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.

  • Persephone

    Damn it so much. Once upon a time I got the last laugh at work (in a microbiology lab, no less) when my boss and my boss’ boss were chest-bumping about whose alma mater was superior: Kansas University or Kansas State. Deadlocked, they asked me for my opinion. “I went to a school in Missouri, where we still teach evolution,” I replied.

    They took the argument out to the corridor.

  • David Starner

    Frankly, the state has no business telling the universities how to do their job like this. Meddling in low-level curriculum of an accredited organization? That’s not how things should work.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    They are trying to legislate science? This is the height of hubris, trying to redefine reality. Does he think that if he puts it in the law books then he stops those nasty scientists from learning and teaching?

  • Lance Finney

    I wrote about this last week: http://lmfinney.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/its-back-intelligent-design-bill-reintroduced-in-missouri/ Please check out the post to see a letter I wrote to the sponsor and his co-sponsors. Fortunately, I got a good response from my Democratic Representative that she agrees with good science education, but I never heard back from the sponsors.

    Additionally, I posted the same on Brattin’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElectRickBrattin/posts/367013523397449

    Interestingly, Brattin deleted a lot of other people’s comments on his timeline about his issue, but he left mine alone. Maybe because other comments were often insulting.

  • David McNerney

    What was that definition of insanity again?

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    It seems that the law of the land rules supreme over the laws of nature in Missouri, as well as being capable of defining the meanings of words whose use has long been established.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001627228091 Alexander Ryan

    Something along the lines of doing the same fucking thing over and over again, expecting shit to change. That is crazy.

  • Lance Finney

    To be fair, this is how state-level legislation works. Former Missouri State Rep. Jeff Smith talked about how legislators reintroduce bills session after session. It usually doesn’t get to committee the first time, but it might go further the next time (this is enough progress to keep the lobbyist money coming in). Maybe the next time it gets through committee to the floor, showing more progress. And maybe the fourth time it gets passed.


  • Edmond

    Oh for Pete’s sake. Why are the pretty ones….
    What kind of “intelligent designer” would give us an appendix and wisdom teeth? Why give us such useful traits like gills and a tail, but only in the WOMB? Why would it lay down enough common tubing between our trachea and esophogas, so that we could DIE from the simple and necessary acts of eating, drinking and breathing? Cleft palates! Club feet! Conjoined twins! MALE NIPPLES!
    This “intelligent” designer is a clumsy, incompetent jackass!!

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    What’s wrong with male nipples?

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

    Have you ever heard the phrase “useless as tits on a boar”?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    You don’t run, do you.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    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.

    If they actually ever did teach ID properly in a high school classroom, it would be in a very small section of the “Evolution” segment in biology, best labeled “failed attempts to disprove evolution”.

  • Miss_Beara

    Pretty? He resembles a Ken doll.

    Don’t forget the eyes. Creationists like to point out how “perfect” eyes are so they must have been created by a creator. Near/far sightedness, blindness, macular degeneration, cataracts… yeah, real perfect.

  • Rod

    So, it must be safe to assume that Missouri has full employment, its environment is pristine, its businesses fully staffed and competitive, its food supply safe and plentiful, its roads safe and well-paved, its criminals prosecuted,…. otherwise why would a state legislator have time to be distracted by a bill like this?
    Oh look, something shiny over there….

  • Stev84

    Those aren’t actually gills. It just looks like it.

  • C Peterson

    They ought to go ahead while they’re at it and set pi equal to three.

  • Edmond

    I didn’t know that about the gills, thanks.
    Still, I could USE a pair of gills! Why DIDN’T he give us any? Or four arms? Or skin tougher than tree bark? Or WINGS, hell ya!
    I know plenty about spine and joint pain, though. My partner has very bad sciatica, stemming from… let’s see if I can type this without looking it up… degenerative spondylolysthesis, where a couple of his lower vertebrae are basically just disintegrating. He needed a set of titanium rod inserts in his spine.
    All part of the glorious design, I suppose!

  • Edmond

    There’s nothing “wrong” with them, per se, but… what are they FOR? Why would a designer deliberately include them?
    I remember a quote from the hilarious 80′s comedian Gallagher: “Does a plumber put a faucet on the wall with no pipe?”

  • icecreamassassin

    I’m tired. This is getting plain exhausting. The promotion and legislation of ignorance and stupidity is overwhelming. Critical thought, observation of reality…all of these things are clearly just *unimportant* to large swaths of the public at large. Incorporation of information just doesn’t sit with these people.

    How the hell is it that I keep hearing the same bulls**t over and over and over and over and over and over and over again from creationists and IDers? How is it that, over and over and over and over again, they are shown that 1+1 does not equal three, but still continually, over and over and over and over again, make the claim that 1 + 1 = 3?

    So I say let’s go for it. Let’s just pass one big piece of legislation that says we don’t need to deal with these pesky ‘facts’, this annoying discipline of ‘analysis’, or this redundant process of ‘independent validation’, and just make s**t up as we go along. I think we should call it the ‘Reality is Optional’ bill. Let’s go ahead and legislate that gut feel and intuition is the best, most efficient, and most ethical way to approach problems that effect external reality.

  • pagansister

    Is he the result of intelligent design? If so, what can be said of the so called “creator”? That’s scary.

  • pagansister

    “Why would a designer deliberately include them”? Perhaps the male was to be a back up food source in case the female wasn’t able to nurse the off spring? But then the designer would have had to put in the proper plumbing for that to work. Oh well—that theory shot to hell!

  • Bdole

    Did the author of the bill just learn the word “inferred”?

    I have relatives in MO who would think this bill is the cat’s PJs. Every other word out of their mouth is “praise”, “blessed”, or “Jesus”. Jesus Christ on a stick it’s hard to listen to.

  • Bdole

    2 words.

  • SJH

    I’m not sure that I understand the goal of those that push ID. It seems to me that it is more like a philosophy than science. If they want to teach this subject it should be moved into a philosophy/theology class. As Xians we should not be afraid of science and force some kind of philosophical theory into science class. My children go to a parochial school and are taught science in science class and theology in religion class. Of course, the science teacher has every right in a religious private school to express his wonder and awe at what he believes to be God’s creation and its representation in science but he does not claim that his belief is some how science.

  • Andi

    The appendix had a former use (something about bacteria, I can’t remember) and even to this day wisdom teeth have their use; they’re replacement teeth for when you lose one or two due to decay. But because most of us have decent dental hygiene, they’re useless and we have them removed. As for male nipples, that’s because the fetus starts out female. The above three things have nothing to do with bad design.

    But I agree about everything else, very poor design.

  • ggsillars

    This is wonderful: my Maryland high school diploma gets more valuable every day.

  • anniewhoo
  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    That wouldn’t make their students confused and dumb enough. For your comparison, they would instead set pi at “negative” three.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The Judeo-Christian creation myth taught on equal footing with evolution??

    As a blue-eyed, transparent-skinned descendant of ancient tribes in East Anglia and Wales, I DEMAND that the Samoan creation myth be taught on equal footing with both the Judeo-Christian creation myth and evolution. It’s a well known unknown fact that the blue-eyed, transparent-skinned ancient tribes of the British isles have always fervently believed in the same creation myth as their fellow island dwellers, the Samoans.

    Pay no attention to those crazy radicals in Borneo who claim to share the same creation myth as the ancient Aztecs, and who are demanding that their creation myth be taught on equal footing with the Judeo-Christian creation myth, the Samoan creation myth and with evolution. That’s just nuts. Anyone can see that the Bornean-Aztec creation myth is nonsense, but the Samoan-ancient British creation myth has as much irrefutable evidence supporting it as the Christian creation myth.

  • Rain

    “There are no plausible mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic origin of the first independent living organism;”

    Actually somewhat of a red herring. The one thing all creationists have in common, including intelligent design creationists, is that they didn’t come from monkeys. As long as they can get in the part where they didn’t come from monkeys, then they will be happy. It’s all about the monkeys, folks.

  • Derrik Pates

    You mean like North Carolina passing a law claiming to limit how much the ocean level can rise in a year? Sadly, these aren’t the only examples of states passing laws attempting to redefine reality. Dear crazy Christians: Just because it’s a law, doesn’t affect nature. Nature doesn’t give a crap.

  • Edmond

    Weird, huh? Yet this is how we know that NATURE is in charge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    If you want to keep a weather eye on the creep of creationist bills every session across the USA, as well as general theocracy creep and related legal cases, I recc The Sensuous Curmudgeon web log – excellent on the spot monitoring and reporting with bucket loads of cutting dry wit and sarcasm lashed on top. The guy who runs it reports on these bills, and adds in all the back history and details of the people proposing them. Most informative.

    To a Brit, the fact you are still having the same quackass backwards and forwards with creationism bills and cases nearly 100 years after Scopes is flabbergasting. My gast is well and truly flabbered.

  • Edmond

    Still, those three things don’t represent GOOD design, either. A good designer would have made them either completely unnecessary (and absent) from the very beginning, or still functioning and still useful from beginning to end. If you’re omniscient, you don’t design things to PURPOSELY go obsolete in the future (unless you work for Microsoft, I guess).

    Though it seems to me that if you’re omnipotent, you shouldn’t need to bother with organs and teeth and DNA and bacteria and decay AT ALL. These are needless complications for a being that runs everything by his “will”. It’d be my guess that, according to biblical theology, ANGELS have no need of all those biological components. If God could create THEM to function on magic, he could’ve done the same for us. The decision to switch from smoothly running magic, to fallible biology, is the worst design decision of all.

  • A Portlander

    This goes beyond absurdity to obscenity. As far as I can tell, this guy has never seen the inside of a college classroom. He went straight from high school to a construction job, enlisted as a Marine because 9/11, then came home and used his I-shot-brown-people-for-Jeezus money to open a drywall business. If anyone is in doubt why those of us on the coasts & in the cities sneer down our noses at the flyover states, it’s because they elect ox-necked, proudly-willfully-ignorant yokels like this clown to represent them. Any sane person marooned in Missouri has my sympathy.

  • A Portlander

    An addendum, the first listed platform plank on the front page of his campaign website is “Repeal health care for people”. You can’t make this stuff up.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    Perhaps a good cotton training bra will help with the chafing.

  • David

    Males do in fact have breasts – they are just inactive. Some men get cancer of the breast; men who take female hormones will develop breasts.

    These are facts. Why men should need them if ‘created’ remains unclear.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    They are like monkeys flinging their shit against the wall, again and again, hoping that some of it will stick. Yet they don’t accept evolution.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    Haven’t you heard? Education is elitist.

  • Brian Scott

    At first I thought you were being facetious and stereotyping, then I read his About page. Not that I want to encourage sneering at people without post-high school education, but active disdain for science seems to be his MO here – “wilfully ignorant”, as you put it – and that is a bigger reason to loathe his election than whether he’s never been to college or university.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    What’s the difference between men and women? Men wear their ovaries on the outside ;-)

  • atoswald

    “There are no plausible mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove
    the naturalistic origin of the first independent living organism;”

    This; There are no plausible mechanisms or present-day experiments to
    prove the divine origin of the first independent living organism.

    “There are no significant mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove
    the naturalistic development of earth’s species from microscopic organisms;”

    And, again; There are no significant mechanisms or present-day
    experiments to prove the divine development of Earth’s species.

    Repeating your statement does not make it true, nor does the prolific
    use of the word “infer”.

    ““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

    Allow me to emphasize Brattin’s own words, “faith-based philosophical
    beliefs.” I guess he missed elementary school as well, or perhaps he would
    realize that dictionaries are widely available to us knuckle-dragging apes too.

  • C Peterson

    How is it that, over and over and over and over again, they are shown that 1+1 does not equal three, but still continually, over and over and over and over again, make the claim that 1 + 1 = 3?

    When you really come down to it, what else is religion but an institution that exists to convince people that 1 + 1 = 3? And it’s quite successful at doing just that.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    David Niose points out that in the election of 1912, all four major presidential candidates accepted evolution. Our gasts are flabbered too.

  • baal

    It’s not an accident that Missouri is at the bottom of the list in a host of demographic indicators.

  • Sue Blue

    Yeah – why are only the myths of Semitic middle-eastern tribes being considered? My white-as-Elmer’s Glue ancestors venerated Thor, Odin, and Frey! I want Norse creation myths to be taught! I want every American to know how the world was created from the dismembered body of the giant Ymir, and if they don’t believe it, Thor will bring down his Mighty Hammer upon them, and Odin’s Ravens will peck their eyes out! Yeah!

  • MariaO

    The real design miss of eyes are of course the inverted retinas of all vertebrates (excepting the third, central eye of the tuatara*). When light comes into your eyes it first goes through a layer of blood vessels, then several layers of nerve cells, and THEN it reaches the light sensitive cells. In octopi, of the other hand, the light sensitive cells are on top, and nerves and nutrition comes from below, without interfering with vision. So if Audhumbla (or substitue your favorite designer) could get it right in the octopus, why not in you?
    *Evolutionary equavalent to your pineal gland and with the same function – regulating the diurnal rhytm.

  • pagansister

    Yes, David, I did know that men have (non-functional) breasts. You’d think that a super creator would at least have a reason, huh?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    Or WINGS, hell ya!

    i still pray for wings. i can get some in the military and on planes. which jeebus made. to kill people, which He was totally all about, back in the day.

    however, science has failed to introduce the jetpack, like on that cartoon from the 60s, which is as real as the bible. this is how i know science “fails.” #wingnut


    How does intellignet design explain schizophrenia, muscular dystrophy, cancer, brith defects, and polio, just to mention a few things? As tragic as these things are, they are at least understandable within the context of evolution and random genetic mutation. If these things are the product of design, then the designer is a malevolent son of a bitch. If creationism had any validity, what so ever, its proponents would not have to resort to the force of law to get it into the educational system.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Or why an estimated half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Talk about abortion being murder- God must really need a lot of angels.

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    Punishment from a pissy god. What? We can’t say that anymore?

  • Edmond

    Your’re all just anti-Mayanist bigots! Everyone knows that Tepeu and Gucumatz created the world, and made people out of corn meal! The Popol Vuh tells us so! You know this in your hearts, you just want to rebel.

  • allein

    It’s the willful ignorance that infuriates me the most.

  • DarwinStickerOnMyCar

    So all the funny language had to have come from somewhere else, because the legislators don’t actually draft their own bills. They have staff attorneys who draft it for them with their specifications. Sometimes orgs will produce a standard bill for legislators to use and they can have it drafted exactly the same.

  • A Portlander

    Exactly. My chief beef with this clod is that he’s hoping to ram this ID lobby copypasta down academia’s throat without ever having experienced higher learning, much less formal scientific training.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonOfTerra PhiloKGB
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Human-Ape/100001623230964 Human Ape

    In a state like Missouri I wouldn’t be surprised if many biology teachers are already teaching magical creationism. The students wouldn’t complain because they have already been brainwashed to believe in magic.