South Dakota Creationism: New Bill for 2014

We haven’t written about legislative activity in South Dakota since we posted South Dakota: America’s Dumbest State?, which was back in 2010. They were trying to pass a resolution against teaching global warming, and their resolution said, among other things, that “astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena.” You need to read that sentence a couple of times before you can fully appreciate it.

Having already stunned the world with their brilliance, the lawmakers of that state are deploying their formidable talents in the arena of creationism. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports that there is now an “Intelligent design” bill in South Dakota. They say:

Senate Bill 112, introduced in the South Dakota Senate and referred to the Senate Education Committee on January 29, 2014, would, if enacted, provide that “[n]o school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.”

Let’s take a look at that bill. It’s not very long:

An Act to prohibit schools from preventing the instruction of intelligent design.


Section 1. That chapter 13-33 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:

No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.

Short and sweet. And incredibly stupid. But it has the virtue of originality. You can see a kind of perverted evolution going on here. Back in the Scopes trial days, the Tennessee law prohibited the teaching of evolution. Then the creationists tried laws giving equal time to evolution and creationism. When that didn’t work they invented the pseudoscience of intelligent design, which proclaims the same supernaturally-caused old-Earth creationism that was believed in by William Jennings Bryan, but they imagine it’s disguised as science because it doesn’t mention the bible.

With their phoney theory and their nonsensical books, the promoters of intelligent design “theory” at the Discovery Institute righteously demand “academic freedom” and an end to “censorship.” To that end, they’ve been promoting legislation aimed at allowing ignorant teachers to preach creationism — disguised as teaching the “strengths and [alleged] weaknesses” of evolution — while presenting intelligent design as an alternative scientific theory.

But this new bill in South Dakota is a tactic we’ve never seen before. It seems a throwback to the Scopes trial days, and it says, in effect: “If we can’t ban evolution, then you can’t ban intelligent design. Nya, nya, nyaaaaaah!!

Who’s doing this? In the state’s Senate, the sponsors are Monroe, Jensen, Lederman, Otten (Ernie), Rampelberg, and Van Gerpen. There are a also several members of the House of Representatives listed as sponsors, but NCSE notes that there is no comparable bill in the House yet. South Dakota apparently lets House members sponsor Senate bills.

We don’t expect any of that state’s venerable legislators to take our advice, but they ought to read the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. We wrote about one aspect of the judge’s opinion that is relevant here — see Kitzmiller v. Dover: Is ID Science?

This is a link to where you can follow the bill’s progress. Nothing has happened since the bill was introduced on 29 January, except that it’s been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Education. Two of the bill’s sponsors are members of that committee — Jensen and Rampelberg. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on 31 March.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “South Dakota Creationism: New Bill for 2014

  1. SC said:

    We don’t expect any of that state’s venerable legislators to take our advice, but they ought to read the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

    They may have some years ago. The “evolution” that you see happening is what I think of as pure poor attention span. Kitzmiller was in 2005, nine years ago. I think we’re starting to see more “creationist” legislation that is not worrying about hiding behind “strengths and weaknesses” arguments. They’re forgetting that straight creationist crap has a better chance of getting challenged then thrown out. But because it’s easier in the short-term, that’s what they’re going for.

  2. “..intelligent design or other related topics” is pretty broad. It most certainly could be construed to mean the Book of Genesis. If a public school is teaching religion, and that school receives federal funds, that would appear to violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on establishment of religion.

  3. Why is Religious Education not allowed in US schools (I know the constitutional part)? RE is taught over here in the very wet island of Britain (although we do not have separation of Church & state) and in most European countries (that have separation of C & S). I’m only asking because most Brits are atheist/agnostic. Seems by teaching it actually discourages religiousness.

  4. Jason raises a good point from the land of the Church of England. Perhaps there is something to the old adage “familiarity breeds contempt” when it comes to one’s views of religion. It might be good to have more U.S. kiddies study comparative religions. For one thing, it would let them see how many different creation myths there are — they obviously can’t all be true.

    Excuse me, I have to get back to watching my James Burke DVD – “The Day the Universe Changed.” Great stuff, even though a bit dated.

  5. It may be that these IDiots know that the bills are unconstitutional, put they do this just to play to their base. If the bill doesn’t pass (and it probably won’t) at least they can say to their supporters that they tried. If it were to pass and be overturned in the courts, they of course would blame the atheistic courts. Win/win.

  6. Ceteris Paribus

    Jason asks: “Why is Religious Education not allowed in US schools”

    It can be and is, if the broad subject of religion is taught only as part of a comparative religion class. But religion cannot be taught as science in a science class.

    But you have a point that teaching religion could have the contrary effect of actually discouraging religiosity. For example, we know that in schools that teach abstinence as the only birth control method, we observe the contrary effect of actually increasing teen age pregnancy rates.

  7. If the S. Dakota state legislature passes this bill, are they also going to pass a law that will cover all court costs for the local school districts?

  8. Richard Olson

    Each and every time I counter a “Teach the controversy!” proponent by noting that creationism is not science and therefore neither relevant to nor appropriate for the biology classroom, but that I strongly support the inclusion of Christianity and the Bible in comparative religion courses offered at some point in grades 9-12 (if not sooner), I receive one of two responses.

    Those who are unsure what is meant by a class titled ‘Comparative Religion’ are intrigued by the possibility of finally! a way to get their God and the Good Book back into public schools — as if in some idyllic recent glorious halcyon past USA school curriculum was a typical 2 week summer Bible School, only extended over 9 months.

    The scriptural literalist advocates who are aware of the content of Comparative Religion philosophy classes, on the other hand, are not at all enthusiastic about the idea of placing them anywhere K-12 (teaching it in college is bad enough, thank you). Often I get a null response from this bunch to the suggestion, them being so busy not hearing my recommendation and all.

    These people know that if they step across that threshold, they tacitly endorse examination of the relative merits of Christianity versus those of other religions. Bad enough in in itself, but an inevitable result is that some of the kids will start to think for themselves, and perhaps begin to succor notions of pluralism and satanic secularism to boot.

  9. Jason: “Seems by teaching it actually discourages religiousness.”

    I’m evidence of that. In Catholic school through 7th grade (66-67) I was taught Genesis as fact, Jesus, heaven, hell, etc.. In 7th they indirectly admitted that YEC was nonsense by endorsing OEC, but I had already begun to read between the lines. I knew what an “allegory” was even before I learned the word. Within a year I was a full-blown “evolutionist,” and a bit later an atheist. In the next ~30 years I gradually came back to a generic theism, but not to organized religion. I respect organized religion, but it’s not for me. Had I been raised fundamentalist, I would likely have become less respectful of religion.

    That said, I have to keep reminding everyone, especially Americans, that the harm that anti-evolution activists do is not the “teaching religion” part, however illegal that may be. Rather it’s the deliberate misrepresentation of evolution and the nature of science, to impressionable students who mostly lack the capability to see through the scam. Most science majors do, but they’re a small minority. The anti-evolution scams are highly immoral in any class, public or private. Especially if that class preaches “thou shalt not bear false witness.”

  10. “… astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena.”

    Astrological? The idiots really wrote ASTROLOGICAL? With an L and a G instead of an N and an M?

    And these people are supposed to be making laws?

  11. Yes, the world cannot possibly be warming when Saturn is in the House of Orion. Or something.

  12. SC: “You need to read that sentence a couple of times before you can fully appreciate it.”

    I did, and it was still word salad, even granting the effect vs. affect mix-up. Not until I read HKF’s comment above, though, did I see “astrological” and have my “D’Oh!” moment.

    I guess they were paying attention to Behe at Dover, when it became OK (mandatory?) for evolution deniers to embrace astrology.