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Correction: False Fear Syndrome HAS hit Michigan

Casey Luskin

Epidemic Update: Thanks to an alert from a correspondent blogger, we report with great dismay that False Fear Syndrome has indeed struck Michigan. This corrects our previous report that False Fear Syndrome had skipped Michigan and gone straight from Ohio to Wisconsin. This confirms a cluster in the Great Lakes region.

False Fear Syndrome occurs when some educator or policymaker proposes that students critically analyze scientific theories, such as evolution, but then various opponents raise False Fears that critical analysis will bring intelligent design into the classroom.

Here is a description of this latest case:

Representative Brian Palmer in Michigan has submitted an excellent bill requiring critical analysis of scientific theories in schools. The language apparently states:

“The course content expectations for science shall include using the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories and using relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and formulate arguments for and against those theories.”

(A Challenge to Evolution: Bill may stir Darwin issue, Detroit Free Press, January 28, 2006, by Chris Christoff and Lori Higgins)

Clearly this language has nothing to do with intelligent design and would simply bring scientific critique of theories taught in the classroom, and makes absolutely no mention of teaching intelligent design or any form of a “replacement theory” for those currently-taught theories that are being critiqued.

Yet the article header states:

“A proposed law to create a rigorous state high school curriculum could spark a debate over the controversial teaching of intelligent design in science classes as a challenge to the theory of evolution.”

Some Darwinist educators apparently felt the best way to protect dogmatism and one-sidedness in science education was to inflame False Fears that Palmer’s bill would bring in the teaching of intelligent design:

“We don’t want this bill to be used for any other agenda,” said Margaret Trimer Hartley, spokeswoman for the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union. “We don’t need to further complicate the process by bringing in the argument of intelligent design or any other battle over specific curriculum.”

Fortunately, the bill’s sponsor immediately spotted the symptoms of False Fear Syndrome and alerted the public to this outbreak:

Bill sponsor Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, said he had no intent to insert the intelligent design issue into the bill introduced earlier this week.

“That’s almost humorous. I think some people like to see a bogeyman,” said Palmer, who chairs the House Education Committee.


Palmer said the science class requirement is logical.

“You’re testing scientific theory,” he said. “That’s what science is. Anyone who argues this is not a general reference to science and scientific method, I would be pretty amazed.”

(A Challenge to Evolution: Bill may stir Darwin issue, Detroit Free Press, January 28, 2006, by Chris Christoff and Lori Higgins)

Updated False Fear Syndrome Outbreak Map (2/8/06):

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.