Arizona’s New Anti-Science Bill

Judy Burges (Source: State of Arizona)

Judy Burges (Source: State of Arizona)

Arizona State Senators Judy Burges and Chester Crandall have introduced a new bill to “explore” science for students and develop their critical thinking skills. While that sounds like a great topic for young minds, these are just code words for the latest assault on evolution, global warming and pretty much whatever else Biblical literalists consider an affront to their concept of God.

SB 1213 sounds harmless enough at first:

Create an environment in schools that encourages pupils to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.

Who’s against exploring science, developing critical thinking and acting respectfully? Yet as SB 1213 progresses it suggests that science teachers are having trouble teaching science.

Assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Teachers shall be allowed to help pupils understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

Chester Crandall (Source: State of Arizona)

Chester Crandall (Source: State of Arizona)

There are valid scientific controversies. These are things that have not been proven as truth, such as Drake’s equation on extraterrestrial life, cold fusion or string theory. To varying degrees, there are proponents and doubters to these concepts. Fortunately, few science teachers take on something like string theory and call Stephen Hawking a dunce. At most they will simply present the theory and the questions of its detractors. It isn’t that hard to do that. It surely doesn’t need special legislation.

That isn’t what SB 1213 is about though. Its intent is quite clear:

An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens.

The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy.

Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.

If there is a science teacher who is unsure how to present evolution or any of these other topics, that teacher needs to have his or her credential stripped away as fast as possible. The only teachers unsure at how to teach these subjects are the ones who pick and choose what to believe. They shouldn’t be in the classroom.

Evolution is not a scientific controversy. It is a religious one. The only controversy in global warming is just how much influence humans have on it. The only controversy in the chemical orgins of life is the recipe. While human cloning does raise ethical questions, is a regular science class the place to address those?

This is a blatant attempt by creationists to question theories like evolution and global warming that are scientifically settled by the experts of those fields. Having failed to present valid scientific alternatives, Burges, Crandall and their ilk throughout the country are dictating science through politics. That’s not unlike the mullahs in Iran. Arizona is just the latest example.

Every year, a number of states float crazy legislation like this that usually dies in committee. A few make it out and the irreparable damage to science knowledge for America’s students places us at greater risk from places like China where they don’t have an agenda to argue that the earth is 6000 years old.

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