Indiana Senate committee approves creationist legislation

My dad emailed me this news report with the quote “Another reason to be glad you’re not living in Indiana.” From NWI Times (our local newspaper!):

An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, despite pleas from scientists and religious leaders to keep religion out of science classrooms.

Senate Bill 89 allows school corporations to authorize “the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life” and specifically mentions “creation science” as one such theory.

State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who voted for the measure, said if there are many theories about life’s origins, students should be taught all of them.

But John Staver, professor of chemistry and science education at Purdue University, said evolution is the only theory of life that relies on empirical evidence from scientific investigations.

“Creation science is not science,” Staver said. “It is unquestionably a statement of a specific religion.”

The Rev. Charles Allen, head of Grace Unlimited, an Indianapolis campus ministry, said students would be served better by teaching religion comparatively, rather than trying to “smuggle it in” to a science course.

The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee nevertheless voted 8-2 to send the legislation to the full Senate.

What? Indiana is being backwards and ignorant? I am shocked – shocked, I say!

Dear Indiana legislators,

What you are doing is unconstitutional. That is not an opinion of mine – the Supreme court decided this in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). Your attempt to weasel Christianity into public science classrooms is going to fail. You can either choose to vote it down now, or you can waste years of time and money in a pointless legal battle. Not to mention your continued efforts to destroy science make intelligent young people like me dying to evacuate the state and never come back. You wonder why you have a brain drain? This is it.

Indiana voters – figure out your Senate district here and send your state Senator a reminder about why creationism has no place in a science classroom.


  1. Silly Walker says

    Dear Indiana Legislators,
    Does that mean that you’ll be teaching Pastafarianism? It is, after all a ‘theory concerning the origin of life”. The prophet Bobby already had to send a letter to the Kansas school board regarding this stupid idea, so kindly stop this nonsense now so he doesn’t have to send another.

  2. unbound says

    “Indiana voters – figure out your Senate district here and send your state Senator a reminder about why creationism has no place in a science classroom.”

    And tell them to stop wasting state money on something that will only result in lawsuits that the state will lose.

  3. Arancaytar says

    What you are doing is unconstitutional.

    I suppose it is too optimistic to hope that they get yet another student willing to fight that at the risk of ostracism. We need more people like Jessica, Damon and Harrison.

  4. Tom Singer says

    Last time this came up, I wondered what exactly a “school corporation” is, and whether it was something different than the regular public school system, or if that’s just what they called a school board in Indiana. Nobody gave much of a response, other than to say, “these are public schools”. A quick Googling doesn’t turn much up. Can anybody expand on that?

  5. says

    You know. I think they SHOULD teach Creation “Science”. I mean, it would be a great way to show how the scientific method works by demonstrating what an utter failure creation “science” is at matching up to reality. I have actually done that exercise with my kids. When the hypothesis (god did it) is untenable, there is no science. Very simple, short lesson.

  6. imnotspecial says

    This might actually be a good thing. What is being taught in Creationism? If the students have paid attention to evolution then they will have quite a bit of fun with the teacher who thinks he can convince them that a god created a man out of mud and later on was told by this man that he needs a woman because he is lonely. Great story.

    Is creationism perhaps trying to point out as of yet unexplained aspects of evolution?

    Evolution is the best answer, the only answer to the mystery of life. Don’t you think students will recognize which is true and which is a fable?

  7. says

    “If the students have paid attention to evolution…”

    The problem is, in some places teachers are not allowed to properly teach evolution. The teachers that try get calls from irate parents and can’t teach it properly and sometimes give up all together. (I don’t have a reference, but I’m sure I’ve read stories to that effect a few times)

  8. josh says

    Penn State did a study, published in Science in january, 2011, indicating 60% of teachers didn’t teach evolution according to standards, mostly because they were concerned about wasting time on controversy, and not being able to teach.

  9. WingedBeast says

    Well, go ahead, teach the “different theories.”

    The “different theories”, in science, to explain biological diversity are all evolutionary theories. Because, to be a theory, you have to have some evidence backing you up.

    Then, encourage any student who wishes to back up Creation Science or Intelligent Design or whatever to find evidence with the understanding that science does not eliminate magic/God/whatever a-priori but searches for evidence and finds only an echoing void.

  10. josh says

    The problem is that too many either want to teach creationism, or are afraid to teach evolution.

    In other words, they won’t give students the tools to decide for themselves.

  11. eoleen says

    I “volunteer” (IF they’ll pay my expenses and a nice per diem…) to go to that benighted state and reveal to the students the TRUTHS of the Norse creation myths…

    It seems there was this cow, and some salt, and…

    Makes more sense than genesis…

  12. Amanda M. says

    Wait, it says religious leaders are also against it!! Who exactly is supporting this? Who are they getting votes from? BOTH sides of the controversy AGREE that this is a bad move! My brain… it’s melting…

  13. says

    They don’t try to amend the Constitution because its way too hard and will put far too much emphasis on what they’re trying to do. Take a look at this from Wikipedia:

    In the first step, the proposed Amendment must find a national super majority of 67% in Congress, both House (people) and Senate (states). The second step requires a super-super 75% majority of the states ratifying, representing a majority of the people in the states ratifying. Congress determines whether the state legislatures or special state conventions ratify the amendment.

    Now the “Red States” would probably ratify, and perhaps even some of the “Blue States”, but if they tried to open up the First Amendment to allow the inclusion of Religion in Government, which is basically what would need to happen for this to be legal, it’d cause one heck of a crap storm.

    You’d have leaders from every Religion vying for access to the Government to have specific laws enacted to bolster their faith. Even the “Christians” would start fighting each other over which interpretation of their faith would take dominance. Sectarian violence would start up almost right away as they vie for domination to ensure that the Government endorses only their particular brand of Religion.

    Lawmakers know this, so what they do is they play this little game so they can get just a taste of what they want in the hopes that no-one will complain too loudly. If people do start to complain then the hope is they don’t have standing to sue and that if it takes too long for a “valid” complaint its now tradition and so it becomes harder to get rid of.

    Its the long game they’re going for, though personally I think it should be against the law to propose a law that violates the Constitution. In effect, any agent of the State who tries should be immediately and forcibly ejected from office and barred from acting in any official Government capacity ever again. Or perhaps if the law is later found to be unconstitutional through a legal challenge any and all privileges earned while in office shall be immediately revoked (no nice pension for you) and, if you’re still in office, you will be immediately recalled and barred from running ever again.

    As a Canadian I can’t put that idea up on We The People but I’m betting if some American with excellent word-smithing skills could re-write that and the 25,000+ signatures required for the official response.

  14. says

    If the Senate does pass this and it becomes law, the ACLU will quickly find a plaintiff and file suit. But they will be the only ones to waste money trying to beat back the wingnuts yet again.

    The State will probably get the ACLJ or Alliance Defense Fund to represent it for free. They’ll lose, but it won’t cost them a penny.

  15. nerdC says

    I looked it up, and yes, this is the same state that tried to pass a law to define the value of pi. Actually, it is crazier than that. It tried to promote a method for squaring the circle (a known impossibility) and the wrong values of pi just sort of got included in. Somehow it is the wrong value of pi that it is best known for.

    That was over 100 years ago. The bill passed the state House and almost made it through the state Senate. Not everyone was a complete idiot about math back then. Wikipedia reports: “but the Speaker accepted another member’s recommendation to refer the bill to the Committee on Swamplands, where the bill could “find a deserved grave”. Now there’s an idea!

    Anyhow, in any discussion of mathematical crankiness, Indiana and the pi bill usually come up. There should be someway to threaten them with another 100 years of ridicule if they pass this.

  16. Freerefill says

    Here we go again.

    Kitzmiller vs Dover, Round 2! Fight!

    “cdesign proponentists”

    … Fatality!

  17. sqlrob says

    That’s backwards. The elephants are standing on the turtle.

    The big controversy is the sex of the turtle.

  18. longstreet63 says

    Well, I did this, for what it’s worth. I live in a gerrymandered Republican district in west Indianapolis. I don’t know if you engaged politicians much before your escape, but it’s made pretty clear that ‘my’ Republican legislator is a representative ONLY for Republicans in my district, and this continues on a state a national level.
    As long as they get to draw their own voting districts, and people still vote like herds of sheep, then they will have no necessity to do anything else.
    Senator Delph does not work for me. He works for the Indiana Republican Party. If they were going to show sense, they’d not have passed the thing out of committee.

  19. badandfierce says

    Oh, come on, Indiana! It’s bad enough I’ll probably have to be in Terre Haute for six years or so while I get my Ph.D. Terre Haute is plenty bad enough by itself without crazy nonsense clawing at the door. I’m going to a biology department, for fuck’s sake…

  20. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    specifically mentions “creation science”

    What’s with the backslide?
    I thought they had been getting getting sneakier about this.
    1. Creation Science
    2. Intelligent Design
    3. Academic Freedom

  21. Dwayne says

    Like I’ve noted on a couple of other sites – this type of legislation is a blatant shoving of campaign costs onto the state.

    The legislators do this to get votes, seem the most conservative, knowing that it will fail in court. The trick is that the state is on the hook for the bill – not them, and not their campaign.

    The real long term solution to this is to be able to hold individual legislators personally liable for all costs incurred by the state defending laws that have clear, settled legal precedent against the law as enacted and can be sued by residents of the state for any harm incurred while said law was in effect.

    In short, if you knowingly pass unconstitutional laws – you’re on the hook.

  22. mikedillon says

    Please pity me. I live in Indiana. I am so ashamed. We already have gov’t issued license plates that say “In god we Trust”. Completely embarassing. Also, we’re scheduled to become the next right-to-work state, the first in a decade. Because, you know, small gov’t conservatism means writing legislation preventing companies from contracting with labor unions. Wholly maddening.

    And now the fundies want to push their garbage on everyones children. Having the freedom to teach their own children whatever they wish isn’t enough, they have to shove it down the throats of everyone.

    I believe that the republican-creationist agenda is to dumb down the population, disassemble the middle class and create an obedient, low-wage workforce.

    Considering moving to Toronto.

  23. says

    I don’t understand why Indiana keeps on shooting itself in the foot. A public transportation bill died in committee but this creationism bill made it through? It’s all so wrong.

  24. echidna says

    The legislators do this to get votes, seem the most conservative, knowing that it will fail in court.

    But this is the bit I don’t understand. If a politician sets something up for a costly failure, surely he’s a liability, not an asset to the cause, whether it’s a deliberate campaign strategy or just sheer ignorance.

    So assuming it’s strategy, how does this sort of campaign promotion work? Is it that too many people just don’t understand the basics of the constitution, or do they simply not care, and are responding to the expensive dog-whistle they are paying for?

  25. Dwayne says

    Pretty sure it is both – given the embarrassing display of lack of constitutional knowledge in the Jessica Ahlquist case, and the rabid responses. I’m sure many would easily raise the funds needed to cover the costs – given the deep pockets of religious organizations overall.

  26. otrame says

    They don’t intend to actually pass the laws. They just want to point to the fact that they proposed them and were shot down by those damned liberal atheists. It’s just a way to get reelected.

  27. F says

    Tom Singer

    That just means that the schools aren’t part of the same corporation as the city or whatever incorporated entity.

  28. Rod Rose says


    Public schools in Indiana are generally called “xxxxx community school corporation.” While the “board of school trustees” technically regulates the corporation, the day-to-day operation is up to the corporation’s superintendent, who is hired by the school board. Boards are elected, but it’s almost impossible to fire a superintendent; one almost has to be literally caught buggering a cat to be got rid of. The board has very little to do with what happens in the classrooms, although many of the trustees will get very shirty if you point that out.

    Otrame: Yes, they DO want to pass the law. Never underestimate the stupidity of a Republican member of the General Assembly.

  29. Tom Singer says

    Thanks for the clarification. I’m curious if it’s just the terminology that’s different, or if there is some practical difference in the way a school corporation is run in Indiana versus a school district in, say, Florida. But it doesn’t sound like there’s an out for someone claiming that school corporations are not the same as public schools, and the 1st amendment doesn’t apply in the same way.

  30. JoeBuddha says

    Wasn’t that the true Reagan Revolution? That you only need to represent the people who actually voted for you? Or has it always been that way?

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