FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Race to Legislate Creationism

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

“Darwin’s theory, like all other attempts to explain the origin of life, is thus far merely conjectural.”

Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, Evolution and Permanence of Type (1874)

It’s time for an update on the progress of evolution. Oklahoma and Tennessee are in a closely matched race to put a new law addressing this contentious issue on the books but who will win cannot be known at this time. Missouri is in third place.   New Hampshire and Indiana hoped to be part of the race but their efforts were sidetracked so they’re out of the running for 2012.

Oklahoma and Tennessee’s legislators’ most recent attacks on evolution started in each state’s legislative session in 2011 and were carried forward into this year’s sessions.  House Bill 1551 that has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives and is now before the Oklahoma Senate’s Education Committee has the catchy name of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act.  (Bills that want creationism taught often include the word “Scientific” in their titles to give added luster to their efforts.) Its sponsors are opposed letting teachers teach science exclusively as it is commonly accepted by those knowledgeable in the field.  The Bill says its purpose is to “create an environment within public . . . schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions. . . and respond appropriately to differences of opinion about controversial issues. . . . 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 existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.”  One of the scientific theories proponents of the Bill think should be thought is “creationism.”

“Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education” commented on the proposed legislation saying:  “Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy [about evolution] is just plain dishonest. . . .” With respect to the bill’s reference to the “weaknesses” of evolution the scientific group describes them as “phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who don’t like evolution.”  Their comments were seconded by Douglas Mock, a Professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma who said:  “Wrapped in the deceptive language of promoting critical thinking, they aim to get the nose of a malodorous camel (pseudoscience) inside the tent of science. . . . The low scientific literacy of our citizens is a serious concern that’s not helped by adding fake controversies.”  Although it cannot be said with certainty that the bill will get through the senate and be signed by the governor, the odds would seem to be in its favor.  The Oklahoma legislature  was one of the first states in the country to  refer to voters for approval a resolution known as “Save Our State.” It was passed by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters and it forbids Oklahoma courts “from considering or using Sharia law.”  (A temporary injunction was issued against its enforcement within a few days of its approval by voters and on January 11, 2012 the injunction was made permanent by the United States Court of Appeals in Denver.) If Oklahomans can take a stand against Sharia that had never been used in its courts,  it seems like a good bet its Senate and governor will have no trouble taking a stand against evolution that its action suggest has little effect in Oklahoma.

On  March 19th, four days after the Oklahoma House approved HB 1551 and sent it off to the Oklahoma Senate,  the Tennessee Senate passed Senate Bill 893 that is with one minor exception, a virtual carbon copy of the Oklahoma statute. The Tennessee legislation was attacked by the Tennessee Science Teachers Association as being “unnecessary, anti-scientific , and very likely unconstitutional.”  Having passed the Tennessee House it is now before the Republican controlled Senate where its approval seems assured. Tennessee’s governor has not indicated whether or not he will sign the bill.  He told  The Tennessean  that he intended to discuss the legislation with the Tennessee Board of Education before deciding whether or not to sign the Bill.   As he explained to the newspaper:  “That’s why we have a state board of education.”  There are no reports on whether the Oklahoma governor feels the need to consult with any professional or can rely on the proven good sense of the legislators.

Missouri is the other state that is currently contemplating enhancement of its curriculum by introducing alternative theories about how it all happened.  Rick Brattin, a new member of the Missouri House has introduced House Bill 1227.  The Bill would require “intelligent design” to be taught in the schools. Explaining the reason for this legislation, Mr. Brattin told the Kansas City Star that “ the jury is sill out on evolution.” (He did not say to which jury he was referring.)   He expressed dissatisfaction that “our schools only teach that we emerged from primordial ooze.  I think students should get both sides of the issue and get to come to their own conclusions.”  The Bill has been referred to the committee on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Given the history of these kinds of bills and the climate of the states in which they’re being considered, it is not unlikely that all three bills will become law.  When they emerge they will be covered with some kind of ooze.  Probably not primordial, since everyone knows there’s no such thing.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail