In a few states, anti-evolution education legislation has been introduced, whereas if passed, schools would be allowed to teach alternative theories to evolution.
“South Dakota’s Senate this week approved a measure that prohibits school boards from preventing teachers from questioning established scientific theories. Similar bills are making their way through legislatures in Oklahoma and Indiana,” writes The Hill.
The bills don’t specifically mention popular alternatives to the evolution theory, like creationism or intelligent design, instead teachers would be able to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of the ALL theories.
Those for evolution being taught as the only scientific theory, say that the new bills undermine the theory.
“They’re no longer trying to ban teaching evolution. They’re no longer trying to balance teaching evolution. They’re now trying to belittle evolution,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education.
While, those in support believe that children should be exposed to all theories in an objective manner.
“Good science is based on critical inquiry, not unthinking dogmatism,” said John West, vice president of the Discovery Institute, a group that supports the theory of intelligent design. “If we want to equip today’s students to be tomorrow’s innovators, we need to teach them how to be out of the box thinkers who know how to sift and analyze competing explanations in light of the evidence.”
Previously these types of bills have been shot down, but the language in these measures are purposely crafted differently. Because the bill doesn’t require anyone to do anything, they are less likely to be deemed as unconstitutional.
“The bills would also put school boards in the untenable position of being open to lawsuits from teachers, if they try to block the presentation of alternative ideas, and from parents, if they allow those alternative ideas to be presented,” writes The Hill.
“This new wave of legislation targeting scientific theories on evolution and climate change began a dozen years ago, when Alabama legislators considered the first of this type of measure in 2004. Since then, about 70 similar measures questioning evolution have been introduced in states across the country.”
The latest anti-evolution legislation that has been introduced in Oklahoma is the Senate Bill 393, also known as the Oklahoma Science Education Act.
“SB 393 would require state and local educational authorities to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught”; it would prevent such authorities from “prohibit[ing] any teacher in a public school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught,” according to the National Center for Science Education.
These measures, like the SB 393, are being heavily supported by religious conservatives and as a recent study points out, this is “to please religious constituents.”
“Johnson and coauthors conducted a national analysis and found that between 2000 and 2012, anti-evolution bills were introduced 110 times in 26 states. However, only 25 percent of this legislation made it through the respective state education committees for a vote by a state legislative chamber, and only Louisiana and Tennessee enacted the bills into law,” writes Futurity.org.
Oklahoma introduced 13 anti-evolution bills, Mississippi introduced 11 bills, and Alabama has introduced 10 bills. All of these states have the highest number of conservative protestants.
“In addition, more than two-thirds of the bills were introduced in states with more than 25 percent of the population identifying as conservative Protestants,” according to the study, “Conservative Protestantism and Anti-Evolution Curricular Challenges Across States.”
Even with broader language, it’s unlikely that these measures will pass successfully. But, they keep being introduced to appeal to small, yet vocal groups.
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