Not all anti-evolution legislation has been introduced in the southern or midwestern areas of the USA. Two bills were introduced in New Hampshire, one of the few Republican areas of the northeastern part of the country. Today, it was reported that a New Hampshire House committee dismisses bills on evolution.
The first bill, House Bill 1148, would have forced the state board of education to “[r]equire 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.” Of course, from a scientific point-of-view, a scientific theory is about as close to a “fact” as you will find in science. Evolution is a fact. Although most atheists accept evolution (I’m always shocked to find a few atheists who dispute the fact of evolution), not everyone who accepts evolution is an atheist. Like the whole Catholic Church, whose doctrine accepts evolution.
The second bill, House Bill 1457, would have directed board of education to “[r]equire 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.” The bill’s goal was to push intelligent design. Again, on the surface, that’s how science works.
However, based on the vast mountain of evidence supporting evolution, it would require an amazing discovery to force us to reject the fact of evolution. There’s the old joke about Precambrian Rabbits, which essentially says that if we find a rabbit fossil in Precambrian, which ended about 542 million years ago, about 500 million years before the first ancestors of rabbits evolved in the early Eocene. I would argue that there was an error in determining the age of the rock layer where the fossil was found way before I would start rejecting evolution.
Since the New Hampshire House is dominated by Republicans (they hold nearly ¾ of the seats in the House), there would be no way to stop this bill from going all the way to governor (a Democrat who probably would have vetoed it, but with the huge majority, they may have overridden the veto.
But there is good news.
❝”In this committee, we’ve always taken the policy not to recommend what subjects the school teaches,” said Rep. Ralph Boehm, a Litchfield Republican and vice chairman of the education committee, discussing the first bill.
“This bill is going a bit further and would recommend down to what they teach in a subject.” That authority is reserved in state statutes for local school boards, committee members said.
In moving to dismiss the second bill, Rep. Joseph Pitre of Farmington said only “ditto.”❞
Cynically speaking, clearly the Republicans knew that there wasn’t public support for creationism in the state, and even with ¾ of the House, that could go away this year.
Unfortunately, it’s not over yet. In the New Hampshire House rules, a committee vote is more of a recommendation, so the full House may yet vote for it and move it to the Senate for consideration. But it’s unlikely.
For more information: New Hampshire antievolution bills dismissed | NCSE