Missouri Lawmaker Introduces Legislation That Would Make Learning about Evolution in Public Schools “Optional”

RickBrattinSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

(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.”

Liebelson:

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)

 Antievolution legislation in Missouri

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.

SOURCES

Missouri lawmaker wants to make evolution teaching optional (KCTV)

Unprecedented Attack On Evolution ‘Indoctrination’ Mounted In Missouri (Talking Points Memo)

Anti-Evolution Missouri Bill Requires College Students to Learn About Destiny (Mother Jones)

Rick Brattin, Who Wants Anti-Evolution Lessons In Missouri Schools: “I’m A Science Enthusiast” (Riverfront Times)

Missouri bill would let parents pull kids from evolution classes (Kansas City Star)

Missouri lawmaker introduces bill allowing familes to ‘opt out’ of learning evolution (Daily Kos)

“Intelligent design” bill in Missouri (National Center for Science Education)

House Bill No. 291

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

149 thoughts on “Missouri Lawmaker Introduces Legislation That Would Make Learning about Evolution in Public Schools “Optional”

  1. What is a Judge going to do when he has a whole association of scientists voting to declare that there is not a single shred of evidence for creation? And then he has all these leading brilliant scientists confirming such statements? The Judge almost has no choice but to agree with the experts testifying. Such is especially true when his own educational system has indoctrinated him to believe it. Remember that the censorship in public education was happening long before these court rulings.

  2. Robert Gentry also testified at the court in Arkansas as a witness for the creation side. He had publications in many scientific journals, prestigious peer reviewed journals like Science, Nature, etc. As I recall, the Judge asked Dalrymple about Gentry’s work, and the answer was like, “oh, that is just a tiny mystery that one day science will be able to explain.”

  3. Gentry felt very slighted by the blindness of the Judge to just dismiss his life’s work published in scientific journals as a tiny mystery based upon the word of one man who held a more prestigious position than he did. And how fraudulent it is for science to claim in court that there is not a shred of evidence for creationism when they have the evidence published in peer reviewed scientific journals.

  4. Gentry felt slighted by the blindness of the Judge who dismissed his life’s work which he had published in scientific journals. He considered it a tiny mystery based upon the word of one man who held a more prestigious position than he did. How fraudulent it is for science to claim in court that there is not a shred of evidence for creationism. They have the evidence published in peer reviewed scientific journals. They just deny it exists to the public, knowing the public will not take the time to look for themselves.

  5. I’m sorry, but courts do not determine what is science and what is not science. Science is the study of empirical data, and creationist models that are based upon empirical data rather than theology fall into the realm of science. Even theological models can be judged by science (tested by science) if they make empirical predictions.

  6. davidm,

    “The failure of evolutionary science.” Evolution happens to be one of the most verified theories in science, to call it a failure is tantamount to throwing science back to the Dark Ages.

    “Legal censorship of information” is grossly misleading. It’s no wonder creationism loses court cases, your hyperbole is never matched with facts just rambling attempts to redefine the basic tenants of science to match your religious viewpoints.

    • Wayne wrote: “Evolution happens to be one of the most verified theories in science, to call it a failure is tantamount to throwing science back to the Dark Ages.”

      Evolution as a biological process is well verified, but the General Theory of Evolution (per Kerkut), the idea of all life evolving through Monophyletic Natural Selection, has not been verified. Do not confuse these terms.

    • Wayne wrote: ““Legal censorship of information” is grossly misleading.”

      How so?

      What I mean by legal censorship is exactly what we observe. There is this legal theory floating around that public education is to have nothing to do with the mention of a Creator. That has resulted in ruining education, so that students are indoctrinated into the idea that all those Creator ideas are myths of a past civilization, too unimportant to allow mention of them. So Judges outlaw the teaching of any creationist theories. That is censorship, and it is done under the color of law, so it is “legal censorship of information.” How is that phrase “grossly misleading”? I don’t see it.

      Thomas Jefferson was strongly concerned with public education not siding with one religious sect over another. However, he never objected to creationism being part of the public educational system. When he founded the University of Virginia, he decided not to have a professor of divinity like most universities had. Instead, he established a professor or ethics. Following is how he described the responsibilities of that chair:

      “In conformity with the principles of our Constitution, which places all sects of religion on an equal footing, with the jealousies of the different sects in guarding that equality from encroachment and surprise, and with the sentiments of the Legislature in favor of freedom of religion, manifested on former occasions, we have proposed no professor of divinity; and the rather as the proofs of the being of a God, the creator, preserver, and supreme ruler of the universe, the author of all the relations of morality, and of the laws and obligations these infer, will be within the province of the professor of ethics; to which adding the developments of these moral obligations, of those in which all sects agree, with a knowledge of the languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, a basis will be formed common to all sects. Proceeding thus far without offence to the Constitution, we have thought it proper at this point to leave every sect to provide, as they think fittest, the means of further instruction in their own peculiar tenets.”
      http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=JefRock.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=1&division=div1
      pp 441-442.

      If our government more closely followed the ideology of Thomas Jefferson as expressed above, rather than the tenets of Atheism and Secular Humanism whose tenets are to purge all vestiges of religion from society, we would have a much more free society. As it is now, public education is hostile toward religion and hostile toward creationist theories of origins. This is wrong and immoral. Ironically, it is contrary to the spirit and text of our Constitution, even though they do all this in the name of our Constitution.

  7. davidm said:

    “As it is now, public education is hostile toward religion and hostile toward creationist theories of origins. This is wrong and immoral.”

    *****

    Public education isn’t hostile toward religion. Religious theories such as creationism don’t belong in science class. Forcing some people’s religious view on other people’s children in public schools would be “immoral.”

    • Elaine M wrote: “Religious theories such as creationism don’t belong in science class.”

      I’m not talking about religious theories. I’m talking about empirical based theories. Are you saying that empirical studies are not science?

  8. When was the moment that deep-time was introduced? Was science involved? No. Hutton sailed by Siccar Point and said, “Gee, this looks old!” Did he use r-c dating? No, that came about 100 years later. Did Hutton examine the rocks and realise the jagged edges never had “deep-time” to smooth them out? No. No science there, and you all fell for it. Now you’re just like parents sneaking around the house to bite the cookies so the kids still believe in Santa.
    Please stop passing off historical science (maybe this happened) as observational science. Even petrochemical engineers use the same teachings by creationists about flood geology (without realising it) to find deep sea drill sites. You evos can’t start life without borrowing dna from existing bacteria. That’s cheating. Passing the buck to alien bacteria on meteorites is just religious wishful thinking. They couldn’t survive a heat shield moving at half the speed. Time to give up the bedtime stories, eh?

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