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Creationist bills die in five states but live on in others.

Bills intended to introduce creationist concepts into public school science classes have died in Colorado, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma and Arizona.

In Colorado, the House Committee on Education voted 7-6 Feb. 11 to reject a creationist measure intended to undermine science education in the state.

House Bill 13-1089, known as the "Academic Freedom Act," would have required teachers at public schools and colleges to help students analyze the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories."

Teachers would also have been required to "create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to" evolution, global warming and human cloning.

While the provisions may sound benign on the surface, critics said this was all code language intended to undermine instruction about evolution and allow creationist ideas to slip into biology classes through the back door. The bill was spawned by the Discovery Institute, a group based in Washington state that promotes "intelligent design," a variant of creationism.

The Indiana measure, H.B. 1283, died after it failed to win a third reading in the House of Representatives. Similar to the Colorado scheme, the bill purported to "to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the strengths and weaknesses of conclusions and theories being presented in a course being taught by the teacher" and prohibited state and local education authorities from prohibiting them from doing so.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) pointed out that even though the bill did not mention evolution, it was "amply clear that the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools is a main target."

The Arizona bill, S.B. 1213, singled out "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning" as allegedly controversial topics and purported to help teachers find ways to discuss these matters in an "objective" manner.

The bill died after it failed to receive a reading before the committee to which it was assigned.

In Oklahoma, S.B. 758, known as the "Oklahoma Science Education Act," died after the Senate Education Committee adjourned without taking it up.

NCSE reported that the bill claimed to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies" and permitted teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught."

In early February, Montana H.B. 183 was tabled by the Education Committee. The measure purported to "encourage critical thinking regarding controversial scientific theories [such as] biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries."

Anti-evolution measures are not entirely dead, however. According to the NCSE, a bill is still under consideration in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. H.B. 1674 singles out "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as controversial topics for special treatment. The measure passed the House Education Committee on a 9-8 vote on Feb. 19.

In addition, an anti-evolution bill is still pending in Missouri. H.B. 291 bill introduced by Rep. Rick Brattin, states, "If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught." It also requires that "other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught."

NCSE Executive Director Eugenie C. Scott told the Riverfront Times, "This is the last thing Missouri teachers need ... particularly since his definition and understanding of allegedly scientific definitions are simply wrong."

Scott says the legislator has "a confused understanding of how science works."

NCSE's Scott: Teach real science
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Title Annotation:PEOPLE & EVENTS
Publication:Church & State
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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