Evolution is the central idea in all of biology, so one would automatically assume that a child learning about the life sciences would be learning about the change of organisms over time - right? Well, apparently that’s not the case for a lawmaker in Missouri. Last week, Republican State Representative Rick Brattin introduced HB1472, which would require public and charter schools to notify parents if their children are receiving instruction about evolution and allow them to pull the student from the class, if desired.
The bill itself is quite short and does not clarify if a student would be exempt from the direct teaching of evolution or if they will not have to participate in anything strongly related to evolution, like taxonomy, fossils, or genetics. In that case, the student might as well not be enrolled in the class at all.
Science education advocate Zack Kopplin has been fighting for proper teaching of evolution and other politically controversial topics for nearly three years in his home state of Louisiana and his adopted state of Texas. When asked about HB1472, he told IFLS: “Missouri’s creationism bill is part of a strategy that creationists are now using to sneak religion into public schools. Because of court rulings like Edwards v. Aguillard and Kitzmiller v. Dover, creationism or its offshoot intelligent design creationism are no longer directly allowed into public school science classes. Instead, creationists pass legislation that allows “critiques” of evolution or “all sides” to be taught.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Back in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for Creationism to be taught in publicly funded classrooms and the decision was extended to include Intelligent Design in 2005. While these rulings should have made it very clear that evolution is the only theory about the emergence of biodiversity welcome in science classrooms, the issue has not gone away.
There are still those who feel (despite absolutely no scientific relevance) that their personal religious convictions deserve equal time in the classroom. Unable to get it, they have switched gears and desperately try to poke holes into evolution, though most objections reveal a lack of comprehension on the subject. Rep. Brattin has called evolution instruction “indoctrination” because no opposing viewpoints are taught, even though there aren’t any other scientifically valid theories. Brattin, a self-described “huge science buff,” (go ahead and take a moment to absorb that one) also introduced a bill in 2013 that would require college students to learn about destiny and intelligent design. It also would have redefined the terms “hypothesis” and “theory.”
Fortunately, Missouri governor Jay Nixon does not support HB1472, noting the harm it would have on students in his state: “extricating children from science classes is not in the best interest of our STEM Initiative,” he states. “It’s pretty simple really — good schools help create good jobs. From pre-K to college, we need to make sure every Missouri student has an opportunity to get a good education.”
Even if Nixon does veto the bill and sanity prevails in Missouri, it still does not address the fact that these baseless attacks on science keep popping up. Kopplin added, “There are no legitimate scientific critiques of evolution that need to be brought into public schools and there’s not two sides of the science. The only reason for legislation like this is to sneak creationism into public school classrooms, and the legislative intent behind these laws is clear.”
Politicians who introduce idiotic bills like HB1472 are only in office because they were elected, and it just so happens that Rep. Rick Brattin and many others are up for re-election this November. If you aren’t sure which candidates you will be voting for, call them up and find out how they would be expected to vote on bills such as this, which do nothing but hurt students’ education and make the public erroneously believe the existence of evolution is up for debate.