Minnesota lawmakers jump the gun

It’s true: the Minnesota Senate has passed a modification to an education bill that would prohibit the teaching of intelligent design.

16.12 Sec. 4. Minnesota Statutes 2004, section 120B.021, is amended by adding a
16.13 subdivision to read:
16.14 Subd. 2a. Curriculum. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the Department
16.15 of Education, a charter school, and a school district are prohibited from utilizing a
16.16 nonscientifically based curriculum, such as intelligent design, to meet the required science
16.17 academic standards under this section.

This is not a law yet, and I don’t expect it will be. The senate version of the bill has to be reconciled with the house version, and the house version does not include this addendum. It will probably vanish without comment.

I have mixed feelings about it. It’s reasonable to expect that science requirements cannot be met by non-science curricula, and on that principle, the limitation is reasonable. However, I don’t like the idea of politicians with little training in the subject trying to dictate what is and isn’t science. Just say that a course should address the content specified by the state science standards, which were written by a committee of citizen educators and scientists, rather than trying to specify details by way of legal statutes.

Besides, maybe the intelligent design crowd will get off their butts and do experiments and develop evidence that actually makes their wild-ass guess scientific, and then this law would look awfully silly.

(Yeah, I’m smirking cynically and laughing as I write that.)


  1. deadman_932 says

    Yeah, I’m not real keen on having science “codified” in this fashion, but maybe now Dembski and the boys will feel more obligated to start whipping out that hard-core evidence they keep yammering about. *snort*

  2. Halo Thane says

    “However, I don’t like the idea of politicians with little training in the subject trying to dictate what is and isn’t science.”

    Well, a judge with no specialised training in the scientific method DID manage to figure out that ID is not science.

    Again, maybe talkorigins and blogs like this aimed at the public have succeeded in having an effect on their intended audience, and maybe there is really a backlash against creationism, in some limited way. I have no proof to offer in this regard, I’m afraid.

    Not that I have as many years of training as Doctors Behe and Dembski, by the way.

  3. says

    Mixed feelings for me, too. A judge deciding a case is quite a different situation than a bunch of legislators debating points, engaging in tit-for-tat and you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-ride-on-yours (or I’ll-put-a-rider-on-your-bill) games, etc. What is likely to emerge even if the addedum survives is a mushy mess. Better to leave it alone.

    Judge Jones’ ruling did not decide what science was, but rather ruled on the true aims and motivations of the upstart school board members in Dover. I wouldn’t like to have such a case be subject to a jury’s vote, even, considering that juries are increasingly being influenced by the unrealistic standards for evidence presented in T.V. shows like “CSI” (which everyone knows is “just fiction,” right?).

  4. says

    I actually don’t have that much of a problem with this, since it doesn’t actually prohibit teaching intelligent design; it merely ensures that ID will not be sufficient to meet state performance guidelines. They can teach ID all they want–the students just have to produce reality-based output.

  5. says

    (Yeah, I’m smirking cynically and laughing as I write that.)

    And yet you managed a reasonable and rational argument against something the nutters would claim as part of the War on Religion.

    Well done, boss.

  6. Ian H Spedding says

    You have to admit, though, Minnesota seems to have its heart in the right place. It even provide employment for professors of biology who are a few tentacles short of a complete cephalopod.

    And now we have confirmation of how nice the people are there – or for Minneapolitan courtesy, at least