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The New Assault on Evolution
Math students should know up front that the hypotenuse of a right triangle is a direct product of polytheism.
Which statement do you agree with:
More than 150 years after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, the well-established science of evolution continues to be under attack by the forces of anti-science. This time the battles are being fought in state legislatures around the country.
Undaunted by the crushing defeat handed to them in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case, which ruled that Intelligent Design was not science and could not be taught in science classes, creationists have begun introducing legislation to undermine the teaching of this foundational theory of biology. While these approaches may deserve credit for their creativity in crafting logical fallacies, they reveal a thorough lack of understanding of - and indeed a great disdain for - basic scientific principles.
In New Hampshire, a pair of bills seek to weaken the state's evolution education curriculum with some unnecessary insertion of philosophy.One of these proposed laws, House Bill 1457, would require New Hampshire science teachers to "instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established." This rather tautological language seems innocuous at first. The history of science is filled with examples of new theories overturning old ideas, as indeed the theory of evolution by natural selection did when it was first proposed.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gary Hopper (R-District 7), has no such high-minded motives for his legislation. Rep. Hopper, according to Nashua Telegraph "Granite Geek" columnist David Brooks, is specifically targeting the science of evolution because, well, it hurts his feelings. "[T]he conclusion is that we're a bunch of accidents," he told Brooks in an interview last summer, "...you really have no purpose for existence."
Hopper has also voiced his support for teaching of Intelligent Design, arguing the typical creationist rhetoric that life is to complex to have evolved naturally and thus had to have been created. While this statement may be useful to forensics students as a textbook example of an argument from ignorance, it is certainly not valid science.
Attacking the Witness
While HB1457 tries to inject reasonable doubt into the case of evolution, House Bill 1148 is a direct attack on the character of its witnesses. Introduced by District 17 legislator Rep. Jerry Bergevin (R), this bill would require that evolution be "taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism."
It is rather interesting that only evolutionary biologists have been singled out for this political, ideological, and religious scrutiny. If a scientist's political and religious views have the ability to alter the fossil record, erase genetic evidence, and negate instances of observed speciation that show allele frequency changing over time, surely they can be just as damaging to the heliocentric model or the periodic table.
While we're at it, why stop at science? Economics students might be surprised to know that Adam Smith was possibly a Christianity-rejecting deist, for example. And math students should know up front that the hypotenuse of a right triangle is a direct product of polytheism.
A Multi-Front War
These New Hampshire bills are just two examples of a growing nationwide trend. In the past year, bills requiring or encouraging the teaching of "alternate theories" of the origin of the diversity of life have been proposed in Indiana, Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, according to the National Center for Science Education.
While many of these bills have, thankfully, died during the legislative process, the occasional anti-science bill slips through. In 2008, the Louisiana State Education Act was signed into law, calling on educators in the state to promote "open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." This provision has since been used to support proposals to teach creationism in several Louisiana parishes, and survived an attempted repeal earlier this year.
Perhaps one of the most ironic examples of modern-day evolution can be found in the ever-changing nature of creationist tactics as they adapt to new legal and political environments.
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