Mississippi Bill Targets Biology Books
January 10, 2009
Last week the Mississippi state legislature took up an anti-evolution bill that would require the State Board of Education to place disclaimer stickers in every textbook that discusses evolution. House Bill No. 25 , introduced by state representative Gary Chism, sets forth a lengthy required disclaimer that states, in part: "This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life’s origins should be considered a theory." The disclaimer asserts the "sudden appearance of the major groups of animals in the fossil record" and an alleged "lack of transitional forms" in that record. The disclaimer ends with an exhortation to "Study hard and keep an open mind."
Mississippi’s proposed disclaimer bears similarities to the disclaimer stickers introduced by the Cobb County, Georgia school district in 2002. (This was a mild improvement on the district’s earlier policy of simply tearing out the offending pages that discuss evolution.) After several parents sued, a federal district judge ruled that the stickers violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Although the ideologically conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated that judgment and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings, the school district ultimately settled the case in favor of the plaintiffs .
The Mississippi bill demonstrates that three years after the conclusion of the Dover, PA intelligent design trial , creationists’ efforts to impede scientific learning continue unabated. My guess is that we can expect more anti-evolution bills as state legislatures reconvene. Defenders of science and secularism should remain vigilant.
#1 Ophelia Benson on Saturday January 10, 2009 at 9:42am
So the bill hasn’t passed yet, right? So everybody should shine a spotligh on it and maybe the Mississippi legislature will get bashful and decide not to make the state look silly. Then again maybe it will decide to play the victim role.
#2 JerryW on Saturday January 10, 2009 at 10:13am
The Mississippi legislature ALREADY looks not only silly but uneducated and gullible. This is very, very scary stuff.
I love the USA, but it really has learnt how to shoot itself in the foot in recent years.
#3 Ophelia Benson on Saturday January 10, 2009 at 10:27am
Yes but a bill that is merely being considered can be blamed on its introducer, whereas if it’s actually passed, the legislature and (fairly or not) the whole damn state looks stupid. Just ask Kansas.
#4 vjack (Guest) on Sunday January 11, 2009 at 11:20am
We are on the case at Mississippi Atheists. We have been contacting our state representatives, and several of us have written to our local newspapers. If this passes, it won’t be without a fight.
#5 Ophelia Benson on Sunday January 11, 2009 at 11:41am
Rock on Mississippi Atheists.
...Have you contacted the National Center for Science Education? They’ll help.
#6 albert rogers (Guest) on Thursday January 15, 2009 at 11:40am
“Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine statiger unwissenheit” (Goethe)
This is stubborn ignorance at its height.
Suppose that God does send you to Hell for not knowing the right answer to how He created living things. If Darwins answer is right, would the Mississippi children taught otherwise be damned?
#7 JerryW on Thursday January 15, 2009 at 2:50pm
It’s more a question surely as to whether the teachers, who should know better, or the legislators who should know better still, will be “damned”... the Gods I have read about seem somewhat more likely to send you to hell for misdeeds, than for ignorance
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