Thursday, February 16, 2012

Creationist legislators trumped by Evolution-savvy students

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Evolution of Creationism

A few morsels of Creationism-related news today, and the outlook is brighter than it might have been. Firstly, it looks like Indiana’s multi-Creation-myths bill, which was already encountering political and legal resistance in the State House after passing the Senate, has effectively been killed, at least for the time being:

A bill that would have specifically allowed Indiana's public schools to teach creationism alongside evolution in science classes has been shelved by the leader of the Indiana House of Representatives.

The proposal cleared the state Senate two weeks ago, but Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma is using a procedural move to kill the proposal for this legislative session.

“It seemed to me not to be a productive discussion, particularly in light that there is a United States Supreme Court case that appears to be on point that very similar language is counter to the constitution,” Bosma said Tuesday. “It looked to me to be buying a lawsuit when the state can ill afford it.”

The bill approved by the state Senate would have permitted local school districts to teach creationism as long as the curriculum also incorporated origin-of-life theories from multiple religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Scientology.

Congratulations to Rep. Bosma for recognizing that “teach ALL the Creationisms!” is not a valid response to fears of violating the Establishment Clause, contra what a number of his fellow Republican seem to believe.

Rep. Jerry Bergevin (R-NH)
Rep. Jerry Bergevin (R-NH)

Unfortunately, the former apparently applies to lawmakers in New Hampshire, who now seem to think the time is ripe for pushing religious fables as science curriculum in their own state:

To state Rep. Jerry Bergevin, the horrors of the Columbine school shooting and the atrocities of Nazi Germany are linked by the theory of evolution, and that's all the evidence he needs to see that New Hampshire's children shouldn't be taught that it's correct.

Bergevin, a Republican from Manchester serving his first term, introduced one of two bills that will be before the Legislature next year addressing evolution, the first in the state since the late 1990s.

The second bill, introduced by Reps. Gary Hopper of Weare and John Burt of Goffstown, more vaguely calls for science teachers to "instruct pupils that proper scientific (inquiry) results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis . . . and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories."

Hopper points to the state constitution and its order that teachers support their students' "morality and piety" for the justification of his bill.

Evolution as it's currently taught tells students "life just happens. It's just a byproduct of the universe and they are here by accident," he said.

"But more and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that it was not even remotely possible that it happened by accident. I want to introduce children to the idea that they have a purpose for being here."

He would like to see intelligent design - the idea that a creator controlled how early life on Earth developed - taught in classrooms, but hasn't been able to find an example of the philosophy being successfully legislated into schools.

Two things come to mind. Firstly, one really has to wonder how many of these retarded bills would still exist in various state legislatures if their sponsors grew the brains to realize how profoundly ignorant and moronic they sound when the best arguments they have boil down to “Evolution leads to Nazis!” and “Evolution means we’re all just cosmic accidents!”.

Secondly, there’s actually a really good reason why no other Evolution-challenging legislation has been successfully implemented in other states, Rep. Hopper. It’s because every time some gormless politico tries to cram religious nonsense into science classrooms, the courts are always quick to wag their finger at them – in the form of as slamming them with enough fines and penalties to sink them into a financial and reputational black hole. Even some Republicans are able to learn from the Creationism/ID’s miserable track record. Maybe you should, too.

However, a defense of proper science education has arisen, and from more than the usual ranks of actual educators and experts:

Ten-year-old Jackson Hinkle, of Nashua, spoke quietly but forcefully to legislators Tuesday, outlining his thoughts against teaching evolution as a theory in New Hampshire public schools.

Jackson, a student at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, was among several students and science teachers who testified against House Bill 1148 at a public hearing Tuesday morning in Concord.


Jackson said the bill is moving down a slippery slope, and if teachers have to open up the religion conversation in science class, they would have to be educated in other religions and theories as well.

“Teachers would have to learn about hundreds of possible theories,” he said, equating the teaching of “Christian Creationism” with other ideas like the “Invisible Pink Unicorn” and the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

“I strongly believe these sort of debates need to be reserved for a religion class. It doesn’t belong in a science class,” Jackson said.

And before anyone squawks about parental influence:

Jackson’s mother, Gillian, said the boy was insistent on speaking out against the bill. She didn’t have to push him into it at all, she said.

“This is who he is,” she said. “He’s very passionate; he goes deep into subjects.”

Sounds like a kid with a bright future ahead of him. And he’s not the only one:

Matthew Lounsbury, a senior at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, said he thought the bill was redundant.

“Evolution is a theory; a theory is only the analysis of compiled data,” he said.

He said the other side of the spectrum – creationism – is not taught as heavily in schools because of its ties to religion and the separation of church and state, but it is still covered nonetheless.

Lounsbury also made a point to announce his Christian faith and his belief in evolution because the second part of Bergevin’s bill “makes the assumption that those who believe in evolution are atheists,” he said, which is wrong.

How refreshing it is to see youths – of any religious background – who’ve gone through actual science education. It would be amusing to see them sound like the only voices of reason in the State Legislature if it weren’t so depressing.

If only Creationists were able to learn from their obvious intellectual superiors.

(via Friendly Atheist)