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Monkeys and Solons

From an evolutionary point of view, man has stopped moving, if he ever did move.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man

Those who hated to see the primary come to an end in New Hampshire and, with it, the extensive coverage that small state received, can take heart in another development that will for at least some, permit New Hampshire to continue to receive the publicity it so enjoys. The device by which this goal is achieved is New Hampshire House Bill 1148.photo: Eric Lubbers

HB 1148 was introduced by Jerry Bergevin, a Republican member of the House and is one of several that have cropped up around the country in 2012 that address the problematical issue known as evolution. Although the Republican presidential wannabes who had the strongest opinions about the viability of evolution have left the race, thanks to Mr. Bergevin evolution will continue to command its rightful place in debates in public schools and universities in New Hampshire. The bill adds a new paragraph to the law that describes the duties of the State Board of Education and says that evolution must be “taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.” To help the board understand the intent of this bill, House Bill 1457 was introduced by two other Republican members of the New Hampshire House, Gary Hopper and John Burt. Like HB 1148, it adds a new paragraph to the duties of the State Board of Education. Entitled “Scientific Inquiry”, it requires “science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.” The aim of that language is to keep evolution from becoming too uppity and self-important and reminding it that in the eyes of some, it is no better than the theory that the earth is flat.

As with primaries, New Hampshire’s day in the sun is shared. Other states are anxious to climb into the Looney bin and there is certainly room for them. In Indiana, Dennis Kruse, a Republican legislator, has introduced Senate Bill 89. It is succinct. It simply provides that “The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.”

Another competitor for a place in the bin (and the winner if space is limited) is Missouri, the “Show me State.” Missouri is leaving nothing to chance. Its bill has much more specificity than the bills introduced in either of the other two states. House Bill 1227 was introduced on January 10, 2012. It is baptized the “Missouri Standard Science Act.” It includes a series of definitions, among them the definition of “Biological Evolution” that it defines as “a theory of the origin of life and its ascent by naturalistic means.” The section on biological evolution is relatively short. By contrast, “Biological Intelligent Design” takes up most of the discussion in the legislation. Much emphasis is placed on events that took place “previous to written history” which probably includes the times when dinosaurs were roaming the earth they being, by all accounts, unable to read or write. The bill says that “Conjecture concerning an event previous to written history as to the occurrence of the event . . . shall be taught as theory or hypotheses . . . .” In addition, when teaching about such events “the naturalistic process shall be duplicated by an analogous naturalistic process.” An “Analogous naturalistic process” is either a “present-day naturally occurring process similar to a past naturalistic process or the human-directed duplication of a process similar to a past naturalistic process.” Whether an animated cartoon showing something climbing out of the slime and metamorphosing into the form of the legislators who support this bill would qualify as an “analogous naturalistic process” is unclear.

Although it is not stated in the legislation, a careful reading suggests that the book of Genesis that is found in the Bible would constitute “written history” and, therefore, would not be subject to the same kind of rigorous scrutiny that attaches to the period during which illiterate dinosaurs were roaming the earth. Even if it were, presumably the required “physical evidence” would be provided by the presence of the humans in the classroom and no additional evidence would be needed.

The complexity of the Bill means teachers will need retraining in order to understand it. The Missouri legislators thought of that. House Bill 1276 introduced January 11, 2012 says, among other things, that the educational authorities in the state shall “endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.” Such assistance will surely include interpreting House Bill 1277.

It’s too bad dinosaurs didn’t know how to write. Their written description of their existence would make all this legislation unnecessary.

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