Fight against anti-evolution legislation hits close to home

The fossil record strongly supports evolution
The fossil record strongly supports evolutionCourtesy Mark Ryan
Educators and students to our south (Iowa –not Mexico) are up in arms about a bill in committee in the Iowa legislature that they say is just another wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing attempt from anti-evolutionists to inject creationism into school curricula.

House File 183, aka the “Evolution Academic Freedom Act” would allow educators in public elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools to teach “the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution” without fear of dismissal, discrimination or being disciplined. But what exactly the full range of scientific views is, they don't say. That's because evolution is by far the best scientific explanation of biological life on Earth that we have at this time.

This attempt to open the way for getting non-scientific views about evolution into the schools is nothing new. The same tactic has been tried recently in other states, and all but one failed. The unfortunate exception was a bill in Louisiana which governor Bobby Jindal, a creationism supporter, recently signed into law.

Opposition to the Iowa legislation is being organized across the state.

“The bill sounds good in its language, but the reality is 99 percent of scientists believe in evolution,” said Hector Avalos, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Iowa State University. “It is all about Teach the Controversy strategy — the idea it’s fair to teach both sides.”

Fifty-six professors from across Iowa and more than 220 other people have signed an Iowa faculty petition which calls for the legislature to reject HF 183.

“The premise of the petition is that this [legislation] is ridiculous. Let’s stop it here,” said John Logsdon, a University of Iowa associate professor of evolutionary molecular genetics. “It is teaching something that is not science cloaked in an academic freedom issue.”

Opponents say the wording in the bill smacks of the propaganda disseminated by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based purveyor of so-called Intelligent Design (creationism all dressed up as science and looking for love). In 2005, a court ruling ( Kitzmiller v. Dover) in Pennsylvania concluded that Intelligent Design is not science, and could not “uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”

Another favorite creationist tactic is to create controversy where there is none. For example, HF 183 states “instructors have experienced or feared discipline, discrimination, or other adverse consequences as a result of presenting the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.” But in reality state education departments have found no such cases of discrimination nor have sponsors of the bill provided any.

HF 183 is supported mainly by conservative religious groups and not from any legitimate scientific or educational organizations. The bill’s sponsor is Rod Roberts, a five-term representative, and ordained minister who also works as Development Director for Christian Churches-Church of Christ in Iowa.

Both the Iowa State Education Association and the Iowa Department of Education oppose the bill.

National Science Teachers Association evolution resources
Uwire story
National Center for Science Education story

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