|Debate pits educators against lawmakers in Missouri and other states
In recent weeks Representative Robert Wayne Cooper (R-155) introduced and sponsored HB911 with Missouri representative co-sponsors Anne Reinhart (R-34), Cynthia Davis (R-19), Brian D. Nieves (R-98), Susan C. Phillips (R-32), Ed Emery (R-126), and Steve Hunter (R-127). According to Representative Ed Emery, HB911 is a kind of "truth in labeling" for teaching science in Missouri's primary and secondary schools. Emery claims that "too much of education is focused on telling students what to think instead of teaching them how to think." (Be sure to read the report by Ed Emery entitled Capitol Report - Feb. 19, 2004.)
The bill introduced by Cooper is cited as the "Missouri Standard Science Act," and is designed to force Missouri schools into giving equal time to "intelligent design" as an alternative to the process of change through time by natural forces known as natural selection. "Intelligent design" and the wordage that goes with it is nothing more than a cover up for creationism.
Once again this religious view is being forced on schools but with an added threat. Part 7 of section 170.018 states, "Willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract." This threat puts pressure on administrators and teachers to teach the beliefs of a few narrow-minded Missouri lawmakers and their views and definitions of science.
Properly trained educators do not force students to accept as "truth" any aspects of education. Instead they present ideas, facts, observations, and theories to students. As the student develops as a free thinker, it is hoped that he or she will use the information learned to form opinions, philosophies and ideas that will contribute to society.
Of course, there are some parts of education that have been standard practice and generally not debatable. The alphabet and proper grammar is taught so that there is a uniform standard in which to effectively communicate. Will law makers want to change the alphabet, or math concepts, to satisfy any different views in which they might believe?
Humans always have thought about their origins since they developed the capacity to think, conceptualize and wonder. The multitude of religions and cultures manifest human origins in various ways, but essentially it is all centered around creationism. I dare say that most Christians would be upset with scientists if they presented the numerous ideas of human origin through creation as believed by various cultures throughout the world. Scientists leave these philosophies to personal faiths and views. Most of us do wonder how the universe originated or from where. Science cannot answer this question and likely will never be able to answer it. But neither can the stories in the Bible.
Intelligent design, a.ka. creationism, does not in any way qualify as a science. Its explanation for the beginnings of the universe or the origin of life is purely metaphysical and as such best fits the category of religion. It is not based on a collection of facts, nor is it testable. The basis for traditional science, that dates back to at least Greek times, includes the study of hypotheses--the collection of facts, the development of ideas from this information, and the ability to re-test those ideas.
People are free to believe what they want. They should not try to pass off "intelligent design" as having any scientific basis to be given "equal time" in a science classroom. The amount of scientific information known to science today is generally more than a teacher can adequately cover in the time given to teach the subject. The views of Rep. Cooper and co-sponsors of HB911 are best suited for a religion class or possibly a philosophy course. Here "intelligent design" can be debated against other viewpoints. Leave it out of the science classroom and let the teachers present facts, theories, ideas, experiments, observations, and conclusions so the student can learn to be intelligent thinkers.
Important links on this subject
Intelligent Design vs. science
Complete text of HB911
If opposed to this bill, be sure to send an e-mail here. Include your name, with which educational institution you are affiliated, or whether you are a parent or private citizen. Pro or con, to contact a legislator, click here.
Statement of Missouri educators
National Center for Science Education