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:
Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail