Thursday, February 25, 2016

Update: Mississippi Bill Dies in Committee

NCSE is reporting that HB 50, the Mississippi “Academic Freedom” bill proposed by Mark Formby has died in committee.
Mississippi's House Bill 50, whose principal sponsor acknowledged was intended to allow teachers in the public schools to present creationism, died in the House Education Committee on February 23, 2016, when a deadline for bills to be reported out of committee expired. HB 50 was the first antiscience bill in the state since 2010.

If enacted, the bill would have allowed teachers "to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught" — and blocked administrators from preventing the teaching of pseudoscience.
Things might have gone okay for the bill had it not been for the fact that Formby tipped his hand by suggesting strongly that the bill could be used by teachers to teach creationism. The publicity that generated was probably enough for the committee to realize that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that, if enacted, the law wouldn't be challenged in court.

Aside: while the Discovery Institute went public recently with its repudiation of the bill's intent (to teach creationism), it is naive, given what we know of what happened in Dover and the general leanings of the promoters of these sorts of bills, not to think that the ultimate goal of most of them is to either teach creationism or attempt to take evolution out of the curriculum. Despite the lofty ideals of “academic freedom,” every one of them has focused almost exclusively on evolution. Sometimes climate change and synthetic biology are thrown in just to disguise the bill's true intent. It is here, in Mississippi, however, that we have the smoking gun.

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