The Senate Education Committee of the Indiana Senate has overwhelmingly voted to approve a bill allowing for the teaching of creationism in the state’s public schools. The Sponsor is Senator Dennis Kruse.
The bill states that “[t]he governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.” The language appears to be an effort to circumvent the holding in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), where the Supreme Court struck down a law requiring the teaching of creationism in Louisiana schools in 1987. The Court stressed that “[w]e do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught.” The Court added that “teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.” (emphasis added)
This law could force a reexamination of that caveat and the overwhelming view of scientists that creationism is a religious not a scientific theory. Notably one of the two dissenting justices was Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Other states like Tennessee have moved to re-introduce creationism in schools as a “controversy” in science. Louisiana itself has used this approach to circumvent the precedent that it created in Edwards.
This legislation could lead to another major decision if it were to get to the Court, though Scalia would find new allies in jurists like Clarence Thomas. The Court held that it was unconstitutional when “pre-eminent purpose of the Louisiana Legislature was clearly to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind.” On his official legislative site, Kruse has highlighted his work with such groups as “Child Evangelism Fellowship of Northeastern Indiana,” “The Gideons International,” “Northeast Indiana Youth for Christ Board, Chairman,” “County Line Church of God,” and other such groups.
Another supporter, Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, said that “many” scientists agree with creationism and asked “[w]hat are we afraid of? Allowing an option for students including creation science as opposed to limiting their exposure?”
Just to be clear, the fear is not that evolution could not hold its own as a scientific theory but that we are suggesting to students that creationism has a scientific basic. Beyond the “Creation Science boards, “many” scientists are not supportive of creationism and that suggestion by Schneider shows how “facts” are invented to suggest a scientific basis for creationism. According to a 1991 Gallup poll, only 5% of scientists identified themselves as creationists. However, even this small number was questioned since it included those with training outside biology.
Notably, these schools could take the lead from Governor Romney who has stated that evolution is a scientific theory while creationism is a philosophy. In Iowa, he explained:
“In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed,” he said. “If we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”
For academics in Indiana, this must be a particularly low moment. Indiana is a state with terrific institutions of higher learning. This bill looks like an appeal from The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes — 87 years too late.
Source: Courier Journal