Creationist Legislation in Indiana

I often try to do what I can to help support those in other states who try to defend science education against those who seek to undermine it, even though state legislators are largely deaf to anyone but their own constituents. Today, news about legislation being proposed here in Indiana came to my attention, via the NCSE. First, here’s the news item:

CREATIONIST LEGISLATION IN INDIANA

Senate Bill 89, prefiled in the Indiana Senate and referred to the
Committee on Education and Career Development, would, if enacted,
amend the Indiana Code to provide that “[t]he 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.” The sponsor of the bill is Dennis Kruse
(R-District 14), who chairs the Senate Committee on Education and
Career Development. In 1999, while serving in the Indiana House of
Representatives, Kruse pledged to introduce a law to remove evolution
from the state’s science standards, according to the South Bend
Tribune (August 27, 1999). Instead, however, he introduced bills with
the same wording as Senate Bill 89, House Bill 1356 in 2000 and House
Bill 1323 in 2001. Both died in committee.

“The obvious problem,” commented NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C.
Scott, “is that the Indiana legislature can’t authorize a school
district to violate the Constitution. And the Supreme Court held, in
its 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, that it’s unconstitutional
for creation science to be taught in the public schools.” She added,
“It’s disturbing that a veteran legislator like Kruse is ignorant of
– or indifferent to — the blatant unconstitutionality of his bill.”
The most recent antievolution bill in Indiana, 2006′s House Bill 1388,
was aimed at supposed errors in textbooks, although its sponsor had
previously announced his intention to introduce legislation requiring
the teaching of “intelligent design” in the state’s public schools; HB
1388 died in committee. The current legislative session resumes on
January 4, 2012.

For the text of SB 89 as introduced, visit:
http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2012/IN/IN0089.1.html

For the text of HB 1356, HB 1323, and HB 1388, visit:
http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2000/IN/IN1356.1.html
http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2001/IN/IN1323.1.html
http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2006/IN/IN1388.1.html

And for NCSE’s previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/indiana

The next question is, what can be done about it. The answer is, write to your local senator if you are a resident of Indiana. Here is what I wrote to mine:

Dear Senator Schneider,
I am writing to express my concern about Senate Bill No.89 which has recently been introduced, attempting to allow the teaching of what it calls “creation science” in schools.

I am disturbed by this for a number of reasons. First, as a teenager, I was taken in by so-called “creation science” and while I was fortunate enough to learn more about the subject and to have pointed out where this movement was making false claims, others may not be so fortunate. So-called “creation science” is at odds with the scientific understanding of the history of life on this planet, as Christian biologists, paleontologists and others with relevant expertise almost unanimously agree.

I am also disturbed by this legislation because, both as a professor who teaches Biblical studies at Butler University, and as a Christian involved in teaching Sunday school at Crooked Creek Baptist Church where I am a member (and, until the end of the year, church moderator), I know that what “creation science” claims about the Bible is every bit as mistaken and in error as what it claims about science.

“Creation science” does serious harm to Christianity, making it seem to be a faith whose adherents are ready to lie, mislead, or give gullible assent to charlatans. It also persuades many people to believe that they must choose between modern science and their faith, and if they ever learn that modern science is correct on points that young-earth creationists dispute, they often then lose their faith, unnecessarily.

But even setting aside such concerns, the teaching of creationism has already been declared a violation of the separation of church and state, and so the introduction of a bill that will inevitably be disputed and overturned even if passed is a waste of time and money. And even if the teaching of religious views about creation were to be allowed in public schools, which ones should be taught? We have significant Hindu, Muslim, and other religious populations here in Indianapolis, as well as Christians who disagree with “creation science” on scientific and Biblical grounds. Are we to make time for teaching about all those views in science classes? Ought the focus in science classes not to be on that which can be studied scientifically? Science is open to people of all faiths, and those of none, precisely because it uses a shared set of tools and methods which can be used by anyone, focusing on studying and making sense of the evidence. That approach to knowledge is incredibly effective, and it is important not to allow the education of our state’s children in the methods and conclusions of the natural sciences to be interfered with.

I sincerely hope that you will oppose this legislation. I will gladly provide more information about the relevant data from the natural sciences and Biblical studies, or recommend further reading on these subjects, should you find that helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. James F. McGrath

Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature

Butler University

Feel free to borrow from what I wrote in writing your own letter, if that will be helpful.

I have also set up a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CreationistLegislationInIndiana. Please click “like” and spread the word!

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  • Robert Cargill

    What do you expect from a guy whose education was as a 1964 graduate of the Reppert School of Auctioneering in Decatur, Indiana?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Kruse
    Talk loud enough and fast enough and maybe you can sell a lemon…

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  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    Indiana is also a “homeschool state” that has no state regulations concerning parental oversight of their child’s education!!! I’m NOT in education, but what I have been exposed to would make any educator run out of this state! That does not mean that I don’t value those that want to homeschool their children, but not if they don’t measure up to a certain standard that would equip their children for “the real world”!

    I had many homeschool friends in Maryland, but Maryland has standards! One of my homeschool friends used “Calvert”, which isn’t particularly “Christian”! A good well rounded education…..

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  • Angie VanDeMerwe

    I have talked to educators though and they are frustrated that their expertise is not accepted. Guess there is a stronger religious segment in Indiana than other States…it is the Bible belt!

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  • AE

    Angie, while your comments above, may be true, my understanding is that Indiana has a good history of keeping Creationism out of the state science curricula, though there have been past attempts to change that.
    We must tie in to those who have helped stop this before.

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  • http://twitter.com/Alexthethinker Alex Abbott

    Your links are busted. I tried to click on them, but each of them asked me to log into the Butler e-mail system!

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for catching that! They should work now.


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