to McConnell’s appointment. McConnell is also infamous for supporting the flying of the Confederate flag, which you can read about on his Wikipedia page.
Wikipedia gives a list of U.S. state fossils (do you know yours?), and here’s a map showing the 8 states that lack them. Surprisingly, they’re not all in the South, but of course Indiana (which is rapidly becoming the Alabama of the North) doesn’t have one, either. And Hawaii needs one; perhaps they could get a honeycreeper subfossil. Oddly, Vermont has the beluga whale, something that’s not even extinct (and I doubt is present there as a fossil)!
Here’s the stymied Olivia,with the photograph courtesy of her family and published by Fox Carolina:
And Olivia has learned her lesson:
CORRECTION: Reader John M. noted that the Americans against the Tea Party article, which I quoted above, was wrong on one quote. As John noted (my emphasis),
In [this] article, you quote the aattp article saying that “He [meaning McConnell] has since amended the amendment to describe the Columbian Mammoth as “created on the Sixth Day with the beasts of the field.”
The Daily Beast article, which seems to be the source of the aattp article, claims to have spoken to Bryant and suggests that Bryant and not McConnell made the amendment including “as created on the Sixth Day with the beasts of the field.”. This also makes more sense in the context of the aattp article as that article only criticises the two pictured Senators (Bryant and Fair) and does not criticise McConnell. If the DB is accurate, McConnell actually objected to the religious nonsense (one can at least hope).
The reader is right, and I stand corrected.
h/t: Don B.