The Evolving Indiana Anti-Evolution Bill

State Senator Dennis Kruze of Indiana is bound and determined to find some way, any way, to undermine the teaching of evolution in that state, come hell or high water. After trying and failing to pass a law allowing schools to teach creationism last year, now he’s got a new, more vague, bill:

The expected antievolution bill in Indiana appears to have mutated. As NCSE previously reported, state senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) told the Lafayette Journal and Courier(November 10, 2012) that he planned to introduce a bill drafted by the Discovery Institute, presumably along the lines of the bills enacted in Tennessee in 2012 and Louisiana in 2008, encouraging teachers to misrepresent evolution as controversial. But now the Indianapolis Star (December 4, 2002) reports that Kruse plans “to pursue legislation that allows students to challenge teachers on issues, forcing them to provide evidence to back up their lessons.”

In 2011, Kruse’s Senate Bill 89 would have allowed local school districts to require the teaching of creation science — despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard that teaching creation science in public schools is unconstitutional. SB 89 passed the Senate but was amended there to delete the reference to creation science and to require reference to “Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology”; the speaker of the House of Representatives declined to let it come to a vote there, citing concerns about a potential lawsuit, and the bill died when the legislature adjourned.

Describing his new idea as “a different approach,” Kruse explained to the Star, “I would call it ‘truth in education’ to make sure that what is being taught is true … And if a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.” He added that the bill would delegate the exact implementation of the process to local school districts: “It’s going to be written in kind of a broad way.” Although Kruse was not quoted as mentioning evolution in particular, the Star seemed convinced that it was in his sights.

The talk I gave in 2006 about the evolution of the anti-evolution movement is out of date. We’re now on to phase five or six as anti-evolutionism continues to evolve at a very rapid pace.

29 comments on this post.
  1. slc1:

    to pursue legislation that allows students to challenge teachers on issues, forcing them to provide evidence to back up their lessons.”

    I demand that teachers be required to produce evidence to support the notion that the earth is an oblate spheroid.

  2. Roger:

    The Evidence: “See this science book? See that library of other science books? There ya go.”

  3. D. C. Sessions:

    Remembering the utter smartass I was back then (some things never change) I can imagine how this would play out:

    * the teacher states that Indian was admitted to statehood in 1816.
    * smartass demands researched evidence to prove it.
    * delay ensues
    * teacher presents textbook
    * student points out that that’s no more authoritative than the biology text about evolution — which the Legislature does not consider within the scope of the statute. Teacher will have to do better.
    * Teacher promises better next day, move on
    * Teacher states that the capital is Indianapolis
    * Another smartass etc.

    Net result for a full day of classroom obstruction: zero.

  4. grumpyoldfart:

    My guess:
    The fundie politicians don’t give a stuff whether or not their legislation is passed. They are just putting on a show for the evangelical voters. Next election they can say, “See how we’ve been looking after you,” and the fundies will vote them back into office. Mission accomplished.

  5. Sastra:

    “I would call it ‘truth in education’ to make sure that what is being taught is true … And if a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”

    Statements like this make it really clear how very, very out of the loop creationists are when it comes to the reality of how science is actually done among scientists. They don’t seem to understand that any and every consensus has been won as the result of a huge background of contentious argument, evidence, demonstration, and experiment over many, many years. Every new idea has to be taken before ones worst critics so they may challenge it and try to pull it apart. It’s a hard process.

    No, they instead think that a child could ask for “some kind of research” and teachers — and therefore scientists — are going to be startled and embarrassed. Research? Oh, dear. You got us on that one. We hadn’t thought of doing any research.

    They live in a bubble.

    It needs to be punctured. Get the hell out of your “faith communities” and join the real world. We don’t think you’re cute.

  6. greg1466:

    I wasn’t aware that students were not already permitted to question their teachers. Unless of course they’re in a sectarian school. If that’s all the bill is doing then it shouldn’t even come to a vote since it is a frivolous waste of tax dollars. Simply saying “see this science book?” is not providing evidence anymore than “see this Bible?” is. In fact, I would think that creationists would be specifically against this kind of questioning, since supporting evidence can actually be provided for evolution, but not creationism.

  7. psweet:

    I wish I could be that comfortable with the practical outcome, Sastra. While I agree with your analysis overall, when you get into the classroom, you’re going to run into two major problems. The first is that often teaching the research behind the ideas is going to take so long you couldn’t get through anything you’re supposed to. The second is that an awful lot of high school teachers themselves don’t have the background to be able to do it well.

  8. greg1466:

    I should add that the language of the bill needs to be very carefully scrutinized, since I doubt that simply allowing students to question teachers is all that it is doing.

  9. Gregory in Seattle:

    PZ spoke about the evolution (ha!) of anti-evolution legislation at Eschaton last week. This seems like a novel mutation: may it be as fit as previous species.

  10. Taz:

    And if a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.

    Would the student then be required to actually study the evidence the teacher provides? If so, I’m all for it.

  11. barefootbree:

    Going only on what’s been posted of the bill here, I see four gaping holes right off the bat:

    1. It doesn’t single out evolution, or even science. This could be applied to any subject at all, bringing classes to a standstill, as D.C. Sessions points out.

    2. What constitutes evidence?

    3. Who then will pass judgment on whether that evidence is sufficient? Or will any evidence at all tick the box? If the latter, then the textbook itself is sufficient evidence, and this is just a waste of time.

    4. This would apply to creationism as well as evolution. Would the demands for evidence be as stringent for both sides? If the textbook is insufficient, then so is the Bible.

    People REALLY don’t think things through, do they?

  12. Gregory in Seattle:

    @Taz #10 – That would be rich. To follow D.C.’s example:

    * The teacher states that Indiana was admitted to statehood in 1816.

    * Smartass demands researched evidence to prove it.

    * Teacher hands Smartass a card with the Dewey Decimal Number for Indiana history, along with an assignment to write a three to five page research paper — with footnotes from at least four sources — covering the path to statehood for the Indiana Territory from 1812 to 1816, due by the end of class Friday: report will make up Smartass’ entire grade for the week.

  13. jnorris:

    legislation that allows students to challenge teachers on issues, forcing them to provide evidence to back up their lessons

    This will apply to abstinence-only sex education too, right?

  14. John Horstman:

    Amend the bill to also let me question and demand evidence from the police, and I’ll support it 100%.

  15. iknklast:

    I’m not sure they need a bill or this. My students are already obstructing class with “How do you know?” This is what I consider a perfectly valid question – how do scientists know the age of the earth? – and I painstakingly try to answer. But at some point, it becomes obvious that, for the student, this is less about education than obstruction, perhaps even harrassment. And then, sooner or later, it will lead to the inevitable “Were you there?” I have banned that question from my classroom for the duration of the semester.

  16. Runcible Fungo:

    I’m with grumpyoldfart on this one. Recall the
    derivation of bunkum (buncombe).

  17. baal:

    I agree with inklast @ 15. xian nut jobs specifically train their (and other kids in the same church) to harass and annoy teachers whenever a certain set of topics (age of the earth, anything ‘evolution’). This bill will likely shields those students from most of the creative solutions provided here. Instead of taking a teacher centric approach, they are going for a student lead one.
    I can imagine the next bill after this one will be a ‘students right to free speech’ bill where students are allowed to take 5 minutes to go to the blackboard and recite whatever they want*.

    *which will be a creationist screed until kids who are like I was back then get annoyed and use the opportunity for creative countermeasures.

  18. Sastra:

    Since there is no substance behind this legislation, perhaps it should be fought on the field of rhetoric. We should not call this bill an “anti-evolution” bill. We should instead insist that it be called the “Sassypants Bill.”

    The “Sassypants Bill” is trying to promote the liberal idea that kids are better and smarter than grown-ups and can interrupt them whenever they want. Proper authority is being thrown out the window. Dennis Kruse is one of them hippies who thinks discipline is bad for all the precious sensitive little flower children: it’s high time parents and teachers stood up to these know-it-alls with their socialist agenda and brought some control back into the classroom.

    Repeat it often enough, it’s true.

  19. chadwickjones:

    Looks like it’s about time for the private (Christian, etc.) schools to start teaching Evolution in their curriculum as well.

  20. Sastra:

    Re #19:

    It’s called “framing.”

  21. matty1:

    @15 I’d be tempted to answer ‘where you there?’ with ‘yes I was and you can’t prove that wrong unless you were there’.

  22. John Hinkle:

    I can just see those challenges now.

    Student: Oh yeah? Where’s the evidence? *returns to seat with smug smile*

    Teacher: *after a dramatic pause* See me after class. *returns smile, continues teaching*

  23. gopiballava:

    I propose an amendment adding educational activities at churches, including Sunday school and sermons, to the list of covered items. Street evangelism as well. I also suggest that the actual book being taught from should be explicitly excluded as evidence.

  24. Draken:

    @22 That’s the proper strategy, I think.
    “How do we know? That’s an interesting question, but the time schedule unfortunately doesn’t allow for expansion on the issue now. You are, of course, welcome after hours.”

    Let’s see how fast the interruptions disappear.

  25. kosk11348:

    “I would call it ‘truth in education’ to make sure that what is being taught is true … And if a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”

    And then what? What if the student remains unconvinced? Who decides when enough research has been presented? The student? The teacher? The principal? A judge?

    Something tells me Kruze hasn’t thought through the practical implications of his proposal.

  26. Compuholic:

    Would be interested to know what happens if the teacher does not come up with any research.

    I’m not sure if that would be possible but maybe the teacher could say something like this:

    “Well, you are welcome to not participate in this class. You are free to leave but be advised that since the material discussed here is on the official curriculum it will be on your next test”

  27. dogfightwithdogma:

    If I were asked by a student or anyone else for that matter to provide evidence for evolution I’d respond with, “Well, you should start by reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” I would tell them to come see me for more references after they had finished reading it.

  28. Paul:

    #18 @ Sastra – love it. “That Senator isn’t just a hippie bum who thinks that kids are better than their teachers; he’s obviously a closet marxist”

  29. freemage:

    Guys, you’re not thinking twisty enough. When dealing with Dominionists of all stripes, never assume that what’s on the label correlates to what’s inside the package.

    Remember, fundies have been working hard to infiltrate the ranks of teachers; those teachers are the ones who benefit from this bill. This is how it would play out:

    Fundie Teacher: *Gives standard evolutionary lessons as mandated by the courts, with no references to Christian myth.*
    Fundie Student: “Excuse me, but what evidence is there for this so-called evolution.”
    Fundie Teacher: “I’m afraid I don’t have any.”
    Rest of Class: “What? Huh….”

    I can pretty much guarantee that in any school where fundie science teachers are part of the staff, there will be at least one student willing to “bravely question the evil-ution indoctrination”, and thereby give the teacher an out.

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