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Feb 01 2013

Whoa, Missouri…you’re not going to let this one pass, are you?

Have you seen Missourie House Bill 291? Wow, it’s pushing intelligent design, um, boldly. Like a gibbon that just sat down in a pool of sriracha sauce in a big tub of feces, that kind of “boldly”.

It starts by defining evolution in one paragraph, and by evolution we mean just common descent. It says nothing specific about mechanisms or evidence, and is most concerned that evolution denies “operation of any intelligence, supernatural event, God or theistic figure”. And then we get 12 paragraphs defining Intelligent Design, which consist mainly of pointing to biological processes and phenomena and claiming that they are the result of intelligence.

I only point out the disparity in the length of the treatments to contrast it with one of the major demands of this law: equal treatment.

(6) “Equal treatment”, the approximate equal teaching of each specified viewpoint for a single course of instruction in course textbooks as follows:

(a) Course textbooks contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint. Textbook materials include text, pictures, illustrations, graphs, tables, questions, discussion items, student exercises, teacher support material and other material supplied with the textbook, with freedom allowed the textbook publishers to arrange, substitute, or size material to provide an approximately equal teaching of each viewpoint for a specific textbook;

(b) In the absence of course textbooks which provide equal treatment, written interim material may provide alternate viewpoints, with interim textbook material developed pursuant to subsection 6 of this section as a recommended source;

No credible science textbook on the planet meets those requirements, and they’re just plain silly. Even setting aside the content, the scientific community is churning out hundreds of papers on evolutionary biology every week, we have a million scientists in biology, while Intelligent Design creationism is a fringe idea producing virtually no results of any worth, virtually no publications (and most of what they’ve got are in house journals, hothouse environments set up to protect their work from criticism), no data, no signficant complexity that needs careful pedagogical explanation—yet they’re demanding equal page counts in our textbooks?

I’m looking at our current introductory biology textbook, Life, by Sadava, Hillis, Hiller, and Berenbaum. Not counting the appendices and index, it’s 1259 pages long, it’s saturated with evolutionary biology, and it doesn’t say anything at all about intelligent design. So those authors had better get to work and make it 2518 pages long, half of it fluff, to satisfy a Missouri crackpot? Who gains from that? (Well, the textbook publishers would, I suppose.)

Their demands are also contradictory. Here’s their definition of “standard science”, which must be taught:

3. All science taught in Missouri public elementary and secondary schools, including material concerning physics, chemistry, biology, health, physiology, genetics, astronomy, cosmology, geology, paleontology, anthropology, ecology, climatology, or other science topics shall be standard science. All standard science course materials and instruction shall meet the following criteria:

(1) If empirical data is taught, only such data which has been verified or is currently capable of being verified by observation or experimentation shall be taught. Data with the appearance of empirical data which has never been verified and is currently incapable of being verified shall be identified as nonverifiable when taught orally or in writing;

(2) If scientific law is taught, written textbooks statements identified as scientific law shall have no known exceptions of verified empirical data;

(3) If scientific theory is taught, the theory shall be identified as theory when taught orally or in writing. Empirical data and conjecture may be presented to support taught theory where considered instructive. As used in this subsection, the term “theory” shall mean theory or hypothesis;

(a) If a scientific theory concerning origin or destiny is taught without the teaching of opposing scientific theory, the taught theory may be criticized by the teaching of conflicting empirical data where considered instructive;

(b) If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught. If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth’s biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course;

(c) If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a textbook, the textbook shall give equal treatment to biological evolution and biological intelligent design. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught;

(4) If an event previous to written history is taught, the event shall be supported by physical evidence. Physical evidence and data concerning the event may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning an event previous to written history as to the occurrence of the event, cause of the event, date of the event, length of time for the event to occur, subsequent effects of the event, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection;

(5) If a naturalistic process previous to written history is taught, the naturalistic process shall be duplicated by an analogous naturalistic process. Details of the analogous naturalistic process may be taught where considered instructive. Conjecture concerning a naturalistic process previous to written history as to the occurrence of the process, cause of the process, date of the process, length of time for the process to occur, process conditions, process mechanisms, process materials, or other speculative details shall be taught as theory or hypothesis as specified in subdivision (3) of this subsection;

(6) If a scientific theory or hypothesis proven to be false is taught for historical, illustrative, or other reasons, the theory or hypothesis shall be identified as false when taught orally or in writing.

So half of the pages of the textbooks must be dedicated to intelligent design, and all the pages must contain only material backed up by evidence. But intelligent design lacks evidence. If this were entered into a computer on Star Trek, it would blow up.

Pay special attention to this very interesting clause.

If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth’s biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course;

Think that through. So if you’re going to teach intelligent design, you’re either going to have to be totally silent about the identity of the designer, or you’re going to have to back up that identification with evidence. So either you’re going to teach this stuff as supported by evidence while avoiding any suggestions about how it was done by this designer, or you’re going to have teachers turning the science classroom into a Bible studies class while they trot out tired theological arguments about the nature of God.

But catch that cunning last bit: you’re also not allowed to use evidence to question the students’ faith in a nonverifiable being — an entity without evidence or contradicted by the evidence.

There isn’t going to be a single textbook on the market anywhere that meets these criteria. But they have an out: they’re going to put together a committee that will provide supplemental material on creationism of equal weight to the textbooks. And that’s where the state of Missouri will throw a big chunk of their education budget…into authoring and publishing a creationist textbook that will be given to all of their schoolkids, written by a select team of “nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design and reside in Missouri.”

There is another problem there. All of the people who are knowledgeable about both, who actually understand how science works, will also know that intelligent design creationism is bunk.

I notice the bill was introduced in August, and the last action was to refer it to the elementary and secondary ed committee; there are no hearings scheduled, and it’s not on the House calendar. I suspect that means it’s going to die the slow silent death of neglect. That’s good, but how about if you Missourians take the next step and make sure the author of the bill, Rick Brattin, and his partner in crime, Andrew Koenig, don’t get elected anymore?

47 comments

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  1. 1
    TGAP Dad

    If this were entered into a computer on Star Trek, it would blow up.

    And Harry Mudd is just the guy to do it!

  2. 2
    eric

    If a naturalistic process previous to written history is taught, the naturalistic process shall be duplicated by an analogous naturalistic process.

    So…no explaining sunshine until you set off a hydrogen bomb in class.

    Actually I guess that wouldn’t count, because hydrogen bombs are human-designed. No explaining sunhine until hydrogen fusion is observed to spontaneously occur in class.

  3. 3
    jnorris

    Ricky and Andy were only sucking up to their core electorate for the November elections. And when the bill dies in committee they become Christian martyrs in time for the next election.

  4. 4
    David Marjanović
    If a scientific theory concerning origin or destiny is taught

    All future is destiny now? How revealing.

    they’re going to put together a committee that will provide supplemental material on creationism of equal weight to the textbooks

    Equal weight – in kilograms of paper.

  5. 5
    Sastra

    Since it’s so obvious that so-called Intelligent Design lacks any actual detail or mechanism, it’s possible here that the people who wrote this bill figured that they’re in a win-win situation: either there are going to be pages and pages of criticisms of evolution with nothing concrete put in its place in a “balanced” textbook — or it’s just easier to take evolution out of biology and confine the course to teaching a bunch of unconnected facts. Either way, evolution is “defeated.”

    The idea that both sides should be “equally” represented is based on the idea that all viewpoints are equal when it comes to the evidence. What happens then is that one person chooses his or her interpretation according to their moral nature, and another person chooses their interpretation according to their moral nature. This is the sort of ‘science’ where the sheep separate themselves from the goats.

    Dumb on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start.

  6. 6
    michaeld

    (2) If scientific law is taught, written textbooks statements identified as scientific law shall have no known exceptions of verified empirical data;

    So does this mean science classes can’t teach Newtonian mechanics or quantum mechanics since they both have areas of physics they can’t explain?

  7. 7
    Alverant

    So it’s OK to present “evidence” against evolution but not show evidence against creationism.

  8. 8
    David Wilford

    I also think they authors of this bill are doing it to fleece the rubes for their votes.

  9. 9
    thisisaturingtest

    (3) If scientific theory is taught, the theory shall be identified as theory when taught orally or in writing. Empirical data and conjecture may be presented to support taught theory where considered instructive. As used in this subsection, the term “theory” shall mean theory or hypothesis;

    That’s nice; re-define “theory” out of its scientific context so you can force it into a political one, and make any crackpot viewpoint, legally, a “theory.”
    And, goddamn it- science isn’t about viewpoints, it’s about the evidence that comes first.

  10. 10
    glodson

    Just reading that bill led me to the inescapable conclusion that those who wrote the bill don’t understand science. But they want to dictate how to teach this subject they don’t understand to children. Of course, we know why.

  11. 11
    heavymetalyogi

    Equal time for ID should be proportionate. 1 class debunking the “theory.”

  12. 12
    Cynickal

    Way to shake that proudly ignorant, cousin marrying, moonshining, meth smoking, toothless hillbilly image, Missouri.

  13. 13
    roscoe

    (6) If a scientific theory or hypothesis proven to be false is taught for historical, illustrative, or other reasons, the theory or hypothesis shall be identified as false when taught orally or in writing.

    Notice how they’re equating scientific theory with scientific hypothesis. Again.

  14. 14
    Sastra

    (6) If a scientific theory or hypothesis proven to be false is taught for historical, illustrative, or other reasons, the theory or hypothesis shall be identified as false when taught orally or in writing.

    Heh, I just had a vision of this bill passing and being used to justify extensive discussion on exactly how and why we now know that creationism is false. Not a faith-belief. False.

    And then I imagined this clause being turned on the God hypothesis. Oh, glory.

  15. 15
    charlessoto

    I think some FSM textbooks should fit the bill nicely. It’s the perfect use case for FSMology.

  16. 16
    Glen Davidson

    So I understand that instead of tens of pages, or more, saying “God did it,” they’ll be saying “Something did it.”

    If an event previous to written history is taught, the event shall be supported by physical evidence.

    Like the Bible? You have nothing else for ID, unless it’s other religious texts.

    Glen Davidson

  17. 17
    Who Cares

    Roscoe(#13) wrote:

    (6) If a scientific theory or hypothesis proven to be false is taught for historical, illustrative, or other reasons, the theory or hypothesis shall be identified as false when taught orally or in writing.

    Notice how they’re equating scientific theory with scientific hypothesis. Again.

    Even better, technically Newtons explanation on how gravity works is wrong after Einsteins hypothesis got accepted as correct. The reason that Newtons version is still taught is that for 99%+ of the non relativistic uses of gravity it is a(n almost) perfect approximation and a lot easier to teach/understand.
    How much confusion do you think that something like that would cause or how much effort you’d force students through since they’d have to learn the math to understand tensors if you’d want to teach the currently correct version of how gravity works.

  18. 18
    Bronze Dog

    One question I’ve got to ask: Which Creationism? Even within the narrowed scope of Christianity, there’s no sign of a detailed consensus emerging, just the chaotic whims of convenience and fashion.

  19. 19
    Larry

    Which Creationism?

    Why, True Creationism®, of course. The kind found in the hills and hollers of Jebus-stan, located in the mountains of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and them other righteous cesspools of fundamentalist theocracy where the question if we’re descended from apes, why are there still monkeys? is considered to be the pinnacle of intellectual thought.

  20. 20
    Bronze Dog

    Why, True Creationism®, of course. The kind found in the hills and hollers of Jebus-stan, located in the mountains of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and them other righteous cesspools of fundamentalist theocracy where the question if we’re descended from apes, why are there still monkeys? is considered to be the pinnacle of intellectual thought.

    Yeah, but which one of those? ;)

    For example, where did the water for Noah’s flood come from? Vapor canopy? Comets? Hydroplate? Runaway Subduction?

    Why do astronomers see light from distant objects millions of lightyears away? Light created already en route? Speed of light used to be faster? Weird geocentrist relativity thing? Giant conspiracy by Satanic astronomers where we must not look up at the night sky because they’re trying to trick us? (My grandmother knew someone of that last hypothesis.)

    These are important questions Creationism needs to answer, but I can never seem to get the same answer twice in a row, much less expect a consensus.

  21. 21
    cicely

    So it’s OK to present “evidence” against evolution but not show evidence against creationism.

    Pretty much.
    -

  22. 22
    EvoMonkey

    I suspect that means it’s going to die the slow silent death of neglect.

    That is good, but I would not be surprised if nearly the same legislation or part of it rears it’s beastly head in other states (of Jebus-stan). Conservative religious and creationist organizations may try to team up with legislative exchange organizations to get this passed through another more receptive state legislature.

  23. 23
    kantalope

    I had the same thought as Michaeld – “(2) If scientific law is taught, written textbooks statements identified as scientific law shall have no known exceptions of verified empirical data;”

    no laws until they are complete and no anomalies – no newton, and no teaching that light acts like a wave because sometimes it is a particle and no light as a particle because sometimes it is a wave.

    Not even thermodynamics because you know there are exceptions there too: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12366122

    so…no Science for you!

    Maybe it is time for a science experiment – we may need to run it by the ethics committee first though – let Missouri ban science and then we can see what happens. Maybe have a relocation program for those who want out and a way for Texans to opt-in (you know they want too)…and then we will need some isolation protocols and let the outcomes fall where they may.

  24. 24
    Richard Smith

    And of course, with all these sections barring teaching of any theories, laws, etc. that have any contradictions or uncertainties, all they’ll be left with is the Bible, which is completely internally consistent, and has no contradictions whatsoever, and everything within it has been absolutely proven to be true…

  25. 25
    Subtract Hominem, a product of Nauseam

    Glen Davidson @ 16

    So I understand that instead of tens of pages, or more, saying “God did it,” they’ll be saying “Something did it.”

    Perhaps “The CDesigneror did it.”

  26. 26
    Lance Finney

    I wrote about this last week: http://lmfinney.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/its-back-intelligent-design-bill-reintroduced-in-missouri/.

    Please check out the post to see a letter I wrote to the sponsor and his co-sponsors. Fortunately, I got a good response from my Democratic Representative that she agrees with good science education, but I never heard back from the sponsors.

    Additionally, I posted the same on Brattin’s Facebook:
    https://www.facebook.com/ElectRickBrattin/posts/367013523397449

    Interestingly, Brattin deleted a lot of other people’s comments on his timeline about his issue, but he left mine alone. Maybe because other comments were often insulting.

  27. 27
    Lance Finney

    Addendum: I copied my Representative on the email I sent to Brattin and the other co-sponsors, and my Rep responded that she opposed the bill and supports real science education. Yea!

    Unfortunately, Republicans have a supermajority in both houses in Missouri – if they want this bill, there’s nothing that my Rep or the Democratic governor can do to stop it.

  28. 28
    vaiyt

    (1) If empirical data is taught, only such data which has been verified or is currently capable of being verified by observation or experimentation shall be taught. Data with the appearance of empirical data which has never been verified and is currently incapable of being verified shall be identified as nonverifiable when taught orally or in writing;

    Translation: “We want to rule out the abiogenesis hypotheses, but we don’t realise this also rules out the entire field of ID”.

    Comedy gold.

  29. 29
    Rip Steakface

    What is teaching creationism in public schools but Big Government(tm) forcing its will upon students?

    Oh wait, Big Government(tm) is okay when it’s subjecting people to your moralistic, science-denying beliefs.

  30. 30
    anatman

    we must enforce this now! how dare they not teach TIME CUBE!

  31. 31
    grumpyoldfart

    I wonder how much cash Koenig and Brattin received from the lobbyists.

  32. 32
    texasaggie

    “nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design and reside in Missouri.”

    I suspect that this isn’t just a number picked out of the air. It very likely represents people already identified as being part of the ID movement who these two dorks already know.

    Yesterday I finished Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, and the last chapter by Eugenia Scott about antievolutionism in America had these guys and their strategies described and explained. She discussed the reasons for all their points in how they are planning to sidestep the legal hurdles to actually teach ID without letting in any mention of a deity. You wonder if these people are bright enough to manage their own bank accounts.

  33. 33
    Brain Hertz

    michaeld @ 6:

    So does this mean science classes can’t teach Newtonian mechanics or quantum mechanics since they both have areas of physics they can’t explain?

    You beat me to it… somehow I think the people who drafted these rules would just stare at you blankly if you pointed this out, though.

  34. 34
    Worldtraveller

    So, they had a hard time getting this stuff through in KS, so they went next door?

  35. 35
    shadow

    Camel’s Nose response? If they get one state to pass something like this bill. they’ll have a better chance (in their minds) of getting other jebus-stani states to go along with similar laws.

  36. 36
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    As much as one tries to be charitable, it is exceedingly difficult to conclude that the authors of this bill are not only stupid, but that they exult in their own stupidity. It seems to me that we need to institute a series of public service announcements:

    “This is your brain. This is your brain on Xtianity. Any questions?”

  37. 37
    John Pieret

    This bill is identical to one introduced in Missouri in 2012 that died in committee:

    http://ncse.com/news/2013/01/intelligent-design-bill-missouri-0014690

    I suspect it’s going nowhere this year either for the simple reason that even the Discovery [sic] Institute will work against it, since they wouldn’t want another Disaster in Dover on their hands.

  38. 38
    Matt G

    Equal treatment? How about “treatment in proportion to the evidence”?

  39. 39
    anchor

    “Whoa, Missouri…you’re not going to let this one pass, are you?”

    Like a 300-pound kidney stone, but it must out

    Along with the authors responsible for afflicting the body politick

    Yes, for “cunning”, though “bold“, scoundrels they are

  40. 40
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Look, an intelligent designer won’t have missed this loophole:

    Although the pages must be equal, the colors used and font sizes don’t have to be. Print out 1200 pages of offensively neon vomit-green that, when assembled correctly, spell in huge letters of the same order of magnitude of, say, a small glyph in the Atacama,

    “Intelligent design proposes”…

    And, we’re done.

  41. 41
    Tapetum, Raddled Harridan

    If you have to demonstrate the proposed process in the classroom, then I’m having a vision of a teacher standing in the middle of the class intoning “LIFE!!!” in portentous tones. If life was created by intelligent design, and we’re intelligent (I’ll allow that this is extremely dubious when it comes to some Missouri legislators), then shouldn’t we be able to design our own life right in front of the kids?

  42. 42
    ChasCPeterson

    There could be coloring. Of, like, bacterial flagella and mousetraps and stuff. Plus puzzles, brain-teasers…like, calculating various astronomical probablities, exercises to show that if you’re going to design something, you have to use your intelligence…get it?
    Like that. It won’t be a total waste.

  43. 43
    Ichthyic

    Ricky and Andy were only sucking up to empowering their core electorate for the November elections

    which makes it even worse, since you believe they actually know better, right?

    when you empower bad ideas for personal gain, this actually is the VERY WORST THING a politician can do.

    there actually should be laws against THAT.

  44. 44
    Ichthyic

    I suspect it’s going nowhere this year either for the simple reason that even the Discovery [sic] Institute will work against it, since they wouldn’t want another Disaster in Dover on their hands.

    I no longer think the discotute has a coherent plan of action beyond milking delusional rich folks of their money.

    seems more and more obvious all the time; they saw that people like Ahmanson were waving cash around, and took the opportunity.

  45. 45
    Ichthyic

    somehow I think the people who drafted these rules would just stare at you blankly if you pointed this out, though.


    …but WHY does Brawndo have electrolytes?

  46. 46
    AJS

    I look forward to reading a Missouri textbook on television repair. I expect it will devote an equal amount of space to the idea that television sets contain tiny people who act out all the shows as to the idea that a cathode ray tube works by varying the strength of a beam of electrons traversing the back of a sensitised screen which glows depending upon the intensity of the electron beam.

  47. 47
    phoenicianromans

    Like the Bible? You have nothing else for ID, unless it’s other religious texts.

    Nothing wrong with that.

    “Here’s the evidence for intelligent creation – the Assyrians said the Storm God wanked the universe out, the Aborigines said a Kangaroo hopped through space and sang the universe into creations, the hebrews said a Sky God spoke it into existence, and the Arklesnetchers says that God sneezed it all up.”

    Put Christian origin mythology in context with other mythologies, and they all look ridiculous.

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