Record Number of Stealth Creationism Bills Introduced in 2011

The National Center for Science Education has tracked a record-setting number of nine anti-evolution bills introduced in state legislatures since Jan. 1.

The latest is Texas’ HB 2454, which would prohibit an institution of higher learning from “discrimination related to research related into intelligent design.”

“PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RESEARCH RELATED TO INTELLIGENT DESIGN. An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.”

What makes this bill such a precious gem is that it relies on creationists’ persecution complex and oft-repeated talking point that the science community discriminates against ID research.  But as we all know, there is no such thing as ID research, which has not yet produced one single legitimate peer reviewed paper. But that doesn’t keep its proponents and gullible lawmakers from whining that science is mean to them. As NCSE points out, an example of this supposed persecution was exemplified in Ben Stein’s cynical piece of schlock Expelled. (My review of the movie is here.)  

In addition to Texas, another anti-evolution bill was also introduced this month in Florida. HB 1854 would require “a critical analysis” of the teaching of evolution in public schools. The bill is little different from legislation currently in committee in Tennessee, which says that educators may not be prohibited from “helping students 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.”

As always, since intelligent design was ruled unconstitutional in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the introduced bills rely on such creationist code words as “teaching the controversy,” “academic freedom,” or “critical analysis.” However, in the case of Florida, the bill’s sponsoring lawmaker Rep. Stephen Wise had proposed similar legislation in 2009. The bill died in committee, but not before he spoke publicly about wanting to see intelligent design taught alongside evolution to promote “critical thinking.”

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Lauri Lebo is the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.