South Carolina Creationist Chaos Continues

The South Carolina legislature is in session. Outside the sun is bright, but within, darkness prevails, the drool is deep, the slime is thick, and the chamber resounds with flatulence.

That august body has distinguished itself a few times this year. Most recently we’ve been telling you about The Little Girl and the Creationists, Part 2, but there was an earlier outbreak of creationism. The legislature has been wrestling with the blasphemous notion of teaching — gasp! — science in their public schools. Our last post on that was South Carolina Science Standards — No Problem? But there is a problem, and it’s complicated.

The state’s Education Oversight Committee is “an independent, nonpartisan group made up of 18 educators, business people, and elected officials who have been appointed by the legislature and governor to enact the South Carolina Education Accountability Act of 1998. The Act sets standards for improving the state’s K-12 educational system.” The state’s standards were last updated in 2005, and they’re being revised now — but whatever the Oversight Committee does isn’t final. Their work has to go to another bureaucracy. It’s a brilliant system.

The Oversight Committee sends its work to the State Board of Education. That “consists of 17 members, one appointed from each of the state’s 16 judicial circuits by the legislative delegations representing the various circuits and one member appointed by the governor. Members are appointed for four-year terms.”

It’s a deliberately disorderly process, one which disperses responsibility, and we’re not certain what happens after those two bodies act. It may be that after the Board of Education works its bureaucratic magic — the legislature has to give final approval. That remains to be seen.

The current status of creationist teaching is reported in the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina. At their website we read South Carolina Education Oversight Committee approves biology standards requiring students to learn arguments for/against evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

New language for high school biology standards is headed for consideration to the State Board of Education that would have students learn “the controversy.” The S.C. Education Oversight Committee on Monday sent proposed language to the board that would require biology students to construct scientific arguments that seem to support and seem to discredit Darwinism.

Lordy, lordy. We understand that decision was made in a 7-4 vote, and that it was being promoted by state Senator Mike Fair. We wrote about that back in February — see South Carolina Battle over Science Standards. He has a long history of promoting creationism. Back in 2008 we wrote South Carolina — Creationism in Science Class? Like now, Fair was in the state Senate then, and he introduced an Academic Freedom Bill in the South Carolina State Legislature. It didn’t pass, but he hasn’t given up. Wikipedia has a writeup on him: Mike Fair. Moving along with the latest news:

The decision [by the Oversight Committee] comes more than two months after the subject became a divisive issue for many in the Palmetto State and nationally in February, when Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, voiced opposition during the review and approval of a new set of science standards for 2014. At the time, Fair argued against teaching natural selection as fact, adding there are other theories students deserve to learn. He said the best way for students to learn was for the schools to teach “the controversy.” On Monday, he reiterated his stance.

“We must teach the controversy,” Fair said. “There’s another side. I’m not afraid of the controversy. … That’s the way most of us learn best.”

It looks like Fair is getting what he wants. What’s the situation now? The newspaper talks about reaction to the new “teach the controversy” language being sent by the Oversight Committee to the Board of Education:

Its passing [the Oversight Committee] was “frustrating,” “irritating” and “disappointing” to Rob Dillon, a College of Charleston biology professor and president of South Carolinians for Science Education. Dillon said this measure is part of an effort to sneak creationism into public schools. “There are no scientific arguments that discredit natural selection,” Dillon said. “There are exactly zero scientific arguments that discredit natural selection. What there are is about 10,000 religious arguments that seek to weaken natural selection.”

What’s the next step? Here’s one more excerpt:

Monday’s recommendation now goes back to the board of education. For the EOC’s recommendation to be included in the state’s standards, both bodies must agree on what the language should say. Otherwise, the state keeps the current language.

What does that mean? It would appear that if the Board of Education doesn’t agree with what Mike Fair and the Oversight Committee have done, the state will stay with the 2005 standards. But we’re not sure. This one isn’t over yet.

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

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

16 responses to “South Carolina Creationist Chaos Continues

  1. To be fair to Fair, though, he is sincerely labouring to maintain the Palmetto State’s peerless educational standards, as so famously enshrined when Miss Teen USA 2007 – South Carolina answers a question

    Louisiana, do not rest on thy laurels! South Carolina is nipping at your heels!

  2. Mark Germano

    Why doesn’t anyone ever ask people like Fair to give us what they think is the evidence that supports evolution? I’m pretty sure his answer would be hilarious

  3. Pete Moulton

    This may all be moot if Ray Moore, republican candidate for South Carolina Lt Governor gets elected. He opposes all public education because there’s no mention of it in the wholly babble. Of course, his babble doesn’t mention Lt Governors either, but he’s ignoring that inconvenient fact.

  4. Pete Moulton points out that the Wholly Babble

    doesn’t mention Lt Governors

    That’s true–but! One cannot ignore the overwhelming evidence that state constitutions have been finely-tuned to allow parasitic legislators to thrive and multiply.

  5. South Carolina can forget about attracting ANY high-tech businesses to set up shop in their state. Seriously — what employee with even half an education would want to live in such an environment?

  6. I’m not trying to be snide here . . really I’m not. But, I really wish someone could explain to me why the deep south is such a hotbed of Christian lunacy and its derivative biblical creationism.

    My personal thought is that the hyperchristianity of the old Confederacy is linked to slavery. They regularly invoked the Christian Bible as an authority not only allowing, but actually condoning slavery and its attendant horrors. From a historical perspective, the days of slavery were really not that long ago, and cultures tend to have long memories of deeply ingrained philosophies. Am I way out in left field with this line of thinking?

  7. @retiredscienceguy What prospective employee with kids would want to send them to creationist schools? If you were on the search for a professional, what would you be prepared to say about the schools question?

  8. waldteufel suggests

    the hyperchristianity of the old Confederacy is linked to slavery

    With deep and sincere respect (as I really enjoy your posts), in this instance I do think you are a bit “in left field with this line of thinking”.

    In the early history of the USA, it is New England, and not the South, that is notable for its ‘hyperchristianity’; it was Boston, not Charleston, notorious for banning things that offended religious sensibilities. It’s too big a topic to cover in a blog post, and I am not an absolute authority (although I did do some relevant research some years back when working on a documentary for the BBC on American Gospel music), but ‘hyperchristianity’ wasn’t a particular feature of the antebellum South (certainly not relative to the North), but is largely a 20th century reactionary movement that mostly dates from post-WWII.

    At the time of the American Revolution, barely 10% of the population was formally affiliated with a particular church (far more were informally religiously observant, but with adherence to no particular demonination). Even the Second (1790’s into early 19th century) and Third (1850’s) “Great Awakenings” were far more prominent in the North and Midwest than the deep south. The religious excesses of the modern South–particularly, the prominence of the Southern Baptist Convention (though formed in the early 1800’s) and its egregiously reactionary bent really only dates from the late 1960’s/early 1970’s

  9. Megalonyx: I fully agree with your comments. Much of the current religiosity in the South comes from the Southern Baptist Convention, which has left the historical roots of the Baptist denomination. Roger Williams, the founder of the church, and earlier congregations believed strongly in separation of church and state, independence of each congregation, etc. The current top-down dominance of the Southern Baptist leadership is causing some congregations to separate from the organization and has led to Baptist organizations fighting to restore the church to it historical roots and possessing more liberal views. For Example, the Mainstream Baptist organizations in several southern states. The fact that a high percentage of southerners are members of conservative churches dominated by the Convention where evolution, climate change, etc., are denied does not help.
    Fortunately, membership in such churches is declining, but not fast enough!

  10. TomS: “What prospective employee with kids would want to send them to creationist schools?”

    Yes — that was pretty much my point, but I could have stated it more succinctly. States are clamoring for high-tech start-ups and expansions to chose their state, hoping to attract the highly-educated (and high-salaried) employees. Going to what Waldteufel brings up, the Southern Baptist Convention and other strong creationist influences are poisoning the entire South against any economic development that requires high education.

  11. Thanks to Great Claw and vhutchison for your thoughts. I’m not sure that I agree with Megalonyx on this, as I live in the deep south and experience the culture here on a daily basis, but I will certainly factor in both of your thoughts on my thinking here. Both of you have given me food for thought. Thanks. I certainly agree with with vhutchison that membership in the very conservative congregations is declining, but not fast enough.

  12. Waldteufel, you have raised a very interesting and deep cultural question. Indeed — why is the Bible Belt the Bible Belt? It would seem to be the kind of question that would inspire a doctoral thesis or two — have you researched it? If so, did anything turn up?

  13. The term “Bible Belt” seems to originate from HL Mencken in the 1920s.

  14. waldteufel says:

    Thanks to Great Claw and vhutchison for your thoughts. I’m not sure that I agree with Megalonyx on this, as I live in the deep south and experience the culture here on a daily basis, but I will certainly factor in both of your thoughts on my thinking here.

    It’s more complicated than generally imagined, and the two political parties have changed to reflect this. The South is not only more fundamentalist than ever, it’s quite willing to entangle church & state — not only in the schools, but in private behavior as well. It’s called “social conservatism,” which (I think) would have been abhorrent to the generation of the Founders, because they came from places where that stuff was routine, and they didn’t want it here. Also, the Salem witch trials were relatively recent (about as far back in their past as Prohibition is for us), and they were very much aware of the desirability of keeping church & state separate.

    On the other hand, the South is noted for a pro-business political climate, regarding unions, regulations, and taxes. That attracts industry, and it’s entirely consistent with the views of the Founders. The Revolution was in large part a reaction to British taxes and trade regulations.

    Each of the two political parties has diverged from original principles — one regarding government entanglement in business, and the other regarding entanglement of church & state. That’s why each party has regional appeal, and it’s why I don’t like either of them. This is an old theme of mine.

  15. Thanks, Douglas E. Very informative,esp. the section titled “Origins of the Bible Belt”. It seems to speak to Waldteufel’s question concerning the reasons behind the South’s hypereligiousity (I don’t want to call it “hyperchristianity”, because it seems counter to what I would consider to be the truer meaning of “being a Christian”).