Two Anti-Evolution Bills Die In MO Legislature

May 20, 2014 at 11:30 am
click to enlarge Evolution may be a divisive topic, but the fossil record provides compelling evidence for the theory. (Also an infinite supply of "Homo erectus"-derived chuckles.) - Flickr/RyanSomma
Evolution may be a divisive topic, but the fossil record provides compelling evidence for the theory. (Also an infinite supply of "Homo erectus"-derived chuckles.)

Whether it was blocking Medicaid expansion, comparing abortion to car-shopping or cutting taxes, Missouri's Republican legislators threw their weight around this year's session.

But amid the victories, two Republican-sponsored anti-evolution bills died quietly in committee. One would have given parents the option of withdrawing their children from classes that taught evolution, and the other instructed science teachers to acknowledge the "controversies" of the biological and chemical foundations of evolution.

"We're talking about a science class here," bemoans Charles Granger, a professor of biology and education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "Teach whatever you want in a theology class, but in science you have to teach the observable facts."

See also: Anti-Evolution Bill Lets Parents Pull Students from Class, Gets Missouri on the Daily Show

Of course, the bills' sponsors publicly insisted their bills were meant to strengthen science education in Missouri by creating a balanced learning environment for other opinions about evolution.

click to enlarge Rep. Rick Brattin - Facebook
Rep. Rick Brattin

Representative Rick Brattin, whose bill would have empowered parents to choose what kind of science their kids learn, told Daily RFT in 2013 that he is a "science enthusiast" -- but the kind of science enthusiast who disagrees with the fundamental tenants of biology.

Rep. Andrew Koenig, who wants teachers to encourage discussion of the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, told KRCU that his bill would support academic freedom.

Both Brattin and Koenig claim their measures aren't pro-religion. Koenig's bill, for example, includes the line:

The provisions of the bill must not be construed as promoting any doctrine or discriminating for or against any belief or promoting discrimination for or against theistic or nontheistic religion

As for Brattin, he maintains that "there are more theories than one in science."

To UMSL's Granger, however, the seemingly reasonable arguments behind these bills can't conceal their sponsors' religious motivations.

"There are some people who are trying to protect their idea of origins," says Granger, who holds degrees in biology, zoology, botany, and education, among others. "That's impractical and impossible as far as anybody learning anything scientific."

For Granger, attempts to equate divine origin -- or "intelligent design" -- to scientific theories represents a blatant misunderstanding of the scientific method.

"A scientific theory is based on observations, it's based on an inductive reasoning process. Whereas the origins as stated in Genesis is a story and there's no earthly evidence for it that we can find. You're not going to scientifically prove or disprove it. You're not even going to be able to scientifically make any kind of statement about it. All you can say about it is that it's written in Genesis," he says.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at [email protected]