Creationism bill introduced in Arkansas—again!

You’d think the state of Arkansas would have learned its lesson in the case of McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, a case decided in 1982 by the late U.S. District Court Judge William Overton. Ruling on Arkansas Act 590, the “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act”, which actually required the teaching of so-called creation science in the state’s public schools, Overton struck the law down firmly, asserting that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”). In other words, Overton considered “scientific creationism” as simply a form of Christian doctrine, which it certainly was. The eloquent final section of Overton’s decision still lodges in my mind, and stands as the definitive reason why creationism doesn’t belong in public schools:

The application and content of First Amendment principles are not determined by public opinion polls or by a majority vote. Whether the proponents of Act 590 constitute the majority or the minority is quite irrelevant under a constitutional system of government. No group, no matter how large or small, may use the organs of government, of which the public schools are the most conspicuous and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others.

But. . . the Arkansas creationists are back again! As the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports, on Monday, State Representative Mary Bentley (a Republican, of course) filed a “shell bill” on the last possible day for introducing bills to be considered this year by the state legislature. This was an attempt to sneak creationism in under the radar by putting in a one-paragraph bill. But people noticed. One group was the NCSE, which said this:

HB 2050 is the only antievolution bill to be filed in Arkansas since 2005’s House Bill 2607, similarly filed as a shell bill and subsequently amended. If enacted, the bill would have required the state Department of Education to include “intelligent design” in its educational frameworks and also encouraged teachers in the state to include it in their lesson plans. HB 2607 died in committee.

Here’s the very short shell bill:

This will fail, as have other bills, because it falls under the Overton decision: it allows the teaching of religiously based pseudoscience in the public schools.

Rep. Mary Bentley, the miscreant

h/t: Guy

33 Comments

  1. Zach
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    That’s one Overton window that doesn’t move.

  2. Craw
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Now if I were a member of that legislature I’d propose an amendment to that bill, “allow teachers to teach creationism and intelligent design as theories, while wearing a clown costume and red nose, alongside …”

  3. veroxitatis
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Perhaps someone can enlighten me. How is it possible to teach creationism? Once the teacher reads out Genesis chs. 1 & 2, what more can be said?

    • Sshort
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Oh my…. just google creation science and have at it. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

      I was just with an evangelical who is quite smart. He designs and tests very high-end computer chips. His ten year-old son brought up plate tectonics, which he had just heard about (he is home-schooled, of course). His father told him it “just a theory”. And when I said it was now a highly confirmed theory and settled science, his father said “Well, there is another theory that the continents rotate in place.” After I pulled my eyelids back down from the top of my head, I asked him how that would work and where did he hear that?

      He wasn’t sure about either.

      • veroxitatis
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Yes, this is what I meant. All of their claims fail since they cannot be tested and cannot be falsified. They cannot even be subjected to rigorous thought experiments.

      • Posted March 8, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

        Wow. As far as I know, there is nothing in the Genesis about continents rotating in place (or against continents moving, for that matter).
        The recipe seems to be, stand against those wicked scientists, whatever they say.

  4. Geoff Toscano
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    If they know it’s going to be thrown out as being unlawful why do politicians keep introducing these bills? Is it simply attrition?

    • Draken
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Virtue signalling to the electorate. Everybody now knows what a Good Christian Mary Bentley is.

      However, she didn’t even try the least bit to cover the bill’s language in the usual Discovery Institute ‘critical thinking’ smoke. Mentioning the word ‘creationism’ made this bill dead on arrival, and I suspect Mrs Bentley knew that. Perhaps she doesn’t really want codswallop in the classroom…

      • darrelle
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        You seem to be an optimist about these kinds of things. I’m a pessimist. I tend to think that Mrs. Bentley is really just that simple-minded.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        That was strange to me too. This must be really a stunt to signal to her electorate.

      • Posted March 8, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        We have found the core of Abrahamic religious zealotry: a good Christian is he who speaks loudly against evolution, a good Muslim is he who riots over cartoons, and a good Jew is he who will create chaos in a plane (I do not know the “she” analog of the latter, alas).

        Forget the charity work and other rubbish.

    • Aelfric
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget that Edwards v. Aguillard, the decision that basically held creationism had no place in the class room, had two dissenters. They were Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia, two men still upheld as models by the ideological right. Another couple justices in that mold and such bills might no longer be unlawful.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      They are afraid. They know their faith has no weight against logic and secular reasoning and they are scared that they will eventually stand alone in their silly beliefs, looking foolish.

    • eric
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      As Draken said, the bill gets the legislator cred with their constituency. They can tour churches and say “I introduced a bill to bring God back in schools” and that will get them votes. They probably don’t even much care if it passes or not.

      • veroxitatis
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        This woman is a member of a Pentecostal Church, The Assembly of God so she’s probably a firm believer in creationism and all the wooery that goes with that belief.

        • eric
          Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          I don’t dispute that she may be a firm believer in creationism. I dispute that she had any serious intent to get this bill passed. A one paragraph bill entered on the last day? Had she wanted it to pass, she would’ve introduced it a month ago.

  5. J.Baldwin
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I’d like to think she’s being clever. On the one hand she can pander to her base, on the other she can advance the teaching of evolution by dealing the creationists another high profile defeat. J.S. Mill would be in favor of her bill as an act of necessary free speech that prevents our knowledge of evolution from becoming “dead dogma.” Although I seriously doubt this was her motivation, she is oddly advancing the teaching of evolution by reminding everyone why we don’t teach creationism in the classroom and, oh by the way, evolution is true.

  6. Nell Whiteside
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    What with anti-vaxxers, anti-GMOs, climate change denialists, creationists, etc. pushing their pseudoscience, we seem to be drifting back to the dark ages. Do the people who espouse these views lack an ability to understand basic science or are they just pig-headed?

    Although most people are unaware of it, science pervades our lives. Yes, science has made mistakes, often exacerbated by vested interests. But, the human lifespan has almost doubled in the past century, so we must be doing something right.

    In the face of all the evidence for evolution, creationism is daft. Perhaps creationists think they will become immortal if they believe it. OY!

    • veroxitatis
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Fear drives them. The fear that failure to believe in the innerancy of scripture will have as its consequence eternal damnation in the fiery pit.

  7. Dave137
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Astounding how incessantly stupid our country can be.

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    These people are everywhere and they are like cockroaches. You can take this same garbage right up to the White House. Pence dreams of this stuff everyday. Give to FFRF.

  9. Alpha Neil
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    This is distressing and reassuring at the same time. Distressing for the content of the bill, reassuring for the fact that it failed. The system continues to work despite the current shitstorm.

  10. Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  11. Posted March 8, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    oh no! i cannot believe that we are still here –

  12. Roger
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    What century is this again? Caveman century?

  13. Joseph Carrion
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    If a family goes to church there’s no classes like Math, English, Gym, History etc…so why have a pseudoscience theory taught in the public school system!

  14. Joseph Carrion
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    The creationists need to pull their heads out of their ass and read the court case kitzmiller v. dover high school, 2005.

  15. GBJames
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Creationists don’t learn quickly. Which is why they are creationists, after all.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. When the Flintstones is reality TV, math is not a top subject and science? forget it.

      If they let this crap into the schools, thousands in home schooling would be back in class within days.

  16. Posted March 8, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    For this female reader, it is a little sad to read news about such a high-profile female idiot on Women’s Day.

  17. Erik
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Well…in one sense the timing of this was good for me. We had just finished the Creation/Evolution portion of my seminar class and had concluded with Kitzmiller v. Dover. I was able to use this as an example of how court decisions, etc., have little impact on those who understand neither science nor constitutional principles.

  18. Posted March 9, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I find it interesting that outright creationism is mentioned, not just ID.


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  1. […] is on a religious kick these days, proposing a number of unconstitutional bills. One such bill is HB 2050, “An act to amend the Arkansas code to allow public school teachers to teach creationism and […]

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