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Evolution & 2005 State Legislation, In a Nutshell

Many news stories and editorials from hyper-Darwinists and/or opponents of the theory of intelligent design (ID) have claimed that 12, 15 or even 20 states are considering legislation to MANDATE the teaching of ID in schools. This is completely false. Most of the stories and op-eds making these claims have lumped together local school board, state school board and state legislative activity relating IN SOME WAY to the teaching of evolution, misrepresenting the situation by lumping them all together as “states considering the mandating of ID.”

Nonetheless, it is often difficult to track all of the activity taking place at the state and local level. A short overview of state legislative activity concerning evolution in 2005 here follows:

  1. ALABAMA: Introduced in both the Senate and House was an anti-persecution act for teacher & students who discuss controversial scientific topics or the full range of scientific views on those topics;
  2. ARKANSAS: A House bill was introduced that recommended provisions be made to allow for teaching of intelligent design, consistent with existing constitutional precedents;
  3. GEORGIA: A proposed House bill called for textbooks to include valid scientific evidence for and against evolutionary theory (specifically human origins);
  4. KANSAS: A House resolution was proposed, essentially repeating the Santorum language in the Conference Committee Report to the No Child Left Behind Act;
  5. MISSISSIPPI: A Senate bill conflating the theory of intelligent design with creationism was proposed. It called for “equal treatment” of evolutionary theory and the bill’s ill-defined version of intelligent design;
  6. MISSOURI: A proposed House bill called for inclusion of a critical analysis of evolution in school biology textbooks, repeating much of the Santorum language;
  7. MONTANA: An anti-intelligent design Senate resolution was proposed in the legislature, blasting intelligent design theorists. It also attacked ID proponents for their purported influence in Kansas 1999 science standards process. A different House bill was placed in the drafting process, but NEVER submitted. Reportedly, the latter bill’s working title was: “Allow for competing theories of origin”;
  8. SOUTH CAROLINA: A proposed Senate bill called for the set up of a commission to study how evolution is taught, whether it should be and what the definition of science is;
  9. NEW YORK: A House bill called for all public school students in grades K-12 to be instructed “in both theories of intelligent design and evolution”;
  10. PENNSYLVANIA: A proposed House bill would permit local school boards to require students to learn about intelligent design theory of the origins of the earth and man where students are also taught about evolutionary theory.

The foregoing list does not include discussions concerning the teaching of evolution at the state level where no legislation expressly pertaining to the topic has been introduced. Such discussions have taken place in the following states:

a) Florida: where House floor and media discussion about evolution and alternative theories came up in the context of a student academic bill of rights in Florida;
b) Texas: a legislator’s discussion about treatment of evolution came up in the context of a bill concerning general textbook adoption procedures; and
c) Utah: media reports quote a legislator about instructing students in “divine design.” In the former two situations, there was no explicit or implicit mention of evolution, Darwin, design or creationism in the bills respective texts.

Furthermore, there has been significant state-level activity before the Kansas Board of Education on the topic of how to teach evolution in public schools. Kansas has been in the process of revising their state science standards. As has been noted many places, the Kansas State Board of Education has been considering whether or not to include in those standards scientific criticisms of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory and chemical evolutionary theory alongside the scientific strengths of those respective theories. (An FAQ and relevant blog post concerning the Kansas Board activity can be found here and here, respectively.)

2005 also has witnessed local school board activity (however big or small) on the evolution issue in places such as Texas, Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, Arkansas and Tennessee. But only SOME of these places have dealt with the theory of intelligent design, and even fewer have concerned the mandating of ID.

John West’s response to recent discussion of legislation in Utah can be found here. A recent Discovery Institute response to the proposed bill in Pennsylvania can be found here.

A short restatement of Discovery Institute’s general public policy concerning the teaching of neo-Darwinian theory and chemical origin-of-life scenarios can be found here. An FAQ aptly summarizes DI’s policy position here and here.