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Jan 27 2013

Can you see through this ploy, Arizona?

A group of Republican legislators have proposed a new anti-science bill in Arizona. It doesn’t come right out and say that it’s anti-science, of course: they know better than that. They claim instead that the purpose of the bill is to promote “critical thinking skills,” which we certainly all endorse. But they give the game away with the details.

The targets of the bill are explicitly listed in a section that presents as legislative findings that "1. An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to become intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens. 2. The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy. 3. Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such topics."

Somewhat redundantly, SB 1213 provides both that "teachers shall be allowed to help pupils 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" and that state and local education administrators "shall not prohibit any teacher in this state" from doing so. The bill also insists that it "protects only the teaching of scientific information and does not promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

Wow. These people have no imagination at all, no creativity in the slightest. This is essentially boilerplate taken from every goddamn creationist bill proposed in every legislature for the last decade or so. Singling out a few specific ‘controversies’, like evolution and climate change (which actually aren’t controversial at all); “strengths and weaknesses”; the denial that this is promoting a particular religious doctrine; these are such a familiar drone that my brain falls asleep reading them anymore.

Time for the residents of Arizona to rouse themselves — it’s not as if you’ve been suffering from a barrage of lunacy and bigotry lately, right? — and write to your representatives and yell at them to kill this stupid Senate Bill 1213.

33 comments

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  1. 1
    mikebethany

    Thank the gods I can finally teach the truth of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (hbHna) without all those nasty “facts” getting in the way or having to rely on “evidence.”

  2. 2
    David Gerard

    “And remember: you can’t spell CRAZY without R-AZ.”

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    To address the title question: please name the last time Arizona collectively saw through a dumb-ass dishonest Republican ploy…

  4. 4
    Enopoletus Harding

    Those sneaky, sneaky… alright, I can see the creationist intent from a mile away.

  5. 5
    Snoof

    On the other hand, there’s good news in New Orleans.

  6. 6
    01jack

    And human cloning? ♪ ♫ One of these things is not …

    Seriously, what’s up with that?

  7. 7
    peterh

    There’s a problem right off with “scientific evidence.” Since science is not a thing but a structured method of inquiry, the phrase ought to be “credible evidence.” Or, possibly, “testable evidence.” Those AZR’s are certainly lacking in imagination as well as an understanding of the fundamentals of rational inquiry. To encourage critical thinking in the young, they ought to display it in themselves.

  8. 8
    Azuma Hazuki

    @7/peterh:

    This is Orwellian doublespeak though. These people take words and twist them for their own ends, usually completely destroying their common and usual meanings in the process.

    “Critical thinking” means “be critical of any thought we don’t like.” Remember, this is the religion with “First learn what is to be believed” as one of its cultural pillars.

    And this is also why I say that science isn’t succeeding with most of these people: because what we are dealing with here is a philosophical problem, not a scientific one. I.e., it’s at the level of logic “below” science/on which science is built.

    Remember too that these people come from a background, theological and philosophical, which deprecates human reasoning. According to them we are irredeemably fallen and evil, and our puny senses and logic are not to be trusted, as they are Satanic traps of pride that lead one’s soul into eternal burning hellfire.

  9. 9
    Moggie

    The last thing these bozos want is the promotion of “critical thinking skills”. Once they’d smuggled religion into the classroom via “teach the controversy”, can you imagine their reaction if schools were to help kids apply critical thinking to religious claims?

  10. 10
    coozoe

    Scientific knowledge causes controversy? Only with the old farts who closed their minds decades ago.

  11. 11
    kathywood

    Unfortunately, I gave up on the educational system here in AZ years ago. Fortunately though, the idiocy of the State govt’s handling of funds for education and other educational priorities has prompted the growth of private and charter schools that prioritize educating students in critical thinking skills, science and math. In the 2012 Newsweek top High Schools in the US, 3 of the top 10 here in AZ, specifically Tucson. My daughter, currently in 6th grade at one of these charters, has 3 science course; Physics, Biology and Chemistry.

    I really wish we could do something to change the lack of logic and reason in our State legislature but it sadly reflects the lack of logic and reason in a majority of the States citizens. However, as reflected in the last election, some progress is being made but it is painfully slow.

    Free Baja Arizona!

  12. 12
    kathywood

    Forgot to add that they are always proposing the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance as a graduation requirement. That will keep dem’ illegals from ruinin’ our state.

  13. 13
    Sastra

    2. The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy.

    One of these days a Republican legislator is going to get smart and will squeeze this thing through by re-writing the above and changing it to something like:

    “2. The teaching of some scientific subjects, including evolutionary psychology, String Theory, the causes of cancer, dark matter, and Artificial Intelligence, can cause controversy.”

    Of course, those subjects generally aren’t introduced below college level — but maybe they’ll hope nobody will notice.

  14. 14
    anteprepro

    Hey, did you guys see this:

    The bill also insists that it “protects only the teaching of scientific information and does not promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine , promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.

    “Religious nonbeliefs” make a mild amount of sense. “Nonreligious doctrine” and “nonreligion” is hilarious goobledygook, probably stemming from these ignorant Republican fuckwits trying to both suggest that atheism is just another kind of religion and that global warming, evolution, etc. are basically nonreligious religions as well. I would love to see how they define “nonreligious doctrine” and “nonreligion”. It will either make their motivations obvious or they have just a passed a law in which nothing is allowed to be taught because ANYTHING that doesn’t fit under the religion category could fit under the nonsensical umbrella terms of “nonreligious doctrine” and “nonreligion”.

  15. 15
    neutrinosarecool

    Funny how science is such a threat to established interests these days. Whatever happened to ‘better living through chemisty?’

    Climate science -> a major threat to the fossil fuel sector’s cash flow, as people would realize that they have to stop using fossil fuels if they wanted to slow global warming.

    Renewable energy science -> likewise a major threat to established energy interests, particularly in conjunction with climate science, as people would then realize they don’t actually need non-renewable resources like oil, coal, gas or uranium to power their economies.

    Evolutionary science -> a major threat to organized religion, as people who understand that all multicellular life evolved from single-celled organisms – which in turn can arise from non-living chemical systems – would probably not be donating 10% of their income to religious institutions that claimed that was false.

    The clowns in Arizona have determined that science is such a controversial threat to the established social order, that we’ll have to stop teaching it. And math too, since you can’t really understand science without a decent grasp of mathematics. And teachers must be allowed to ‘interpret’ these controversial subjects without being interfered with. Because ignorance is bliss.

  16. 16
    Glen Davidson

    Gee, can they critique advanced physics, too? There’s where the real controversies are.

    What about “elementary school” don’t these people get? No, actually they understand very well what “elementary school” is about, teaching the basics, hence they want to do anything but that, and even if they do, well, they can throw a bunch of shit at what parents and teachers don’t like.

    Glen Davidson

  17. 17
    kathywood

    Precisely, Anteprepro. Why even mention religion in this bill except to be able to say, “Oh, no, this isn’t about inserting religion beliefs into the science classroom. See, we say that right here.”?

    In a bill about science curriculum, the mention of religion has no place except maybe to say no alternate theories or beliefs are to be taught which stem from religious based interpretations.

  18. 18
    peterh

    #8 said, in part:

    “Remember too that these people come from a background, theological and philosophical, which deprecates human reasoning. According to them we are irredeemably fallen and evil, and our puny senses and logic are not to be trusted, as they are Satanic traps of pride that lead one’s soul into eternal burning hellfire.”

    Betcha not one of them recognizes the recursive slippery slope in that thinking – which actually categorizes them quite thoroughly.. Sort of a perverted “quis custodet ipsos custodes?”

  19. 19
    Rey Fox

    Fortunately though, the idiocy of the State govt’s handling of funds for education and other educational priorities has prompted the growth of private and charter schools that prioritize educating students in critical thinking skills, science and math.

    Indeed fortunate for those privileged enough to be able to send their kids to one of those schools.

  20. 20
    =8)-DX

    I actually met a real life creationist this Friday (I’m in the Czech Republic). It started off with “evolutionism” being the status quo scientific explanation, but “full of holes”. I explained that if you look at the proposed “holes”, you’ll find these are things that have been explained or “filled” many years ago (most of the most common even by Darwin – having actually read the Origin I was amazed by how many “holes” he managed to plug in his last version just through calm reasoning, pointing to empirical data and experiments he had either conducted or studied). It was almost disheartening to see this person spouting the same old tired arguments (and even at the end he aknowledged life had evolved, but still held onto the “holes” idea and that humans were somehow special.)

    It really brought back to me the time our bio teacher was explaining evolutionary theory, even pointing out actual problems (are non-negative mutations common enough to produce the variation needed to evolve complex organs?) Her conclusion was that evolution happened and is happening, but that we still aren’t fully aware of the mechanisms behind it. She was a good teacher, steeped in a scientific understanding and doing her best, but sadly my creationsist upbringing led me to discount or ignore what she was saying, while her own “doubts” led me to stupidly think all the “holes” in evolution were proof of its absurdity.

    If my teacher would have realy been up to date on the evidence and modern understanding of evolution, I’m not sure if I could have held onto a creationist account of things seriously for so long. I’m pretty sure that any kind of “strengths and weaknesses” approach in schools anywhere will only lead to more confusion among kids who could otherwise use their talents in the diverse field of biology, in medicine, genetics, etc. Good and rigourous science education on biology should not include age-old creationist “arguments”, otherwise the children are the ones missing out.

  21. 21
    Crissa

    Don’t these laws basically do nothing but waste resources? If someone teaches from creationist books, it’s just replaying the last court case all over again, isn’t it?

  22. 22
    kayden

    It is sad that so many Rightwingers are okay with destroying the education of children in their states just to make a political, religious or ideological point. How will these children be able to compete with those from other countries who get proper scientific education? Parents need to sue when these silly laws get passed.

  23. 23
    digibud

    I see no problem. I’m a retired high school biology teacher. If this had passed in my state I would not have been concerned. If it had come up in class I would have explained that in our class we are going to limit ourselves to science and that there are currently no scientific explanations that disagree with the fundamentals of evolution. As a principal I would also have explained the same thing to teaching staff. I explained to my students that my job was to help them understand the best current scientific understanding of our biological world and further explained that what we know today will be added to and sometimes eclipsed by what we learn tomorrow. While some teachers might use this to support an anti-science agenda, a good teacher can also use this to prevent anti-science nonsense in his/her classroom. The courts have held that ID is religious, not scientific and I would simply hold that line.

  24. 24
    Useless

    We have a similar bill in Tennessee that is already law. Fortunately, it’s not to promote scientific inquiry. We can be proud of our law because it protects academic freedom.

    I can hardly wait to see what gets fed to our grandchildren. My youngest son took an “honors” biology course in which the teacher, before starting the section on evolution, told the students outright the she didn’t “believe in” evolution. Fortunately now she has the protection of academic freedom. I feel much better now that Casey Luskin has told us why we needed it. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/04/tennessee_gover058441.html

    In sending out his annual letter to our citizens that year, Governor Haslam listed all the important legislation he signed into law, but he forgot about giving teachers their all-important academic freedom.

  25. 25
    donnagratehouse

    I will never forget the day in June 2009 when I joined some folks at the State Capitol in Phoenix to protest harsh school budget cuts. It was a very hot day so we congregated in a big conference room in the State House building. A teacher’s union leader asked us to take out our cell phones and call our state representatives from a list they provided. I’d been chatting with a very pleasant and friendly woman sitting next to me. She was wearing a pink t-shirt to signify that she was a pink-slipped teacher (direct result of budget cuts). She leaned over and pointed to her district on the list and asked if her Senator was “one of the crazy ones”. At the time that Senator was a woman named Pamela Gorman. I told her that, yes indeed, Gorman was a nut (Google her). The nice pink-slipped public school teacher responded, “Wow! I had no idea! I just vote Republican all the way down the ballot every time.”

    And that is Arizona’s problem in a nutshell.

  26. 26
    jnorris

    Will the bill allow teachers to help the students practice their new found critical thinking skills on Abstinence Only Sex Education?

  27. 27
    miserlyoldman

    First, I want to thank you for pointing this out, because I probably wouldn’t have heard about it for a while (maybe ever) were it not for this post. Second, I live in Arizona, so I can actually write to my representative to try to do something about it. Third, I started writing my letter, and one of the co-sponsors of the bill is my damned representative. Son. Of a bitch.

    Sometimes (most times) I really hate my state.

  28. 28
    Usernames are smart

    Chemical periodicity is only a “theory”! Teach the controversy!

    “Science” teaches the earth is round. Teach the controversy!

    Why are we letting scientists poison our youth’s minds with their “theories“!?

  29. 29
    Christophe Thill

    I’m not quite sure about how the legislative process in Arizona, or in the US, works. But I see a way to modify this bill through amendments, that would turn it around on its head and make it harmless at worst, useful at best.

    Just complete the “controversies” bit to specify that these controversies don’t happen in the scientific field, but in the media and in political debate. Add that the purpose of education is to make every citizen able to make their own mind when they hear this kind of debate. And that all the elements given in class should be based on scientific consensus.

  30. 30
    MetzO'Magic

    Wow. Some of the wording in that bill is *identical* to the wording in a bill that was introduced in Colorado recently:

    State of Colorado House Bill 13-1089

    that we’ve been discussing over on Phil Plait’s blog:

    Creationism Creeps into Colorado

    Here’s some of the boilerplate stuff from the Colorado bill:

    THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY HEREBY FINDS AND DECLARES THAT AN IMPORTANT PURPOSE OF SCIENCE EDUCATION IS TO INFORM STUDENTS ABOUT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AND TO HELP STUDENTS DEVELOP CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS NECESSARY TO BECOME INTELLIGENT, PRODUCTIVE, AND SCIENTIFICALLY INFORMED
    CITIZENS. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FURTHER FINDS THAT THE TEACHING OF SOME SCIENTIFIC SUBJECTS, SUCH AS BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION, THE CHEMICAL ORIGINS OF LIFE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND HUMAN CLONING, CAN CAUSE CONTROVERSY AND THAT SOME TEACHERS MAY BE UNSURE OF THE EXPECTATIONS CONCERNING HOW THEY MAY PRESENT INFORMATION ON SUCH SUBJECTS.

    which is nearly identical to the boilerplate stuff in the Arizona bill:

    The legislature finds and declares that:

    1. An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens.

    2. The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy.

    3. Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.

    Looks like the despicable GOP fundies are coordinating their effort across multiple states.

  31. 31
    rrhain

    This isn’t original to me, but I liked the idea:

    For the science curriculum, we will do a survey of the past 10 years of peer-reviewed journal articles with regard to various “controversial” topics in order to produce a statistical breakdown of how many papers conclude whatever particular statement is to be included in the curriculum. Papers that are later retracted or otherwise shown to be faulty or fallacious will be excluded. Teaching time will then be broken down accordingly.

    Thus, if an examination of the past 10 years of biological research shows that 90% of the papers conclude that evolution is causative while 10% conclude that “intelligent design” (or whatever they’re trying to call creationism these days) is indicated, then the curriculum will spend 90% of its time explaining evolution when discussing the diversification of life on this planet and 10% of it’s time on ID.

    I have proffered this to various “teach the controversy!” proponents and none of them have ever considered it acceptable. As you can expect, they claim that science is biased against them, they can’t get published, it’s all a conspiracy, etc. But, I still say it’s a good way to go. At the very least, it lets the people who create the curriculum have some idea as to what science is actually doing.

  32. 32
    leonpeyre

    Somewhat redundantly, SB 1213 provides . . . that state and local education administrators “shall not prohibit any teacher in this state” from doing so.

    Well sure, but it’s only redundant if you take the bill at face value. That second part is meant to be armor against schools actually doing their jobs and trying to prevent teachers from implementing the bill’s real agenda, which is of course to teach a specific creation myth in place of the findings that are backed with actual evidence.

  33. 33
    goidaym8

    I suppose such bill will be redundant in public education if the US government pulls its finger out and finally institutes a national education curriculum which like Australia’s national curriculum, excludes teaching of religion in science classes. It appears that both UK and US are working together on constructing the curriculum with input from Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough, plus many others.
    Can’t wait to see the repercussions in states like Kentucky and Arizona.
    Would be fun to be a fly on the wall in Ken Ham’s office.

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