Evolution Debate in Missouri (1-04-05)
On December 1, 2004, House Bill 35 was introduced in the Missouri
House of Representatives. (Although the legislature is not in session
until January 5, 2005, in Missouri it is possible to "prefile"
bills and resolutions in order to expedite legislation.) HB 35 would
"All biology textbooks sold to the public schools of the state
of Missouri shall have one or more chapters containing a critical
analysis of origins. The chapters shall convey the distinction between
data and testable theories of science and philosophical claims that
are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may
generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum
should help students to understand the full range of scientific views
that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific
discoveries can profoundly affect society."
For the text of HB 35 as introduced, visit: http://www.house.state.mo.us/bills051/biltxt/intro/HB0035I.htm.
On February 12, 2004 more than 250 Missouri scientists and educators released a statement opposing proposed legislation that would require equal time spent teaching evolution and intelligent design. The statement refers to intelligent design as "non-science" and explains what makes something a scientific argument. The statement says that since intelligent design cannot be tested scientifically, nor has it contributed to science, it has no place in public school science classes. The bill has yet moved out of the education committee. (2/25/04)
A new bill concerning science standards in public schools, House Bill 911, was submitted to the Missouri House of Representatives on December 19th and was sponsored by state Rep. Robert Wayne Cooper, M.D. and six other Republicans. The bill, now under consideration by the Education Committee, states that both "biological evolution" and "biological intelligent design" would be given equal consideration in the Missouri public elementary and secondary schools.
In the bill, "biological evolution" is defined as "a theory of the origin of life and it's ascent by naturalistic means." The term "biological intelligent design" is defined as "a hypothesis that the complex form and function of all species on earth are the result of intelligence." The bill would require public schools to spend an equal amount of time discussing both concepts and that course textbooks contain approximately equal number of pages teaching each viewpoint. The textbooks would start to be implemented in 2006 and be mandatory by 2016. According to the bill, a committee would be appointed containing at least five people who support "biological intelligent design" and would write supplemental curricula for the interim until the textbooks are implimented.
The Kansas City Star reported on January 9th that Cooper figures the bill has a 50-50 chance of getting out of committee and onto the House floor. "Our objective is to improve science instruction and make textbooks more accurate," said Cooper. He elaborated further that passage of the seven-page bill would create academic freedom and allow discussion. (1/9/04)
Sources: American Institute of Biological Sciences, Kansas City Star, Missouri General Assembly, bill text.
Background section includes material from AGI's Update on State Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution for the 106th Congress.
Contributed by Gayle Levy, AAPG/AGI 2004 Spring Semester Intern and Emily M. Lehr, AGI Government Affairs Program.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on January 4, 2005.