Missouri lawmaker wants to redefine science to include "faith-based philosophy," force creationism into science class

A bill introduced in the Missouri legislature by Rick Brattin is a genuinely bizarre attempt to cram religion into the state's science curriculum. In what must have seen to Mr Brattin as a very clever move, the bill redefines what science is to include religion ("'Scientific theory,' an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy.") (emphasis mine). The bill just gets weirder from there.

If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught. If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth's biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course.

In other words, equal time for the leading scientific idea and intelligent design, but never mention who the designer might be. And not just equal time, but equal pages; the bill literally mandates that "course textbooks contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint." Brattin is at least aware no textbooks actually have anything on "biological intelligent design," so he wants the state to identify "nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design" to create supplementary materials for use until the textbook publishers get in line.

It's just a bill, not a law, but as John Timmer points out, bills that are very nearly this stupid have already passed in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Missouri bill redefines science, gives equal time to Intelligent Design [John Timmer/Ars Technica]

(Thanks, Eric!)


          1. Well, yeah. Aside from the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor and the neighboring Rust Belt segment, the rest of the state is kind of Jesusland Lite 64. Not as bad as the south, but I’ve seen my share of Stars-and-Bars whilst traveling in the boonies. Plenty of fertile ground for a state legislator with a bone to pick with evolution to spring up.

          2. I live in Washtenaw County.  The emblum of racism you mentioned can, disapointingly enough, be seen right here in the People’s Republic.  I wouldn’t even characterize the rural areas of the state to be Jeebus-lite.  I don’t dare tell any of the extended family that I don’t believe in their invisible friend in the sky.

        1.  Yes, because Kansas, Missouri, and Pennsylvania are all below the Mason-Dixon line. Get you head out of… the sand. Racists, zealots, and anti-science nutbars are everywhere, all over the world.

      1. I was referring to the recent BB post about the original Ockham quote, which contains similar religious language to the thing proposed in Missouri.

        1. To put it another way:  If someone’s actions are totally fucked up, stupidity may be an explanation for that, but it is no more an excuse than, say sadism or not being able to handle your testosterone is.

  1. Once again, this proves that the only part of the constitution the GOP cares about is the 2nd amendment.

  2. Why not just make a federal standard that defines what science is. Is that hard? (I dunno, I’m proposing/asking without expertise).

    1. A look at the resumes and dialogue of, say, the current Congressional science committee suggests that this idea has really bad unforeseen consequences.  Except that they’re completely foreseen.

      1. And they’re completely foreseen because we’ve already seen the consequences of members of Congress who put politics above science offering “scientific” opinions. Two prominent examples that come to mind: Todd Akin and Bill Frist.

    2. That might be as productive as having a federal standard for pi.  If somebody gets in there and defines pi = 3, you’ve done a lot more harm than good.  Also, remember which party controls the Congress.

    3. Scientists and philosophers have been doing science, talking about science, and thinking about science for a few hundred years without being able to arrive at one definition of science that suits everyone; despite this, a lot of good scientific work has been done.

      Your idea is to now suddenly tell a bunch of lawyers to declare what science is by legislative fiat.

      Yeah, I’m sure nothing could go wrong with that.

  3. Reminds me of the fake news articles at the beginning of chapters in Heinlein books. 

    If we’ve slipped into a different worldline based on Heinlein novels then BRING ON THE FLYING CARS!

          1. I love the Boing. A Day in the Boing is like a day on the farm: every post’s a banquet. Every response a fortune!

  4. So, may I be the first to propose that science teachers include fake homework assignments on animism and humorism? Having kids tell their parents that water flows downhill “because it wants to” and that dung should be used on wounds to “bind the body to the earth and re-balance the humors” might be just what is needed to shock the complacent out of going along with these theocrats.

    1.  I don’t think you’re going to get a rise out of these idiots until kids start asking if they’ll have leeches applied to their bodies to treat chicken pox. In other words, it has to be REALLY outlandish to get the attention of the mouth-breathers who think faith and science are so interchangeable.

  5. Lemme guess, this is a republican…  sigh…

    You know, those people that are exactly the same as democrats?

    1. Well both sides do it!  That there democrat party is just as bad trying to force science down everybody’s throats.  Also, that whole economics thing.

  6. As much as it bothers me, I have to admit that the derp is strong in many rural areas of my state. From the ones that I know, though, I think that the majority of the Republicans vote that way because money and not Jebus. At least enough of them switched over to kick Akin’s ass, who probably would have won if not for the comments he made on the Jaco report.

  7. Why did we bother losing ~350,000 people to bring these jokers back into the fold?

    And once we did, why did we let them back into congress before we’d finished our nation-building efforts?

    1. Why bother reunifying the nation in the American Civil War? Well…

      Ask yourself this. Would you rather have these people the way they are now, or as citizens of a neighboring country where they can do whatever the fuck they want to and nothing anyone else says or does will have an influence on them short of open warfare?

      1. Unfortunately, they would get a lot of the nuclear warheads. Fortunately, if their science education devolved to the point they seem to be hoping for, they’d be incredibly unlikely to successfully launch one.

      2. Given that the North was industrialized and the South had a feudal agrarian economy, we would have taken them over at some point even if they had been a separate country. The South was just an all-you-can-eat resource buffet for the North.

    2. That was the problem. Unlike with the Germans and the Japanese, the US didn’t make sure the South was “defeated.” So after the Federals departed, they picked up where they left off and had a century after the war where insurgents (KKK et al) terrorized the land, and a corrupt regime denied franchise to, and forced indentured servitude upon, huge swaths of the ostensibly freed population.

      1. Uh, look up the Union military occupation of the south during reconstruction.  The Union made sure the south was pretty fucking defeated.  You could also try googling “carpetbagger” and a few related terms.  Just as allied treatment of Germany in WWI was in no small part a contributing factor to WWII, reconstruction was in no small part a contributing factor to Jim Crow segregation in the south.

        This doesn’t absolve anyone morally or mean there wouldn’t have been something like Jim Crow had the union been less heavy-handed, but the KKK was definitely in part a response to perceived political interference by the north.

        This wiki article may give you some idea of how defeated the south eventually was: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin_Butler_%28politician%29#New_Orleans

        1. The terms of reconstruction were not onerous, all things considered, and shouldn’t be compared with what the Allied powers did to Germany after WWI.

          As for WWI/WWII comparisons, where the North went wrong was allowing the South to “remilitarize” (ie, allowing the KKK to flourish, allowing millions of blacks to be re-enslaved de facto).  The North should’ve reinvaded, just like the French shouldve reinvaded Germany in 1937 when Hitler tested England and France’s resolve with the remilitarization of the Rhineland.

    3. Missouri never seceded from the Union. They were split as to whether to be a slave state or a free state, and they were required to join as a slave state and Maine as a free state (look up the Missouri Compromise)

    1. I live in Tennessee, and have spent a great deal of time wondering what the source of the problem is. Granted I’ve traveled quite a bit and have found bigoted, stupid, hateful people everywhere, but the South does seem to have a greater concentration of them. In spite of all my efforts to understand it, though, all I can say is your guess is as good as mine.

    1. Faith is believing something you know isn’t true.  I don’t need faith in science, any more than I need faith to know that if I stand in the middle of a field and throw a rock in the air, it’s going to come back down.

      1.  “Faith is believing something you know isn’t true”.  –  Maybe just a quibble but I don’t think that’s quite right.  I think faith is more like believing something you can’t prove or disprove.  It doesn’t necessarily even have to involve god or anything like that. 

        I have faith that my wife will be here any minute now to pick me up from work.  :)

      2. I match Jake0748’s quibble. Also, there is a lot of science I don’t understand, but I’m willing to accept is probably the best current guess we have.

        Your assumption that a stone thrown in the air will come down may be a bit overly simplistic as the conditions under which you conduct your experiment may not produce the result you expect.

        1. Also, there is a lot of science I don’t understand, but I’m willing to accept is probably the best current guess we have.

          But the only thing stopping you from understanding it is laziness.  (Some would say stupidity but I think stupidity is really a degenerate form of laziness.)  Besides that, you’re relying on authority — the authority of scientists who do understand it — which, while not “knowledge” per se is also definitely not faith.

          Also, you’re going to have to strain pretty hard to come up with conditions under which a rock thrown into the air will not fall back down.

          This usage of “faith” devalues both science and faith.

          1. Thank you for sharing your opinions with me. So do you understand the full breadth of current scientific understanding or are you “stupid” too?

  8. It’s really hard to argue with someone who believes they have a direct communication line with some invisible man in the sky.

    That’s why is so pointless to argue with the religious looneys. You have to abandon logic and reason in order accept religion.

  9. Sample Missouri essay question:
    “Using Intelligent design, explain the emergence of the Ebola virus, then construct a forensic psychological profile of the intelligent designer.”

  10. Sadly, I will not be surprised if this passes. The Republicans have veto-proof super-majority in my state.

  11. Do we also need to have as many pages as we have on gravity to explore the possibility of “intelligent falling”?

    Those books are going to get mighty heavy.  

  12. Isn’t this sentence self-contradictory? “…any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth’s biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity…”

  13. Here’s an experiment: step out of an airplane in flight. If you believe in science, then you’ll need a parachute. If you believe in Intelligent Design, you won’t need anything because an intelligent design would have anticipated this eventuality and you should be able to fly, you hope.

    It’s great to make arguments that say science doesn’t know everything. That’s true. However, to say that makes religion a replacement for science is just ignorant. Science is based on observation and proof. Religion is based on faith.

    You believe in a god because of faith. To say you “know” is incorrect. You have to say you “believe” because you will never know the unknowable. You have to be careful not only how you define science, but how you define faith.

    Science can already prove that some important beliefs in several languages simply are wrong. If you have faith, that doesn’t matter. If you “know” then that leads you into challenging science. Go back to the plane and try again. See where intelligent design gets you. 

    1. Christian creationists are like T-1000 Terminators:

      That creationist is out there. It can’t be bargained with; it can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until logic is dead.

  14. Amazed at the number of people who think of Missouri as “the South.”

    FWIW, which is not much, Missouri was split in the Civil War.  Maybe it’s a St. Louis thing, but you don’t really find people who identify as Southern here.

    1. MO is the Rodney Dangerfield of states; it gets no respect.  Some northern states think it is the Deep South, and everybody else think it is an unsophisticated rural state.

      Of course, political stooges like Akin and Brattin do nothing to help our image.

  15. My high school biology class in the mid-80’s included teaching us what Scientific Creationism was. I don’t remember anyone making a big deal about it. Since I believe in evolution, I guess it didn’t corrupt me.

    1. There really is no such thing as Scientific Creationism, that is a self contradictory concept.  There is abolutly no scientific evidience for their being a God or God having created anything.  You cannot tack something completly unscientific onto science and still call it science.  It is at best a weak attempt to merge to contradictory ideas.  It doesn’t belong in a science class.

      It is akin to the “scientific” study of gnomes, or faries, or unicorns, or dragons.  not science.

      1.  F*CK yeah!  Why didn’t any of my science classes include dragon studies?  Now I’m pissed off.
        We didn’t even get to dissect any unicorns in veterinary school!  Sure, there were tons of horse bits laying around, but not a one with a horn.

  16. Wouldn’t this represent an establishment of religion? Can we now pass laws enforcing the teaching of religious doctrine in state funded institutions?

    1.  That’s actually why there’s all this language about not discussing the identity of the designer.  The idea behind Intelligent Design theory is that as long as you eschew theology the thesis that life was created by some sort of intelligence is a valid scientific hypothesis.  Which it could be, kinda, if it was advanced by critical thinkers and skeptics who set about trying to disprove it through research rather than write a bunch of popular books and blog posts about it and try to smuggle it into high school curricula.

  17. It is quite right that other faith based philosophies should be discussed in science lessons alongside the theory of evolution. It is important for students to hear multiple views so they can choose the theory that makes the most sense to them. But I am concerned that students will hear only one alternative theory on the origin of the species.

    There are several theories of how species developed. I, and millions of others, strongly believe that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster, who created all that we see and feel around us.

    The overwhelming evidence resulting from centuries of systematic and methodical research that show new species of animal are a consequence of evolutionary processes is nothing more than coincidence, put in place by Him, and the reams of scientific results proving the existence of evolution are a result of the Flying Spaghetti Monster changing the evidence with His Noodly Appendages.

    If we are to start teaching our children supernatural options to long-established scientific fact, it is only fair that all options are given equal play. Perhaps, one day, we can look forward to the time when all three theories are given equal emphasis in our science classrooms: one third of the time for ID, one third devoted to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third for the teaching of logical conjecture based on overwhelming evidence.

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