Colorado 2013 Creationism Bill: It’s Dead

Creationist bill, road kill

Two weeks ago we posted Colorado Creationism: New Bill for 2013. It was a typical anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act promoted by the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page.

The bill was primarily the work of state representative Stephen Humphrey, a former cop who is currently a mental health counselor and a marriage and family therapist.

At the website of the Fox TV station in Denver, we read Dems vote down creationism in schools measure. They say:

As expected, Democrats on the House Education Committee killed off a proposal to give Colorado’s schools and colleges legal cover to have teach creationism and to question scientific evidence of global warming in the classroom.

They quote a statement issued by Humphrey, the bill’s sponsor:

This bill is not a curriculum change that would force educators to teach intelligent design or creationism,” he said. “It simply provides legal protections to those teachers who would like to provide their students with a complete education on both the strengths and weaknesses of these hotly debated scientific subjects.”

Yeah, sure. Humphrey may believe that, but no one else does. After a few years of experience with such dozens of these bills, we’ve critiqued them here: Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws. The news story also says:

The measure failed on 6-7 party-line vote.

It’s absolutely absurd that nonsense like this is a partisan issue, but all too often that’s the way it is.

Addendum: Just when we thought we had scooped everyone, we see that the National Center for Science Education has already posted this: Antiscience bill in Colorado fails.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “Colorado 2013 Creationism Bill: It’s Dead

  1. Well, Colorado seems in many ways to be a haven for common sense.

  2. One down, far too many to go…

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    @Barbara Necker: But Colorado also seems to be a haven for bat crazy theocrats, if we we include Colorado Springs. Home to both the Air Force Vatican Academy, and Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which was awarded its very own personal Zip Code 80995 by the US Postal Service.

  4. “…to give Colorado’s schools and colleges legal cover to have teach creationism…” should be “…to give Colorado’s schools and colleges legal cover to have[sic] teach creationism…”

    Never trust a quote from a Fox affiliate.

  5. BTW, poor little Pogo in your roadkill photo sure ain’t playin’ ‘possum, is he?

  6. All: I had mentioned in a previous thread my desire to put together a petition to be signed by scientists that would nullify these “strengths and weaknesses” laws, all based on Casey Luskin’s language. So I’ve tried to write a petition that addresses the whole “strengths and weaknesses” directly and frontally, rather than tap-dancing around it. We are accused of not tolerating different points of view. We have to explain why some “points of view” are not equal to others.

    So this is a draft of the petition I’m working on.

    Opposing Teaching So-Called “Weaknesses” of Scientific Theories

    We, the undersigned scientists oppose educational policies generally called “teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution” on the grounds that so-called “weaknesses” of evolution popularized by creationists are known to be based on factually false statements, or on redefinitions of the scientific method. Factual falsehoods that are incorrectly called “weaknesses of evolution” include, but are not limited to, claims that 1. No natural process can increase genetic information; 2. There are no transitional fossils; 3. The Second Law of Thermodynamics makes evolution impossible; 4. Increases in biochemical complexity via evolution have not been observed; etc. What creationists call “weaknesses of evolution” are contradicted by published results, have no support in the scientific literature, and thus have the same status as urban legends or internet scams, like the Nigerian Prince email. Some claims, like the bacterial flagellum argument, are a hundred years old, yet are now dishonestly called “modern cutting edge science” by opponents of science. Scams do not belong in classrooms.

    We oppose attempted redefinitions of the scientific method, such as 1. defining so-called ‘origins science’ as not real science, and 2. promoting vague claims of supernatural causation, which do not make testable predictions, as viable alternatives to real theories that have already made many testable predictions confirmed by observations, namely evolution and the Big Bang. We recognize that, within major religions, different sects are in conflict over evolution, but sectarian conflicts do not belong in classrooms.

    We also reject smears and allegations that the scientific community intimidates or unfairly discriminates against ID creationists. Claims that most teachers feel ‘intimidated’ when teaching theories of origins are based on phony poll numbers doctored by the pro-ID Discovery Institute (as Prof. B. Forrest has documented); the real, undoctored poll numbers show most teachers polled do not feel intimidated. In multiple court cases alleging ‘discrimination’, creationists have consistently lost, because courts recognize the absence of facts to support their claims of victimization.

    The scientific community is composed of people of many ethnic and religious backgrounds, all united by a common dedication to the scientific method. We feel that urban legends, internet scams, and sectarian conflicts do not belong in classrooms.

  7. I like your petition, Diogenes. It’s well done. But I’ve seen similar efforts from the AAAS (e.g. Texas Creationism: The AAAS Speaks Up (Again)), and we all remember Zack Kopplin’s letter signed by over 40 Nobelists. These things are lovely, and we fool ourselves into thinking that they should have an effect. In a rational world, they would be effective. But somehow we’re always surprised when they don’t have any effect on creationists in the legislature.

    I don’t think such tactics are ever likely to be successful. Why? Because a creationist motivated to pursue that level of activism isn’t listening. He hears other voices and he’s on a mission. It sounds extreme to say this, but I think it’s true that such people are hopelessly insane.

    I still think the solution is The Curmudgeon’s Amendment, because it requires only one sane legislator to propose it. But it’s never been tried. One humble blogger can’t change the world.

  8. Lads, you’re my primary source for info on this. Keep it up… It’s truly appreciated!

  9. Tim Anderson

    Here is a comment from an external observer of the USA’s political and legal system.

    In my country (not the USA), the question of whether a particular viewpoint should be included in school curricula is decided at a national or “whole of state” level, involving debates that most parents of school children never see or have an opportunity to get involved in. In other words, questions of “let us include arguments for or against proposition X” tend to be settled before they ever become become a debate about the merits of the idea. That is to say, the merits of ceationism are debated in an arena that has no direct influence on the development of school curriculum.

    My country’s approach to school scientific curriculum tends to be extremely normative: teach only what is demonstratively a consensus of expert opinion. This is not, in my opinion, wrong in itself.

    But. Is it better to argue out the merits of creationism case by case, school district by school district, or to shoot for a national, all-encompassing legal decision? What is the best tactic to establish a genuine majority in favour of science?

    The merit of the “argue and establish scientific principles in the curriculum from the bottom up” approach, for mine, is the opportunity to engage the honest fence-sitter in a local, community setting where civility and rationality count for something.

    In my country, the “all-in” approach to school curriculum content just means that there is not an honest debate about what parents want taught to their children – even if the parents are empirically wrong (caveat: I want my child taught scientifically verifiable evidence).

    Hope this makes sense, and all abuse welcome.

  10. Diogenes – good start; my only suggestion would be to condense since the target audience has a short attention span and limited cognitive skills.

    Regarding the vote count – looks like the GOP remains the party of stupid.

    Ceteris – as you probably know, Colorado Springs is also home to hundreds of ‘para church’ organizations and mega-churches like New Life. Fortunately there is a community in COS that resists the inappropriate influence of these instititutions, such as the Free Thinkers Group, the Peace and Justice Group, The Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, etc.

  11. Tim – in the US, right now, a federal (science) curriculum is probably not realistic. AAAS has been pushing for it for years, but AFAIK there are no state governments that would support such a shift, and that matters, because every representative in Congress remember represents a state or district. They are unlikely to propose such a thing if their governor or constituency opposes it. So…curriculum decisions will likely remain at the state level regardless of the pros and cons of that system for the forseeable future.
    What is a much more likely way forward is voluntary adoption at the state level of curricula developed by AAAS and others (example), either in part or in whole. Such a ‘voluntary consensus industry standard’ approach has its own advantages, but the main point here is that we are going down that road because the way the UK and others do it is not a realistic option.

  12. Diogenes, that is really well put. I’d also add something about international competition in science as well as the economics of having graduates proficient at science.
    As for federal standards, I’m against them. For one thing education is a state issue and it works best at that level. Get the feds into education they suck up a lot of money with little to show for it except a lot of paper moving around. Another issue is with 50 states you get 50 slightly different curricula, which is good since diversity is a strength. It is of little value to have everyone come out the same.

  13. Diogenes, I am on board with your plan for a petition and have access to the Gulf Coast Geoscience and Geophysicists societies of oil and gas people.
    AAPG and SEG need to step up on this horse manure and slam it.
    Bobby Jindal and Rick perry deserve honorable mention.
    And you should copy the secretary at SBOE definitely once you’ve got that done.

  14. Hello all. I found this site when I Googled around for what other folks were saying about HB13-1089. I run a blog that follows legislation in Colorado and did an in-depth piece on this bill. What I found surprising is that it came from a Seattle institute that’s been pushing this sort of idea all around the country. It didn’t get traction in Colorado because the bill’s sponsor made a lot of amateur mistakes and really half-hearted the whole deal.

    Anyways, I’d love if you could check out my site and share me with some of your thoughts on it.

    [Extra link deleted.]

  15. Tim Anderson


    I think I understand the forces at work that stand in the way of national curricula in the US. The interesting thing is that school curriculum development used to be a state responsibility here (Australia) until about five years ago when magically, a national curriculum authority was set up. This after a century and a half of fiercely parochial resistance to national standards. Why? Three reasons, I think.

    First because of the increasing mobility of families moving around the country seeking work, with the resulting disruption to a child’s education when they move to a new educational system and find themselves at sea in a different curriculum. Secondly because employers didn’t want the trouble of assessing whether state-based qualifications were truly equivalent.

    But most importantly, curriculum development is hard, and really expensive. It has simply become a nonsense for each cash-strapped state to insist on rolling its own instead of contributing to a national set of standards.

  16. Tim Anderson says: “I think I understand the forces at work that stand in the way of national curricula in the US.”

    It’s not complicated. The federal government has zero authority over education — except perhaps on Indian reservations. It’s probably better to have the states doing it, because it’s a form of competition. Everyone wants to be highly ranked, and people can choose a state based on its education system. Also, it’s conceivable that the process of drafting national standards could be dominated by idiots (not difficult to conceive at all). and if that were to happen the whole country is messed up. But if each state runs its own show, there will always be islands of sanity.

  17. @Curm:
    But if each state runs its own show, there will always be islands of sanity.

    And islands of insanity.

  18. @ Troy, Doodlebugger, and DouglasE:

    I appreciate your comments and suggestions. I copied & pasted the first draft of the petition into a post at Panda’s Thumb, and it is being critiqued over there.

    Many additions have been proposed there as well as here, and I am now trying to tot them all up and summarize. If you would like to follow other people’s suggestions, you can follow the discussion at Panda’s Thumb.

  19. doodlebugger

    Just a tidbit of information. Kopplin’s petition was signed by 70 Nobel Laureates.

  20. Only 70 Nobel Laureates? Is that all? No wonder he didn’t succeed.

  21. Tim Anderson

    The Curmudgeon posted:

    “It’s not complicated. The [USA] federal government has zero authority over education . . .”

    Understood, but why should we accept this evidently false demarcation?

    If we (as I assume “we” do) accept that when science has established some universally acceptable truth (though potentially falsifiable in the strict Popperian sense, or in some post-modernist universe sense, or some delusional religious belief sense et handwaving cetera), then surely that truth should be part of any educational curriculum within reach of a student?

    Hence my question. Should our tactic be to focus on anti-scientific nonsense at the local root (because we get to engage with real, civil humans) or should we shoot for the Great Big Shut Up Legal Decision?

    This is clearly a false dichotomy, but real politics is inevitably a matter of picking targets.

  22. SC: “One humble blogger can’t change the world.”

    Then stop being so d*mned humble, Curmy!

  23. Diogenes: “And islands of insanity.”

    “Abysses of insanity” would be more like it, don’t you think?

    SC points out a real danger: ” …it’s conceivable that the process of drafting national standards could be dominated by idiots (not difficult to conceive at all).” Better to have a few abysses of insanity than to have every public school in the nation submerged in a sea of stupidity. It’s safe to say that a national curriculum council would be highly politicized, and the Creationist Cult would work diligently to have its members on the curriculum council.

    Even if the curriculum council was 100% rational in its composition, the politicians would demand the final word. Look what happened in Texas.