Legislative Whack-A-Mole

As I noted in yesterday’s post, our intrepid legislators are hard at work making fools of themselves on the taxpayers’ dime. There’s the effort to ban the non-existent use of Sharia law by the state’s judiciary, a bill prescribing how school children must sing the Star Spangled Banner (no, I am not making that up–and I’m not going to say anything more about it, either–too depressing), and the effort that will not die no matter how many courts rule it unconstitutional: a bill to allow the teaching of creationism in public school science classes.

What’s wrong with this effort by Senator Kruse (he of the “no Sharia” bill)? Ah, let me count the ways.

First of all, the Supreme Court has ruled that injecting “creation science” (as the bill calls it) into public school science classrooms, is unconstitutional. The reason? “Creation science” is not science. It is religion. In fact, the courts will allow creationism to be taught in classes on comparative religion.

Proponents of teaching this religious dogma in science class consistently betray an utter lack of understanding of what science is. First of all, they use the term “theory” to suggest that evolution is “just a theory.” What they clearly do not understand is that in science, the term “theory” has a specific meaning–and that meaning is very different from the way you and I use the term in casual conversation. The common use means “guess” or “speculation.” In science, a theory is constructed to explain the relationship of carefully documented empirical observations.

There is one common thread to the two meanings, however, and it is what sets science apart from religion or ideology: both our casual “theories” and scientific theories are falsifiable. That means they must be changed if new evidence emerges that warrants such change. The scientific method is built on this concept of falsification–scientists constantly challenge and test what they think they know, and modify their understandings accordingly. That is how science advances.

If a belief is rigid, if it is held despite facts that challenge all or part of it, it is by definition not science. (If Senator Kruse will explain how God can be dragged into a high school lab and tested, he might have–excuse the expression–a prayer.) Creationism is a matter of faith, and faith–again, by definition–is not science.

It probably goes without saying that in a state pursuing economic development through a variety of bio-science initiatives, passage of Kruse’s bill would send a very embarrassing message. Evolution, after all, is the necessary basis of biology. But what is most depressing about this exercise is its predictable futility. During the past decade or so, creation “science” has been authorized in Kansas and Pennsylvania and–predictably–struck down by the courts. (In Kansas, voters also went to the polls in droves to defeat the Kansas Board of Education members who’d made the state a national laughingstock). It’s like the game of “whack a mole”–you whap it here and it pops up there.

Meanwhile, the state’s real problems languish and the legislature’s real business is neglected.

I guess there’s a lesson here: don’t be some fancy-pants elitist who actually understands biology. And for goodness sake, watch how you sing the Star Spangled Banner…..


  1. Thanks Prof K.
    Once the Rubes & Boobs (as Mike R used to say) are done with these issues, they can get back to the URGENT central time issue.
    Amazingly Stupid yet Predictable

  2. Thank you for your lucid presentation of many of the problems associated with this bill. I might add another, that is very worrisome if true.
    If Mr. Kruse is aware of Edwards vs. Aguillard, the Supreme court decision striking down the teaching of creation science, and proposed the bill anyway, it suggests a willingness to thumb one’s nose at the judicial branch of government, which is dangerous.
    What if the bill passes? It certainly will be challenged in court, and it certainly will fail, given current case law. Will Mr. Kruse just ignore the law?
    There is a reason for the checks and balances built into the constitution, and all three branches of government must respect the authority of the others. A legislator (or other elected official) cannot decide willy-nilly to ignore a Supreme Court decision. If this is the case with Mr. Kruse, Indianans might have a serious problem on their hands.
    Perhaps he is unaware of the Edwards decision. He should be informed, and allowed to withdraw his bill. If he does not, then you have cause for worry beyond a bill that compromises science education for your students.

  3. I can’t believe that he actually used the words “creation science”. Most Creationists abandoned that phrase after the Supreme Court case of Edwards v. Aguillard ruled it unconstitutional. They’ve since moved on to words like intelligent design, teaching the controversy, and academic freedom in an attempt to sneak their religion back into science classes. The good news is that the courts weren’t fooled by their linguistic sleight of hand.

  4. I’m reasonably certain he is aware of the decision; bills have to be vetted by Legislative Services before they are filed, and the lawyers for LSA would have told him if he was somehow unaware of it. Like so many other “Christian” conservatives, he doesn’t care–he’s determined to push back, to make his point, no matter the ultimate cost to the taxpayer.

  5. In reviewing the list of bills filed for the 2012 session it appears to this old timer that a reasonable limit to number of bills that can be proposed by any legislator and then very quickly (and do know some of this will happen such as assigned to a committee to never be seen again) dispose of most of the list without any time spent on the issue. Yes, now a legislator can tell the folks back home “I tried”, but some proposals are beyond common sense (such as “creation science” and even considering it should be part of any science curriculum). Actually, it is unlikely any major reason exists for there to even be a “short session” this year except we will have to endure political posturing on several issues.

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