As an atheist, I often find myself defending science as our best means to obtain knowledge. The struggle going on in this country is apparent in the battles over science curriculum in public schools. I also feel this distrust of science and lack of value placed on scientific knowledge is doing considerable damage to our science education, and may be one of the reasons our students perform so poorly in this area. If you live in Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, or Texas, there are Action Alerts from the National Center for Science Education. These states have proposed legislation against the teaching of evolution or are using other means to promote a creationist agenda. I urge you to take action if you live in one of these states or see something similar proposed in your own state. As a resident of Missouri, I wrote my state representative (unfortunately, he is a co-sponsor of the bill) and wrote the following letter to the editor (you are free to use my wording as a guide to your own letter, if desired):
Creationism tries using the back door.
Recently, HB 195 was introduced to the Missouri House of Representatives promoting critical thinking in the science classroom through criticism of evolution. In the constantly moving target that is the Intelligent Design agenda, this is the latest version of their attempts. HB 195 is clearly an attempt to criticize well-established scientific theory with the broader goal of planting an intelligent design seed. If you doubt this, simply look at the history of this bill. It is virtually identical to HB 1651 from 2010. The chief sponsor of that bill, Robert Wayne Cooper, “previously introduced a string of unsuccessful anti-evolution bills — HB 911 and 1722 (which called for equal time for “intelligent design” in the state’s public schools) in 2004, HB 1266 in 2006, HB 2554 in 2008, and HB 656 in 2009,” according to the National Center for Science Education.
There is clearly an agenda here beyond simple objectivity. No scientist would deny that critical evaluation of things is good. If this bill were simply about improving critical thinking skills it would be uncontroversial. However, the motivation is anything but uncontroversial. This is displayed by singling out evolution by means of natural selection in the text. Why do they not question Einstein’s theory of relativity? Why do they not question scores of other scientific theories? I suspect that, if we dig deeper, we will find a severe lack of objectivity.
I’d like to apply a simple litmus test. If these legislators were trying to improve science education, then surely they would have done some of the following. How many local science educators were consulted? How many local school boards were consulted? How many organizations responsible for determining science education standards were consulted? How many biologists were consulted? In addition, I would be interested to know how many of the sponsors have a solid understanding of evolutionary biology and how many of them are creationists. The answers should be very revealing.
These tactics and the carefully crafted language inserted in the bill are meant to disguise its ultimate goal. Moreover, these tactics have been deemed unconstitutional due to violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. I urge you to contact your local State Representative and express your concern over this bill.
- Doubting Science: The other tactic of creationists
- Francisco Ayala on Intelligent Design
- In Defense of Science