North Dakota Creationism Bill for 2019

There hasn’t been any creationist legislation considered by North Dakota since we started this humble blog. South Dakota, yes, they rejected such bills several years in a row — but nothing in North Dakota — until now.

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) just posted “Strengths and weaknesses” bill in North Dakota. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

North Dakota’s House Bill 1538 (PDF), which would allow the misrepresentation of science in the classroom, was filed on January 14, 2019, and referred to the Joint Education Committee.

The bill isn’t very long. It says, with our bold font for emphasis:


SECTION 1. A new section to chapter 15.1-21 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:

Freedom to teach strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories and controversies.

The state board of public school education, superintendent of public instruction, board of a school district, each public school, administrators, teachers, and ancillary staff:

1. May encourage students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, and develop critical thinking skills regarding controversial issues;

2. May help students understand, analyze, critique, and review the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories and controversies; and

3. May not prohibit teachers from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories and controversies.

You’ve seen a lot of that language before. It’s from the Discovery Institute’s anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act. We critiqued it six years ago in Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws. NCSE says:

The bill would ostensibly promote “the freedom to teach students the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories and controversies” while prohibiting state and local administrators from exercising supervisory responsibility over teachers.

No scientific topics are specifically identified as controversial, although evolution and global warming have often been cited, wrongly, as controversial in similar bills elsewhere, and no guidance is provided about adjudicating disputes about which are and which are not.

They end with this:

The sponsors are Jeff A. Hoverson (R-District 3), Daniel Johnston (R-District 24), Kim Koppelman (R-District 13), Bob Paulson (R-District 3), and Luke Simons (R-District 36).

Who are those brilliant people? The legislature’s page for Jeff A. Hoverson says: “Pastor, Masters of Divinity.” Daniel Johnston is “Self-employed.” Kim Koppelman is President of Koppelman & Associates — an advertizing agency. Bob Paulson is a retired Navy pilot and rancher, and Luke Simons is a rancher.

You can track the progress of their bill here: Bill Actions for HB 1538. That state’s legislature convened on 03 January, and is scheduled to adjourn on 26 April. We’ll be watching for developments, so stay tuned to this blog!

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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9 responses to “North Dakota Creationism Bill for 2019

  1. They keep it as fuzzy and general as possible.

    The key to this issue is the ability to distinguish between “controversies” which have been settled and others which are subject to current research. That, of course, can be abused by people who have creationism or climate change denial on their agenda.
    Secondly, such discussions depend on the age of the student. For a high school kid I would think that the critique of classical Newtonian mechanic in light of Einstein’s theories would be appropriate.

  2. Michael Fugate

    No examples in the legislation?

  3. “No examples in the legislation?”
    Of course not! You first have to get your foot in the door before starting your Amway, Scientology, creationism, or whatever pitch! Every huckster knows this.

  4. The only “weakness” of evolutionary theory is that it doesn’t comport with mythology as recorded in ancient texts. Fake controversy. As to real controversies, I’d be fine with teaching about the relative role of selection vs drift in shaping genomes or vicariance vs migration in speciation, though perhaps to more advanced, AP students. Of course, that’s not the goal of those who think god did it. I hope we will soon see SC’s roadkill on this one.

  5. @Scientist
    There are several sciences which do not comport with what is said in the Bible. Much more clearly than evolutionary biology.
    The heliocentric model of the Solar System is a very clear example. So clear that no one doubted that the Bible supported geocentrism, over about a couple of thousand years, not to mention the Galileo case.
    Most Biblical scholars accept that at least some of the Bible describes a flat Earth under a firmament, as was common belief in the Ancient Near East.
    On the other hand, much of what several of the YEC supporters say has no Scriptural support – baraminology is a blatant example, a totally modern innovation. ID is a different case, as it has nothing positive to offer. (No one has any idea of what their concept of “design” is, other than “whatever happens, it can’t be naturalistic evolution”, and they tend to avoid quote-mining the Bible.)
    IMHO, the “weakness” is in the revulsion at the idea of being related to the rest of the world of life – most especially, being related to other primates, because it is so obviously true. (Although Darwin wrote very little about humans in “On the Origin of Species”, the immediate and most prominent reaction was the man-monkey link. Recall the famous Wilberforce-Huxley confrontation only seven months after Darwin’s publication, where W. brought up ape ancestry. From the Wikipedia article, “Reactions to On the Origin of Species”, “Four days before publication, a review in the authoritative Athenaeum … was quick to pick out the unstated implications of “men from monkeys” …”.)

  6. @TomS.
    Nothing to disagree with. When I was a kid, I was taught that the bible is an infallible text, not only for salvation but also for history, for science, for morality, whatever. Much like Hambo. Of course, I went down that slippery slope: as I learned it was wrong on science and wrong on a lot of history, and that many preachers weren’t moral, it was easy to reject the whole thing. And, yes, I agree that the man/primate thing turned off a lot of people: humans weren’t special any more. The earth had lost its privileged place, now humans lost theirs. Just another &^@*&(*)_^ animal.

  7. It is interesting what the standard quote-mine/proof-text for the inspiration of the Bible, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us
    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    tells us merely that the Bbile is “profitable” for a restricted range of tasks: “doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction” about one topic,, “righteousness”.
    Nothing about reliaibilty, information, truth. Not about science, history, not even philology.

  8. Michael Fugate

    What is meant by Scripture? Scripture in the time 2 Timothy was written or Scripture now?

  9. @Michael Fugate
    Yes, there are other problems with this proof-text.
    Wikipedia has a discussion in the article “Biblical inspiration”.