The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Indiana’s New Creationism Bill Leads the Way into an Abyss of Stupidity

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 2, 2012

**Update (2/4/12): It seems the inclusion of the “teach all views” amendment to SB89 was actually an attempt to sabotage the creationist bill, for the very reasons I have outlined below.  Read more at this link.

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There’s been a lot of news lately about a new creationism bill coming out of Indiana.  Yesterday (Jan. 31), according to the National Center for Science Education, it seems the Indiana Senate has passed the bill, and the Indiana House is also expected to pass the bill (my guess is that Gov. Mitch Daniels will also sign it into law).  If this idiotic bill becomes law then there is going to be a whole mess of trouble coming to Indiana; for the reasons why I say this, take a look at some details from the NCSE…

Indiana creationism bill passes the Senate

On January 31, 2012, the Indiana Senate voted 28-22 in favor of Senate Bill 89. As originally submitted, SB 89 provided, “The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.” On January 30, 2012, however, it was amended in the Senate to provide instead, “The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.” … [emphasis added]

Note the bolded text above.  That one line in the legislation is going to be the source of much mischief, and it is going to eventually cause really big headaches for the Indiana legislature. Unfortunately, in the meantime there are going to be a lot of kids in that state who are going to receive a more than substandard science education.  Allow me to elaborate:

1. The first thing to note within the bold text is that a requirement is to include religious explanations for the origins of life. Pardon me, but I thought we were supposed to be teaching science, not religion, in science classes.  If only there were a place to give religious views on these matters within the public schools… like in a comparative religion or philosophy class, perhaps?

So the way this bill is worded it actually requires the muddling of science and religion in the public school science classroom, which will only lead to much confusion on the part of students about what is and isn’t science.  The inevitable result will br a more scientifically illiterate populace in Indiana, one which isn’t prepared to compete in the 21st century.

But it gets worse…

2. Make note of the following text in bold above: “… include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.

Wow, talk about opening a BIG can of worms!  This phrasing, in my view, seeks to allow the creationists (most likely those of the young-earth fundamentalist Christian variety) to have their cake and eat it too.  They are going to use this phrasing as a kind of political cover for Christian YEC school board members, classroom teachers, and parent groups to put maximum pressure on local schools to favor their particular religious view of creationism to the exclusion on all others.  Here’s why I say this…

The purpose of that particular wording is to give the impression of being completely open-ended (the so-called “teach all views” argument), but note the key word: may.  That’s not a “shall” and that makes a huge difference.  By saying “may” instead of “shall”, the legislation gives free reign to the Christian YECs to include their views on creationism in public science classes (“It says we may do this…”) while coming up with a thinly veiled legal rationalization for excluding every other creationist view (“Sorry, we just don’t have the time to go into all of that now…” wink-wink).  By this dishonest sleight-of-hand, I suspect the Christian fundamentalists hope have the law pass constitutional muster since it doesn’t, on it’s face, appear to favor one religious group over another (and thus violate the separation of church and state).  Of course, how the law would actually be implemented is another story… wink-wink…

But I think there is a simple, though not easy, solution to all of this, assuming of course that the courts don’t strike down the law out of hand (which is hopefully what will happen).  Since the legislators of Indiana wish to actually enshrine the “teach all views” method in their public school science curricula, at least according to the letter of the law (if not in spirit or practice), then I say people should call their bluff.

If this stupid bill becomes law, then I think every practitioner of woo and nonsense should immediately start beating down the school board doors in Indiana, demanding “equal time” under the new law.  The Raelians (an atheistic UFO cult) should demand their time in biology class since they believe that humans were created by aliens instead of God.  The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster should also step up because they have a… different origin story.

But why stop there, Indiana?  Why not teach the four-element (air-earth-fire-water) model in chemistry classes?  Or the Stork theory in sex education courses?  Or how about allowing the Transcendental Meditationists to come teach their alternate view of gravity (where one can supposedly levitate if you just meditate really hard!) in physics class?  Hell, why not just go on and teach Holocaust denial in history classes while we’re at it?  By all means, let us call the bluff of the Indiana legislature and truly “teach all views”!

And if there is a single instance that a school board refuses to comply, sue them for breaking this wonderful new law given to the state of Indiana by its oh-so-wise legislature.  Sue them for not living up to the letter of the law.  And keep on suing them.

And the lawsuits will flow like water… and local school boards will be bogged down with lawsuit after lawsuit, feverishly attempting to find the money to deal with them rather than spending what resources they have on actual education.  And after it is all said and done, after we have truly “taught all views” in the science classroom, then perhaps there might just be a couple of weeks left in the year to teach some actual science to the poorly served students of Indiana.

And thus will Indiana water down its standards, leading the charge into an ever downwardly-spiraling abyss of ignorance and stupidity, with its young students completely  unprepared to compete in the 21st century against rising nations such as China and India (who don’t waste time with this silliness in their science classrooms).

But hey, at least science classes in Indiana will have “taught all views” :)

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8 Responses to “Indiana’s New Creationism Bill Leads the Way into an Abyss of Stupidity”

  1. Louise said

    Not only is the law rediculous it follows on the heels of a fallen bill requiring the lords prayer before school. The lines are being very blurred and unfortunately I have heard secularist who say they are fine with the admendnent to include all the religions as opposed to just one.

    My question goes to who is going to pay for new texts books or handouts. Indiana schools are already underfunded. We can barely afford teachers, some schools require kids to pay to ride the bus. Other schools have done drastic cuts in teachers, extracurriculars, and sports.

  2. This is what happens when stupid people get some power over the process of education.

  3. sillisoup said

    If there is a god, this absurd piece of legislation if passed will be struck down by the courts. (Oh, wait….)

  4. bc said

    strategy:

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/02/vi_simpson_the.php

  5. Scienceiscool said

    I personally think that the “teach all” view is much better than a bunch of ridiculous creationists coming in and trying to throw out accepted science in regards to evolution, etc. I can see how it was setup to sabotage any form of creationist only teaching which is really what creationists want. At least in the case of a teach all, the kids would be taught about other cultures and their beliefs right along with evolutionary science and then left to make their own decisions. In my opinion, if the teacher is a good one, this is a perfect way for them to also teach about critical thinking and looking at all evidence and data to form a proper opinion on a topic.

    If nothing else, it would allow for a more rounded and educated culture in regards to anthropology and sociology.

    The concern I have is the fact that the education system is struggling to just keep interest high in mathematics, science, and engineering and there is a real possibility that there just isn’t the time or resources in a school day to accomplish the above in the proper way that it should be taught and addressed.

    • Looking at the cartoon above, it is difficult to agree with you at all. Discredited theories should be given short shrift in the classroom and touched upon as examples of failed science.

      Do we give the ‘flat earth’ theory from the pre 16 century equal standing with current geographic knowledge?

      Do you want your kids learning about astrology in their astronomy curriculum?

      “The concern I have is the fact that the education system is struggling to just keep interest high in mathematics, science, and engineering and there is a real possibility that there just isn’t the time or resources in a school day to accomplish the above in the proper way that it should be taught and addressed.”

      Well, how do we get these fundaments taught in a school that is bogged down in a debate that is best confined to theological coursework? These debates have no place in a science class if you want schools to make efficient use of their time with the students.

  6. Dr_Dinosaur said

    Eh, I think if religion was taught in schools, Holocaust denial wouldn’t need to be taught, as Hitler wouldn’t look so bad. Hitler sending all those people to concentration camps for being jewish sounds a lot like a sertain someone sending people to an eternity of suffering for not believing that sertain somone’s son died for their sins. It can’t be THAT bad if god does it, right? :D
    And um. Yeah. Teaching all views might teach some people to accept one another. That’s the only benefit i see out of doing this. Plus. This won’t be taught in science class, as things need to be testable for it to be science. If anything, it will be taught in literature, as a lot of the things read in those classes are already opinionated.
    As for different religions demanding their “equal time”. That’s simply going to make schools something of a recruitment station… mine as well get individuals of different religions to go hand out pamphlets at the school’s lunch periods trying to convert them… Simply teaching little bits and pieces of specific religions that will benefit in the lesson being taught should suffice. It’s not like History and English teachers aren’t doing that already, to teach kids a little more about the time frame.

  7. [...] Indiana’s New Creationism Bill Leads the Way into an Abyss of Stupidity [...]

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