Missouri Republican Re-Introduces Bill to Teach Creationism in Science Courses

Missouri state representative Rick Brattin has clearly decided that his state’s ranking as 33rd in science education is far too high.

Brattin has re-introduced a bill that is designed to ruin science education for Missouri students. He tried this last year to no avail, so he’s giving it another shot.

Rick Brattin… or an action figure of him. It’s really hard to tell. (via rickbrattin.org)

The bill will put Creationism on equal footing with evolution in Missouri public schools. Even more horrifying, the bill is designed to wreak destruction not only on Missouri public schools but also on Missouri universities.

The bill, HB 291, is worth reading just for the shock and awe factor of bad science and worse reasoning. The definition of evolution is clumsy, but not outright false. However, the fun begins when they get into the weeds of the affirmations of Intelligent Design:

(a) The origin of life on earth is inferred to be the result of intelligence directed design and construction. There are no plausible mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic origin of the first independent living organism;

As usual, Creationists cannot wrap their minds around the concept that the origin of life — abiogenesis — is a different subject from evolution. In any event, it is true that we do not (yet) know exactly how the first entity that we would identify as an organism came to be. Of course, to say there is no science on the subject is absurd. To affirm that, because science has not yet hit on the definitive answer, an intelligent designer can be “inferred” is to utterly misunderstand the nature of science. I could as easily “infer” that, absent a cohesive scientific theory for abiogenesis, the first “independent living organism” was poofed into being by the flatulence of a cosmic pink bunny.

(b) All original species on earth are inferred to be the result of intelligence directed design and construction. There are no significant mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic development of earth’s species from microscopic organisms;

I wonder what they mean by “all original species”? Are they so shockingly ignorant of science that they don’t realize that biology doesn’t postulate all existing life having its origins in multiple species, given the lack of evidence in favor of such a proposition? As for there being no “significant mechanisms or present-day experiments” to explain such phenomena, I guess there isn’t, as long as you frontally reject over 150 years of evidence for evolution with no justification whatsoever.

(c) Complex forms in proteins, enzymes, DNA, and other biological structures demonstrated by their constituent molecules in regard to size, shape, quantity, orientation, sequence, chirality, and integration imply intelligent design was necessary for the first life on earth. Intelligence is capable of designing complex form;

OK, I’ll admit that this particularly bothers me as a molecular biologist. This particular section serves to illustrate that this bill was not even passed in front of a decent biology undergrad, let alone an actual scientist. Proteins and enzymes? Enzymes are proteins, you ignorant science-hating yahoos! In fact, the statement is nonsensical. The properties of complex biological molecules do not imply intelligent design in the slightest. In fact, they constitute solid evidence for evolution. It is possible to track evolutionary history not only through the analysis of fossils, but also through the comparison of the molecular structures in cells.

They go on like this for some time, bringing up just about every long debunked Creationist trope; no transitional fossils, the eye couldn’t evolve, species today don’t evolve, etc.

Can I just take a moment to remind everyone that this is a piece of legislation? In an American state. By an American politician. In the year 2013.

After a joyful destructive romp over the most basic biological concepts, the bill takes a sharp turn for the weird:

(4) “Destiny”, the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race and which may be founded upon faith-based philosophical beliefs;

What in the world does “destiny” have to do with science? Nothing. But then, Intelligent Design doesn’t either, so maybe I’m just nit-picking.

At the very start of the bill the definitions of evolution and Intelligent Design have one slightly heartening bit: evolution is referred to as a “theory,” whereas Intelligent Design is given the title of “hypothesis.” A glimmer of scientific honesty out of the Creationist camp? Not a chance. Check out how they define theory and hypothesis:

(7) “Hypothesis”, a scientific theory reflecting a minority of scientific opinion which may lack acceptance because it is a new idea, contains faulty logic, lacks supporting data, has significant amounts of conflicting data, or is philosophically unpopular. One person may develop and propose a hypothesis;

(9) “Scientific theory”, an inferred explanation of incompletely understood phenomena about the physical universe based on limited knowledge, whose components are data, logic, and faith-based philosophy. The inferred explanation may be proven, mostly proven, partially proven, unproven or false and may be based on data which is supportive, inconsistent, conflicting, incomplete, or inaccurate. The inferred explanation may be described as a scientific theoretical model

This definition of scientific theory is entirely fabricated. It has absolutely no relationship to the actual meaning of the term and was purposefully created to discredit evolution. “Faith based philosophy”? Really?!

It should also be noted that even as the bill tries to denigrate the notion of “theory,” it’s preferred alternative, Creationism, does not even rise to the level of hypothesis. A hypothesis has to at least offer the possibility of making verifiable predictions. Creationism makes no verifiable predictions because it is not a scientific statement of any sort, let alone one on the same level as evolution.

Brattin wants to make this monstrosity the law in Missouri.

As written, the law would obligate the teaching of Creationism to children in the state. It would also obligate Missouri universities to offer this non-science in their introductory science courses, which would instantly wreak havoc on the reputation and standing of these higher learning institutions. Here’s hoping the people of Missouri let their legislators know that they refuse to become another Kansas.

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.