Could Creationism Become Law?
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s debate between Bill Nye, “the Science Guy” and Ken Ham, the founder of Kentucky’s Creation Museum over evolution, more attention has been drawn to the ongoing attempts of creationists to reverse ground lost since the Scopes Trial and return to the chronology of the world established by Bishop James Ussher in the 17th century which firmly placed the Earth’s creation on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC.
While not all creationists may adhere to Bishop Ussher’s precise chronology, there are ongoing efforts in several states to make their school curriculums adhere more closely to Ussher than to Darwin. Such efforts are underway in four states.
There are currently two bills being debated in the Missouri legislature on creationism. The first, House Bill 1472, would require parental notification if a school was teaching children about evolution and allow parents to pull their children from the classroom. In a statement, Glenn Branch, the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, said, “House Bill 1472 would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri.” A second bill, House Bill 1587 would mandate schools “endeavor to create an environment “ that encourages students to debate and discuss “controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution.”
In the Sooner State, the legislature is considering Senate Bill 1765 which, like the second Missouri bill, would simply advance “debate” over what it calls “controversial theories” in schools. The bill, introduced by a notable evolution opponent, would prohibit authorities from doing anything to prevent teachers from helping students analyze and criticize these “scientific theories.
Senate Bill 112 in South Dakota amends the state’s laws to provide that “No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.” The problem is that a federal court in Pennsylvania has ruled that teaching intelligent design in schools violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In other words, if the bill passes, it sets up the Mount Rushmore State for a lawsuit that it likely won’t win. But that possibility shouldn’t keep lawyers in the South Dakota attorney general’s office up all night. The bill has already been dubbed the “odd bill of the week” by the Rapid City Journal.
In the Old Dominion, House Bill 207 is gaining ample attention for its language to mandate the discussion of “scientific controversies in schools.” While the sponsor of the bill, a creationist, disclaimed any specific intention for the bill to target evolution rather than controversies in general, that doesn’t seem to be the actual intent. As The Daily Beast noted in January, the bill is “a Trojan horse for presenting views of origins held by virtually nobody in the scientific community.”