We have seen a lot of anti-science activities at the Federal government level that are scary. Massive reductions in Federal budgets for the EPA and National Institutes of Health are bad enough for those of us who support science research and education. But the emboldened right wing, at the state level, are pushing all types of anti-science legislation that will have a profound effect on how we teach science to our children. We need to pay attention to this.
I thought it would be beneficial for us to take a look at the states that are pushing anti-science legislation since the November 2016 election, when a lot of state legislatures’ composition changed (or remained the same). In general, this legislation focuses on anti-evolution and anti-climate change beliefs pushed by the right wing.
Missouri and Oklahoma have been at the forefront of the 2012 Republican push to add anti-science curriculum to public school science curricula in the form of creationism (apparently in the guise of Intelligent design). These initiatives fly in the face of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US constitution, which simply states,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Over the years, several court rulings have clarified this clause to cover any public institution, such as publicly funded schools. The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed lower court rulings that specifically state that the teaching of creationism in public schools violates the Establishment Clause. In McLean v. Arkansas, the judge ruled that creation science is not science because it depends on a supernatural intervention; in Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme Court affirmed a ruling that a Louisiana law requiring the teaching of “creation science” was unconstitutional because it advanced a particular religious viewpoint; and in Kitzmiller v. Dover, a district court judge ruled that Intelligent design was another form of creationism (read that as religion).
So despite those very solid legal precedents, Indiana’s Senate Bill 89 will force public schools to teach creation science (which isn’t a science, other than incorrectly using the word science). Opposition to the bill is starting to appear, including religious individuals who find that creation science is “propounding pseudoscience of their own invention that is neither biblical nor scientific…”
It is ironic (or just plain cynical) that the same individuals who profess that there is some magical quality in the US Constitution are also the first to push laws that are in clear violation of one of the most basic tenets of that same constitution.