Friday, January 27, 2012

Indiana Joins the Fray

According to a report from the NCSE, Indiana's state senate has passed a bill that:
if enacted would allow local school districts to "require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science," was passed by the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development on January 25, 2012. The vote was 8-2, with the bill's sponsor and committee chair Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), Carlin Yoder (R-District 12), Jim Banks (R-District 17), Jim Buck (R-District 17), Luke Kenley (R-District 20), Jean Leising (R-District 42), Scott Schneider (R-District 30), and Frank Mrvan Jr. (D-District 1) voting for and Earline S. Rogers (D-District 3) and Tim Skinner (D-District 38) voting against the bill.
All but one a Republican. Natch. More and more, this whole “academic freedom” legislation is becoming a plank of the Republican party. Mitt Romney and Ulysses S. Gingrich are out of step. This is surely a procedural, academic vote since it will likely not pass constitutional muster, given the ruling handed down in Dover vs. Kitzmiller. Those that passed the bill must know this. That is what makes it even more ridiculous—that they would take time to debate something that is dead in the water. As Todd Rundgren sings: “Too little to do and too much time.” The text of the bill is remarkably brief and does not even define creation science, which is also problematic. It reads:
The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.
Are there really only two people in that committee that have decent enough backgrounds in science to know a bad idea when they see it?

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  1. Indiana's "pro-creation" bill may reflect Republican perception of its base's desires. The legislators on the committee may think that they need to support the bill, or suffer election defeat.

    I don't believe that the Dover case flies as high on the radar as some of us think. To those of us who regularly keep tabs on this stuff, it's huge; but to the general public, it's probably "in one ear, out the other" for the most part.

  2. You may be right about Dover. I would like to think it has far-reaching implications but the only case where it has ruled its head is the Louisiana case in Livingston Parrish, where the local school board used the Jindal-signed “academic freedom” bill to drag in creationism. It reminds me of the post I had a bit back (can't seem to find it now) where an unsuccessful suit was brought against the University of California because they rescinded the acceptance of an incoming student when they found out his scientific training had been in young-earth creationism. I thought that would have far-reaching implications for schools that taught that but nothing seems to have come of it.

  3. John Freshwater is using the "academic freedom" argument in his appeal of his termination as a middle school science teacher in Mt. Vernon, OH. His appeals brief (PDF) claims that

    The Board's termination of Freshwater's employment on this basis raises significant First
    Amendment concerns that were completely ignored by the court below. The Board's action in
    this regard is in violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech-and the subsidiary
    right of academic freedom-with respect to both Freshwater and his students.

    The Board's brief (PDF) vigorously contests that claim (see p 17ff).

  4. The great beauty of the academic freedom argument is that you can hide anything behind it, be it creationism or ID or any other silly notion, all in the name of “fairness.”