Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, has once again put rationalist Americans on high alert that a state legislator is planning to give a go to at undermining public schools' teaching of biology.
Dennis Kruse (R-Indiana) has announced plans to introduce a bill into legislation drafted by none other than our friends in the Discovery Institute, who have listed amongst their stated goals:
Scientific research and experimentation have produced staggering advances in our knowledge about the natural world, but they have also led to increasing abuse of science as the so-called “new atheists” have enlisted science to promote a materialistic worldview, to deny human freedom and dignity and to smother free inquiry. Our Center for Science and Culture works to defend free inquiry. It also seeks to counter the materialistic interpretation of science by demonstrating that life and the universe are the products of intelligent design and by challenging the materialistic conception of a self-existent, self-organizing universe and the Darwinian view that life developed through a blind and purposeless process.Lest my more optimistic (and scientific) readers think this won't have a chance, such efforts have already been successful in Louisiana (2008) and Tennessee (2012). Inevitably it takes the form of some sort of "teach the controversy" argument -- as if instructing students in the findings of valid, peer-reviewed, evidence-supported science represents some kind of satanic indoctrination. Interesting, too, that no one ever suggests "teaching the controversy" in, for example, chemistry, inducing chemistry teachers to spend a few weeks discussing alchemy -- despite the fact that the findings of evolutionary biologists are no more controversial in scientific circles than those of the chemists. Oh, and isn't it odd that it seems to be only people who are poorly educated in biological science who think there's a controversy? (Wait, that's probably just because we biologists were "indoctrinated" ourselves. Never mind.)
Kruse, for his part, is serious about this. He pledged when elected to remove evolution from state science standards, and publicly stated, "I'd guess that 80% of Indiana would be oriented with the bible and creation." No equivocation there, is there? No mealy-mouthed "teach the controversy" nonsense. Nope, just good, old-fashioned young-earth literalism, designed to further hack away at the state of science education in the United States. It's no wonder there are so many international students in US college science programs, given our determination as a nation to destroy the underpinnings of science teaching in American high schools.
It's to be hoped that the legislators will handle this sensibly (well, in my opinion, "sensibly" would include laughing directly in Kruse's face, but I'm not optimistic enough to hope for that). Kruse has attempted this sort of thing before, and failed, the last time because the legislature refused to vote and the bill died when they adjourned -- a remarkably spineless way to handle things, and one which doesn't bode well for the future.
The whole thing makes me despair a little. Of course, that's what Kruse et al. want; to wear down the opposition, to make them give up out of sheer exhaustion. I don't think they reckon with the likes of Dr. Scott, however, who doesn't strike me as the capitulating sort. I think her attitude can much better be summed up in the immortal words of Captain Mathazar from Galaxy Quest: "Never give up, never surrender."