Fighting creationism is a never-ending battle in the U.S., and it won’t be over until religion’s gone. Not that all believers reject evolution, of course, but I know of only one creationist (or IDer) who isn’t clearly motivated by religion: David Berlinski (and I have my doubts about him). Every attempt to have creationism legally taught in public schools has failed, and so now, as is happening in South Dakota, they are trying to pass “teach the controversy” bills that don’t even mention evolution.
According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the state senate just passed, by a substantial majority, Senate Bill 55, which succinctly reads as follows (my emphasis):
FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to protect the teaching of certain scientific information.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That chapter 13-1 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48.
“In science it’s imperative that we not only show the strengths, but also the weaknesses,” Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, said. “As it stands right now, the South Dakota science standards only teaches the strengths in certain areas.”
Sen. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, said he hoped the bill would allow for students and teachers to more freely express viewpoints that might differ from the scientific theories presented in the classroom.
“One of the areas that’s been of concern to me is this idea that now we in some fashion call people deniers, if you don’t believe this you’re a denier or a bigot or something along those lines,” Russell said. “And I think that it’s important that we have a free flow of ideas in the classroom in South Dakota.”
How very open minded of them! Perhaps they should talk about flat-earthism, alternative medicine, alchemy, and other “controversies”. As the NCSE comments:
Although no specific scientific topics are mentioned, the language of the bill matches the language in bills aimed at evolution and/or climate change, including South Dakota’s SB 114 in 2015. And the sponsorship is similar: Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), a sponsor of SB 55, also sponsored SB 112 in 2014, which would have prevented school boards and administrators from prohibiting teachers from teaching “intelligent design.”
And the Argus Leader reported, the bill was passed over substantial expert opposition:
Members of that chamber on a 23-12 vote advanced the bill despite guidance from the State Department of Education, state school boards, school administrators, teachers and scientists, who all said the change was unnecessary and could lead to the instruction of unauthorized theories. They also warned that the rule change could cause serious legal problems for school districts.
Will the bill pass the state House of Representatives? It seems likely, for, as The Friendly Atheist reported, “SB 55 now heads to the House, where Republicans have a 59-10 edge.” If passed, it would go to the desk of governor Dennis Daugaard, also a Republican. I doubt he would have the guts to veto it, and even if he does, the numbers given above suggest the veto could be overriden.
This is an embarrassment to South Dakota, and if you’re an educator there, weigh in below.
And for a critique of the “let a thousand bad ideas blossom” form of education, see “One side can be wrong“, an article that Richard Dawkins and I wrote in the 2005 Guardian.