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."
The second and third sentences, of course, are modelled after the
so-called Santorum-language, present only in the Joint Explanatory
Statement of the Conference Committee for the No Child Left Behind
Act and not in the act itself. The sponsor of the bill, Cynthia Davis,
was a cosponsor of both of last year's "intelligent design"
bills in the Missouri House of Representatives, HB 911 and HB 1722.
HB 911 would have required "the equal treatment of science instruction
regarding evolution and intelligent design" in Missouri's public
schools, and moreover would have provided that "Willful neglect
of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or
teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section
shall be cause for termination of his or her contract" and "Each
public school classroom in this state from grades eight through twelve
in which science is taught exclusively shall post a copy of this section
in a conspicuous manner." These draconian provisions were absent
from its successor, HB 1722, but no action was taken on either bill
before the end of the legislative session on May 14, 2004.
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
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.