Arkansas Creationism Bill: A Giant Leap Forward

Things are crazier in the Arkansas legislature than we could have imagined. It was only yesterday that we wrote Arkansas Creationism Bill Creeps Forward. The House Education Committee had approved House Bill 1701, sponsored by the freakishly demented Representative Mary Bentley.

We thought it would be a while before there would be more news about her creationist bill, but wow — were we mistaken! In today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette we found this headline: House advances bill to let schools teach creationism. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

A bill to allow public schools to teach intelligent design as a theory of how the Earth came to be gained the approval of the Arkansas House on Wednesday [The whole House!], despite a 1980s court ruling that bars schools from teaching creationism in science classes. House Bill 1701 by Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, was sent to the state Senate on a 72-21 vote.

Aaaargh!! Ninety three people voted, and 72 voted for the thing. That’s 77% of the House of Representatives who voted for creationism. This is truly crazy! Then the newspaper says:

The legislation would apply to kindergarten-through-12th-grade public and charter schools. Bentley [the crazy lady] said permission to teach creation is something she’s had teachers ask her for since she became a lawmaker. [Is that possible?] “Scientists have been on both sides of the issue for thousands of years,” she said, noting that Isaac Newton and Galileo believed in “God and biblical creation.”

Darwin’s first book about evolution wasn’t published until 1859, so neither Newton nor Galileo knew anything about it. Aside from that, Bently probably wouldn’t cite Galileo as evidence for her position if she knew he was convicted of heresy for writing that the Earth orbited the Sun, which is contrary to scripture. Indeed, it’s doubtful that she knows anything about anything.

The newspaper then tells us that Bently mentioned earlier litigation ruling that creationism couldn’t be taught in the public schools. That doesn’t discourage the crazy lady: “Arkansas was really the beginning of not allowing creation to be taught in the classroom, so I thought it was important for us to make this first step,” Bentley said.

The woman is flat-out bonkers. Then the newspaper quotes a sane member of the legislature:

Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, brought up the 1982 court decision. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on teaching the theory of evolution in 1968. “Why would we do this when the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that it is illegal to do that?” Ferguson asked.

Good question. But Mary Bentley had an answer:

We have seen the Supreme Court change their mind 200 times,” Bentley replied, noting that the high court’s makeup has changed since then. She said later that prior to the legislative session, she had discussed the bill with the state attorney general’s office, which was confident such a law could be successfully defended in court. Bentley said HB1701 is different from the previous laws.

Ah, she has a friend in the attorney general’s office. Very slick! The newspaper continues with a bit more back-and-forth between the two legislative ladies:

Ferguson [the sane one] said the bill violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment and could open the door for every religion’s creation story to be taught as science. Bentley [the drooler] said classrooms should be open for debate that includes creation among scientific theories.

Now we wait for the state Senate to make their wishes known. And here’s how the newspaper article ends:

A spokeswoman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday that he had not reviewed the bill.

This story has a long way to go, dear reader, so stay tuned to this blog!

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14 responses to “Arkansas Creationism Bill: A Giant Leap Forward

  1. I am sure that the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu communities will want to have their stories discussed and debated as well. Should keep the science classes busy.

  2. Eddie Janssen

    But what will they use as a textbook if they succeed? Ofcourse not Pandas and People but what is available these days?

  3. I’m curious about the issue being the creation of the Earth.
    Usually, people are worried mostly about biology vs. the creation of mankind, the creation of species (or larger taxa, the Cambrian Explosion etc ), the creation of the first life, exobiology; or the Big Bang.
    Anyway, what does the Bible have to say about the creation of the Earth?

  4. Arkansas needs a fresh Bobby Henderson.

  5. Theodore J Lawry

    The bill is very brief and vague: “(a) A teacher of a kindergarten through grade twelve (K-12) science class at a public school or open-enrollment public charter school may teach creationism as a theory of how the earth came to exist.
    (b) This section is permissive and does not require a teacher to teach creationism as a theory of the earth came to exist.”

    The 1980 Act 590 decreed that “scientific creationism” MUST be taught if evolution was and specified that “scientific creationism” had 6 required elements:
    (1) Sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing;
    (2) The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism;
    (3) Changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals;
    (4) Separate ancestry for man and apes;
    (5) Explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a worldwide flood; and
    (6) A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.

    The 1980 law left out Adam, Eve, and the talking snake, but the rest of Genesis is all there: Noah’s Flood, creation by God of fixed “kinds” of living things, humans separate from apes, and “sudden” creation (6 days?).

    So I guess that the legislature is only voting for “lite” creationism is progress, of sorts.

  6. Dave Luckett

    You realise, this is, in the words of Rep. Bentley, a “first step”. Creationist outfits and individuals across the whole nation will be watching to see whether this can hold up in the face of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. If she’s right, and IF she’s not lying about the Arkansas attorney-general’s office, and IF there is a suit and IF it goes to trial and IF the ruling after all avenues have been exhausted is that this Act is unconstitutional, and therefore void… well, that’s a difficult and complicated process. It might not happen. But if not …

    Well, then, expect a flood indeed. Après nous, le déluge. Every State legislature with a creationist or two in it will be forced to consider Bills written with precisely the same wording, Some, at least, will get passed. And the march back to the dark ages will have begun.

  7. And I think the march backwards has begun it will only get a shot in the arm

  8. docbill1351

    The fever dream of the GOPQ and like-minded “Christian nationalists” has been to pack the courts and legislatures with ditto heads who will support any agenda. Remember how the Tooters jumped up and down with glee when they drew John Jones as judge: Christian, lifelong Republican, appointed by George H W Bush (hisself). The ruling was in the bag! Intelligent design creationism would prevail! It was Dembski’s Waterloo part deux!

    And what happened? The judge actually ruled on the evidence presented, not the BS shoveled out by Behe and the Tooters. (great name for a band, btw)

    So, for Bumbling Bentley nothing has changed on the science side, the education side or the Establishment Clause side. Therefore it is insane to expect a different outcome. The great irony is that pious Bentley has no clue that she is the American Taliban and longs for exactly the kind of government the Taliban would impose.

  9. Techreseller

    Well, all I can say is this bill will make it easier for college bound students from the other 49 states to get into college. At least the real ones, not the bible study colleges. There is a silver lining in every cloud.

  10. Stephen Kennedy

    The make up of the Supreme Court has changed since 1982, it is almost entirely Roman Catholic and unlike Evangelical Protestants the Catholic Church has no problem with the Theory of Evolution, In fact the scientific account of how the Universe and life arose is taught in all Catholic schools.

  11. @Stephen Kennedy
    There are varieties of Roman Catholics in the USA. There are Catholics like the president and there are Catholics like the late Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

  12. Theodore J Lawry

    Here is one of the reason Catholics don’t agree with Protestants on evolution. This is what James Ussher, the Protestant Archbishop of Ireland, best known for calculating that creation happened on October 22, 4004 BC said about Catholics:

    “The religion of the papists [Catholics] is superstitious and idolatrous; their faith and doctrine erroneous and heretical; their church in respect of both, apostatical; to give them therefore a toleration, or to consent that they may freely exercise their religion, and profess their faith and doctrine, is a grievous sin.”

    No wonder Catholics are more sympathetic to evolution!

  13. Catholics do not have the Bible as a sole source of faith. They also have tradition, and will rely upon the Church, as the reliable interpreter of the Bible and of the doctors and the fathers of the Church.
    But there is a substantial number of Catholics, including many bishops and cardinals, who agree with evangelical Protestants on some issues.

  14. @Theo JL: “James Ussher, the Protestant Archbishop of Ireland”
    Doubtful. Typical for protestantism is abandoning the hierarchic structure of the RCC. In a way this is a contradictio in terminis.
    The explanation is simple of course: Ussher was an Anglican archbishop (and hence belonged to the colonial elite). Only one man protested against the RCC to found his church and not for theological reasons, like Luther, Zwingli and Calvin.

    @TomS: indeed. More about this here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_creationist_organisations

    Obviously a well known mechanism is at work here. Protetants, anglicans, orthodox-christians, catholics etc. may be rivals of each other, nothing unites rivals so quickly as a common enemy.
    Evilutionists like you and me do a great job damping the effects of the various 16th Century schisms.