By Rob Boston
It looks like opponents of creationism are going to have their hands full in 2012. The new year is just a few days old, and already we’ve seen several anti-evolution bills popping up in the states.
In Indiana, state Sen. Dennis Kruse has introduced S.B. 89, a bill that would allow public schools in the state to “require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.”
Kruse has been on this crusade for a number of years and has introduced versions of this bill before. They always died. But Republicans now control the state Senate, and Kruse is chairman of the Senate Education Committee. From this powerful perch, he can agitate for this misguided legislation.
There remains one huge problem with the bill: It is patently unconstitutional. Our good friend Genie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that Kruse's bill would run afoul of Edwards v. Aguillard, a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Louisiana law requiring “balanced treatment” between creation science and evolution.
“The law is very, very clear on this,” Scott said. “If this bill is passed, it is going to be challenged, and they will lose. The case law is so strong against them.”
Meanwhile, some New Hampshire legislators have introduced a pair of truly kooky bills. State Rep. Jerry Bergevin’s bill, H.B. 1148, would order the state board of education to “[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”
Bergevin believes that teaching evolution leads to Nazism and school shootings.
“I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented,” he said. “It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don’t respect human rights…. [W]e should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it... Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That’s evidence right there.”
A separate New Hampshire bill, H.B. 1457, introduced by Reps. Gary Hopper and John Burt, would mandate that the state board of education “[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”
This bill is more of the tiresome “evolution is just a theory” stuff we’ve been seeing out of the creationists for years.
But science marches on, and those who labor to keep our young people in ignorance are powerless to stop it. Inconveniently for them, life forms keep evolving. For example, you might have seen this interesting story about a hybrid shark recently found off the coast of Australia. It is being called an example of evolution in action.
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe our children ought to learn accurate information, not biblical literalism pretending to be science. When we short-change our kids by downplaying instruction about evolution, we’re only hurting them. Unless they go to a Bible school or an institution run by Jerry Falwell’s sons, in college young people will be taught evolution upfront and without apology. They’ll do better in Biology 101 if they get some exposure to the idea in secondary school.
I’m sure we’ll see more dangerous bills like this in other states as the year goes on. Last year, anti-evolution bills were introduced in a spate of states. Thankfully, all were defeated. Advocates of good science education and church-state separation will have to work hard to achieve the same results this year.
Our children deserve nothing less.