Montana didn’t have a creationism bill last year, but they did the year before — see Montana Creationism: A Bill for 2013. As originally drafted, it would have required public schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution. But then it morphed into a Discovery Institute style “academic freedom” bill. It was sponsored by Clayton Fiscus, who was then a new member in the House, and it didn’t go anywhere.
Fiscus’ official photo from his page at the legislature’s website adorns this post. We know what you’re thinking: That man looks like an idiot! But please, dear reader, don’t judge him by his looks — that’s lookism! Here at our humble but enlightened blog, we don’t indulge in such things. We urge you to judge the man by his deeds.
To the delight of drooling creationists everywhere, we found some exciting news about Fiscus in the Independent Record of Helena, Montana. Their headline is ‘Anti-evolution’ bill would protect HS teachers who teach creationism. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
A Billings legislator has reintroduced a bill that would encourage high school teachers to present evolutionary biology as disputed theory rather than sound science and protect those who teach viewpoints like creationism in the classroom. House Bill 321 is drafted by Republican Clayton Fiscus, who put forward a nearly identical bill in 2013 to “emphasize critical thinking” with regard to controversial scientific theories on the origin of life.
Here’s a link to HOUSE BILL NO. 321. It looks like dozens of others we’ve seen that are modeled on the anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act promoted by the Discovery Institute. We’ve critiqued their model bill here: Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws.
Leaving out non-essential verbiage, here are the guts of the new bill, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
WHEREAS, academic freedom would provide the opportunity to educate, communicate, and discuss recent discoveries and various claims on the origins of life in our universe; and
WHEREAS, since Darwin’s theory of evolution, fossil discoveries, DNA evidence, random mutation, natural selection, and alternative theories have added additional new information to the discussion on the origins of life; and
WHEREAS, the scientific community is not at all in agreement that current theories, opinions, and beliefs have resolved or answered the questions related to the origins of all life or the origin of our universe; and
WHEREAS, all theories and viewpoints must be allowed if true critical thinking is to be encouraged
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:
Section 1. Legislative findings — instruction to encourage critical thinking regarding controversial scientific theories.
(1) The legislature finds that: (a) an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and encourage students to develop critical thinking skills necessary for finding answers and becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens about all issues related to the origin of life as we know it today; (b) truth in education about claims over scientific discoveries, including but not limited to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries, can cause controversy; and (c) some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on these subjects.
(2) The board of public education, the superintendent of public instruction, school district trustees, county and district superintendents, and school principals and administrators are encouraged to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.
(3) The board of public education, the superintendent of public instruction, school district trustees, county and district superintendents, and school principals and administrators are encouraged to assist teachers in finding effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Teachers must be permitted to help students understand, analyze, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
(4) The board of public education, the superintendent of public instruction, school district trustees, county and district superintendents, and school principals and administrators may not prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
(5) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and may not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
Yup, it’s a typical Discoveroid Academic Freedom bill — to teach the non-existent weaknesses of non-controversial theories. Okay, back to the article in the Independent Record:
“It’s all bunk,” said Glenn Branch, deputy director for the National Center for Science Education based in Oakland, California. “(Fiscus) thinks that these whole fields are scientifically controversial, and that’s not true.” There is nothing controversial about the biology of evolution, he said. “There are controversies within biological evolution.”
Branch said the way HB321 is drafted would allow teachers to espouse virtually any belief as scientifically valid, from herbal medicine to geocentric theories of the universe.
Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are on top of the situation. They had an article on the Fiscus bill last week, before the final version was available: Antievolution bill imminent in Montana.
You can follow the progress of the new bill here: HB 321. Nothing’s happened yet. It was introduced on 23 January and referred to the House Education Committee on 26 January. The legislative session convened on 05 January, and it adjourns in “late April.” We’ll be watching.
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