Evolution Debate in Mississippi (5-2-08)
On April 1, a bill similar to the “America Freedom Act,” legislation promoted by the Discovery Institute, the home of intelligent design, was introduced in the state legislature. The text of the bill calls on teachers “to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies," and allows teachers “to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of theories of biological and chemical evolution." Again, the legislation opens the door to the teaching of religion in the science classroom by claiming there is controversy over the acceptance of evolution. (5/2/08)
Although a bill in the Mississippi state senate (SB 2286) requiring
public schools to teach intelligent design alongside evolution has
failed, legislation remains that would ensure that local school boards,
superintendents or principals could not stop a teacher from discussing
alternative, non-scientific theories in a public classroom. The legislation
states that no one can prevent "a public school classroom teacher
from discussing and answering questions from individual students on
the issues of flaws or problems that may exist in Charles Darwin's
Theory of Evolution and the existence of other theories of evolution
including, but not limited to, the intelligent design explanation
of the origin of life." Although the non-scientific idea of intelligent
design is specifically mentioned in the bill's language, the legislation
would also allow other supernatural explanations, such as the origin
of life by space aliens to be presented to children by a teacher.
SB 2427 was introduced in the State Senate on January 10, 2006 and
passed on February 6. The legislation is now being considered by Mississippi's
House of Representatives. (02/06)
On January 10, 2005, Senator Gary Jackson of the 15th Senate District
introduced to the Mississippi Senate SB
2286, a bill that, if enacted, would require " the teaching
and presentation of scientific creationism in public schools if the
theory of evolution is taught."
The bill defines scientific creationism as "the belief, based
upon scientific principles, that there was a time in the past when
all matter, energy and life, and their processes and relationships,
were created ex nihilo and fixed by creative and intelligent design."
The bill is based on the premise that scientific creationism is "at
least as satisfactory a scientific explanation of origins as is evolution"
in so far as evolution is "not demonstrable as scientific fact
or testable as a scientific hypothesis and, therefore, must be accepted
philosophically by faith." According to the National Center for
Science Education, SB 2286 appears to be modeled on Louisiana's "Balanced
Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School
Instruction," which was held to be unconstitutional in the Supreme
Court's 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard.
On March 9, 2004, a bill addressing evolution in textbooks died in
the Mississippi House of Representative's Education Committee when
it failed to receive a vote before the deadline to report House bills
out of committee. House
Bill 1288 would have required the State Board of Education to
display a disclaimer on the inside front cover of science textbooks
that evolution is a theory. The bill modeled its language after the
disclaimers pasted into Alabama textbooks in 1996, which is no longer
required. Representative Wells-Smith introduced the bill along with
19 co-sponsors. The following is the disclaimer language proposed
in the bill:
"The word 'theory' has many meanings: systematically organized
knowledge, abstract reasoning, a speculative idea or plan, or a systematic
statement of principles. Scientific theories are based on both observations
of the natural world and assumptions about the natural world. They
are always subject to change in view of new and confirmed observations.
This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists
present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things.
No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any
statement about life's origins should be considered a theory.
Evolution refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected
forces produced living things. There are many unanswered questions
about the origin of life that are not mentioned in your textbook,
including: the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil
record (known as the Cambrian Explosion), no new major groups of other
living things appeared in the fossil record, major groups of plants
and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record, and all
living things possess a complete and complex set of instructions for
building a living body. Study hard and keep an open mind." (8/24/04)
Sources: National Center for Science Education.
Contributed by Ashlee Dere, AGI/AIPG 2004 Summer Intern; Katie Ackerly,
AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Intern; Carrie Donnelly, AGI/AIPG 2006 Summer
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on May 2, 2008