Science Under Attack

Self-proclaimed “science buff” and Missouri State Representative, R. Rick Brattin, has sponsored yet another piece of anti-evolution legislation. The bill would redefine scientific terms to make “intelligent design” seem legitimate enough to be taught alongside evolution, and would mandate an equal number of textbook pages for the teaching of evolutionary theory and thinly veiled creationism and “destiny.”

Should it pass, the “Missouri Standard Science Act” would require the appointment of a nine-person committee to provide supplemental material until new textbooks are printed. The cost of printing thousands of books to give equal attention to a nonscientific idea will be another burden for the state to bear in an already underfunded education system.

HB 291 is the sixth anti-evolution bill of 2013, and would affect primary, secondary and public higher education institutions. While the idea of teaching nonscience in a science classroom is bad enough, a closer look at the verbiage of the bill and its new definitions is more than a little bit baffling:

“Destiny: the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race and which may be founded upon faith-based philosophical beliefs.

“Hypothesis: a scientific theory reflecting a minority of scientific opinion which may lack acceptance because it is a new idea, contains faulty logic, lacks supporting data, has significant amounts of conflicting data, or is philosophically unpopular.

“Scientific theory: an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy. The inferred explanation may be proven, mostly proven, partially proven, unproven or false and may be based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate.”

More than half of all U.S. states are feeling the pressure to teach so-called intelligent design alongside evolution, or are subject to anti-evolution proposals including lawsuits. As John Heywood, a professor of biology at Missouri State University put it: “It’s bad science and that makes it bad education.”

Redefining these key terms to lend scientific credibility where there is none is a dishonest and deliberate attempt to validate and impose the religious beliefs of few people in power onto the many. Elementary school children will be subjected to criticism of the scientific method from an early age, learning that well-established and confirmed scientific theories may be false or fail to be acknowledged simply because they are “unpopular.”

We in the WIL fight for quality education for all and for strict separation of church and state. This bill would completely undermine the education of our youth, not to mention our basic freedoms. Wealthy politicians are playing political games at the expense of the quality of our science programs. They are stifling the potential of the future working class of America. In a world of misinformation and ignorance, we should be bettering education, not selling it for the sake of cheap political tactics and career advancement. As long as capitalism continues, we can expect profits and obscurantism to trump reason and the well-being of all.


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