I wrote yesterday’s blog as an introduction to today’s because two states are pushing for legislation that is stirring the pot over the controversial subject of teaching evolution in our public schools.
The state of New Hampshire has proposed two bills which would require teachers in public schools to teach the theory of evolution as more of a philosophy than science. House Bill 1148 would “require evolution to 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.”
New Hampshire’s HB 1457, doesn’t specifically mention evolution but would “require 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, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”
While scientists agree that new discoveries can overturn old ideas, they argue that the theory of evolution, which they say is too well-established, cannot be tossed aside.
Zen Faulkes, a biology professor at the University of Texas, Pan America, said, “Bill 1457 turns skepticism into bewilderment. It would ask teachers to say to students, ‘Don’t commit to the hypothesis that uranium has more protons than carbon,’ or ‘Remember, kids, tomorrow we might find out that DNA is not the main molecule that carries genetic information.’ Evolution is as much a fact as either of those things, so it should be taught with the same confidence.”
Religious conservatives, like Republican State Rep. Gary Hopper, who helped introduce HB 1457 with district mate John Burt, feel that teaching the theory of evolution teaches students that life is simply an accident. “I want to introduce children to the idea that they have a purpose for being here,” Hopper told the Concord Monitor.
Hopper went on to say that he would like public schools to teach intelligent design; the idea that a creator sparked the creation of life, but he refrained from requiring that in this bill since other attempts to do so have failed across the country.
In February, these two bills will be discussed in hearings in the state’s House Education Committee, but David Brooks, a Nashua Telegraph columnist who has been following their progress, said that bills regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools are rare in this state, and the last time the state had an issue over evolution was in 1994.
Brooks explained that New Hampshire, with a population of 1.3 million, has 400 state representatives who get paid $100 a year for their service. He told LiveScience, “Most of them are volunteers, many of them are retirees, so a lot of unusual bills get proposed. So the fact that an unusual bill gets proposed in New Hampshire is not always as big a deal as it would be in other states.”
At the same time, a state senator from Indiana has introduced a bill that would permit school boards to require their teachers to teach creationism. State Senate Bill 89, would require that “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.”
Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit organization in Oakland, California, told LiveScience, “This is a bill that directly promotes the teaching of creation science. What a dinosaur. Bills specifically saying ‘Thou shalt teach creation science’ haven’t been around for a couple of decades.”
And there’s a reason for that; a Supreme Court decision in 1987 in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard declared the teaching of creationism as science in public schools was unconstitutional. Therefore, any laws that require the teaching of creationism would be thrown out by the courts.
Scott, who is keeping a close eye on this legislation and other state legislatures around the country, said, “Teaching students that scientific explanations that are not controversial are controversial is mis-educating them. And that’s why these bills are bad.”
As a Christian, I confess that it would be difficult for me to teach high school students the theory of evolution without also presenting the theory of creationism. Shouldn’t students be given all of the facts and give them the opportunity to dissect and explore the two theories on their own? Since neither theory can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, why will schools not allow both views to be presented?
I understand the separation of church and state, but one can teach creationism without advocating that students believe this theory, just as one can teach evolution without forcing students to accept this theory. Why are we so afraid to present both, allowing teachers to lay out the facts of both theories without any personal commentary, and let students figure it out for themselves?
Is that really so scary?