(NOTE: Correction and Update Below)
A Missouri lawmaker has proposed legislation that would make learning about evolution in public schools “optional.” State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), the main sponsor of House Bill 291—also known as the “Missouri Standard Science Act”—introduced the bill in January. Brattin told KCTV, a local station, that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.” He continued, “Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side. It is an indoctrination because it is not objective approach.”
The Kansas City Star reported that Brattin said, “…forcing students to study the natural selection theories developed by Charles Darwin a century and a half ago can violate their religious faith. It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs.” Critics of Brattin’s bill say his legislation “would allow religious faith in biblical explanations to crowd out sound science.”
HB 291 would require schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” was being taught at their child’s school—and give students the opportunity to “opt out of the class.” According to Dana Liebelson of Mother Jones, HB 291 “redefines a few things you thought you already knew about science.”
For example, a “hypothesis” is redefined as something that reflects a “minority of scientific opinion and is “philosophically unpopular.” A scientific theory is “an inferred explanation…whose components are data, logic and faith-based philosophy.” And “destiny” is not something that $5 fortune tellers believe in; Instead, it’s “the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race.”
Liebelson added that the “Missouri Standard Science Act” also requires that public elementary and secondary schools in the state—as well as introductory science classes at public universities—“give equal textbook space to both evolution and intelligent design.”
From the National Center for Science Education:
HB 291′s text is about 3000 words long, beginning with a declaration that the bill is to be known as the Missouri Standard Science Act, followed by a defectively alphabetized glossary providing idiosyncratic definitions of “analogous naturalistic processes,” “biological evolution,” “biological intelligent design,” “destiny,” “empirical data,” “equal treatment,” “hypothesis,” “origin,” “scientific theory,” “scientific law,” and “standard science.”
Among the substantive provisions of the bill, applying both to Missouri’s public elementary and secondary schools and to introductory science courses in public institutions of higher education in the state: “If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught.”
For public elementary and secondary schools, HB 291 also provides, “If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a textbook, the textbook shall give equal treatment to biological evolution and biological intelligent design.” After the bill is enacted, new textbooks purchased for the public schools will have to conform to the equal treatment requirement. A committee will develop supplementary material on “intelligent design” for optional interim use.
Eric Meikle, the education director at the National Center for Science Education, said that he couldn’t “imagine” that any mainstream textbook publisher would comply with the bill’s textbook requirement. Meikle said, “The material doesn’t exist.”
Brattin told The Riverfront Times that he was a “science enthusiast” and “a huge science buff.” He added. “This [bill] is about testable data in today’s world.” Meikle disagrees with Brattin. Meikle told Mother Jones, “This bill is very idiosyncratic and strange. And there is simply not scientific evidence for intelligence design.”
And people wonder why some of our students are falling behind international peers in science.
Creation Science 101 by Roy Zimmerman
Correction and Update
It has been called to my attention by Willy Kessler that HB291 was introduced in 2013 and “allowed to die.” Brattin was sponsor of another bill (HB 1472) this year which would require Missouri public schools to notify parents when evolution is being taught and to allow students to opt out of classes.
From the National Center for Science Education (January 17, 2014)
Missouri’s House Bill 1472, introduced in the House of Representatives on January 16, 2013, is the third antiscience bill of the year, following Virginia’s HB 207 and Oklahoma’s SB 1765. If enacted, the bill would require “[a]ny school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection” to have “a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s instruction on evolution.” Parents and guardians would receive a notification containing “[t]he basic content of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction to be provided to the student” and “[t]he parent’s right to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction.”
NCSE’s deputy director Glenn Branch commented, “House Bill 1472 would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri.” Quoting “The OOPSIE Compromise — A Big Mistake,” which Eugenie C. Scott and he wrote for Evolution: Education and Outreach in 2008, he added, “Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level. There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity. A teacher who tries to present biology without mentioning evolution is like a director trying to produce Hamlet without casting the prince.” Teachers, schools, and districts would suffer as well, Branch observed. “The value of a high school education in Missouri would be degraded.”
The sponsors of HB 1472 are Rick Brattin (R-District 55) and Andy Koenig (R-District 99). Both have a history of sponsoring antievolution legislation in Missouri. In 2012, Koenig sponsored and Brattin cosponsored House Bill 1276, a “strengths and weaknesses” bill, and Brattin sponsored and Koenig cosponsored House Bill 1227, which would have required equal time for “intelligent design” in public schools, including introductory courses at colleges and universities. In 2013, Koenig sponsored and Brattin cosponsored House Bill 179, a “strengths and weaknesses” bill, and Brattin sponsored and Koenig cosponsored House Bill 291, which would have required equal time for “intelligent design” in public schools, including introductory courses at colleges and universities. All died.
Unprecedented Attack On Evolution ‘Indoctrination’ Mounted In Missouri (Talking Points Memo)
Missouri bill would let parents pull kids from evolution classes (Kansas City Star)
“Intelligent design” bill in Missouri (National Center for Science Education)
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro
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