Missouri’s creationism bill: dumb even by creationist standards.

Oooooooooh, Las Vegas, you exhausting city.  Not sure which is worse, my headache after a few days in Vegas or the headache I got from reading about Missouri’s new creationism bill.

Although even the Wikipedia entry for scientific theory includes definitions provided by the world’s most prestigious organizations of scientists, the bill’s sponsor Rick Brattin has seen fit to invent his own definition. And it’s a head-scratcher: “‘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 faith or philosophy involved remain unspecified.

mmmMMMmmm…false equivalence.  Wouldn’t it be great for creationists if faith that the laws of the universe stopped working so the beliefs of Christians could be true and “faith” in evidence were the same thing?

The implication is that the conclusions of science may be wrong, and so therefore they’re on equal footing with all manner of tall tales.

Brattin also mentions philosophy when he redefines “hypothesis” as “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.” The reason for that becomes obvious when he turns to intelligent design, which he defines as a hypothesis. Presumably, he thinks it’s only a hypothesis because it’s philosophically unpopular, since his bill would ensure it ends up in the classrooms.

Ordinarily, one would think that our leaders would take at least a few minutes to familiarize themselves with the subject matter of a bill before submitting one, but not creationists.  This man clearly has no clue whatsoever about science, yet wants to decide how it is taught.  He doesn’t know what a theory or a hypothesis are.  This would be like someone trying to pass a bill dictating how Christianity was taught saying that Jesus isn’t a magic elephant, he’s a six-legged dog.  The response from Christians would be “you’re an idiot!”  Well, that’s exactly how people with even a cursory understanding of science react to people like Brattin.

Except creationists generally lack the self-awareness to detect that being an idiot is a bad thing, since they usually call it “being faithful” or “taking a stand for the lord.”

(Thanks to John for the link)

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    What’s more important, what a “theory” is, or what you feel, in your heart of hearts, a “theory” should be?

  • http://jonvoisey.net Jon Voisey

    This is actually the EXACT SAME BILL Brattin introduced last year.

  • Rain

    He doesn’t know what a theory or a hypothesis are.

    It seems like way too much of a coincidence that his redefinitions of theory and hypothesis fit exactly with what he wants them to fit. It’s just a little too convenient. One begins to suspect it might be deliberate.

    • Artor

      It had to be deliberate, since no dictionary in the world carries those definitions. He pulled them out of his ass and twisted them to fit where they needed to in his bill. In his defense, I don’t think he understands that that’s not how words work.

  • Glodson

    “‘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.”

    I guess we just run those experiments for fun. I mean, I always thought of a scientific theory as a series of statements which serve as an explanation for observable events off which we can make testable predictions.

    He can redefine the words all he wants. He just exposes his own stupidity as he does.

  • Rikitiki

    We need a bill passed – both federal and state – that would impose a fine on any lawmaker who tries to float something (like creationism) in a bill that has already been shot down. Jeez, how much money does this country lose from all the time and effort these fools go to trying to draft/pass legislation which has already been repeatedly shown to be bogus?

    • sqlrob

      Screw fine. Tossed out of office for good, not eligible to hold any governmental position.

    • iknklast

      I think that would be a highly dangerous proposition. That means that bad law would remain bad law if a good law repealing it had failed to pass in the past. Ending slavery? Nah, we tried that last year. Didn’t work, don’t want to be fined. ERA? Been there, done that, can’t try again.

      The implications of such a law would be horrifying.

      • sqlrob

        I think “Unconstitutional” might be a better one than failed. Especially if each bill is required to have a section explaining how each section is constitutional.

        • Glodson

          But then a bill can really only be determined to be Unconstitutional by means of Judaical Review, which would mean that we would need add another layer to the entire legislation process, which could be problematic in itself.

          I get where this idea is coming from, but it seems to be fatally flawed.

          • baal

            Courts do just fine (at least until the modern SCOTUS) at determining constitutionality. The usual problem is getting plaintiffs who can survive the predicates long enough to get to trial.

          • Andrew Kohler

            I’m afraid I have to disagree that courts have been doing fine until the modern SCOTUS, in that the disgraceful rulings handed down by SCOTUS date back at least as far as Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), the 1883 Civil Rights Cases (that’s one ruling consolidating a bunch of different cases), Pace v. Alabama (also 1883, unanimously upheld laws prohibiting “miscegenation”–horribly offensive word), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896; even the lone dissenting opinion by John Marshall Harlan is racist against Chinese people), and then skip ahead a few years to Korematsu in 1944 (“Japanese internment camps? why not!”). Also, while many people blame Citizens United (in general a blameworthy decision) for corporate personhood, this concept dates back to the nineteenth century: it may be traced to Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) and it was reaffirmed by the same awful court as made all those racist rulings in 1886 (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad ). And then there are cases that have gone the right way but barely: Texas v. Johnson (about flag “desecration”) was 5-4–how can that possibly have been anything other than 9-0 in favor of the First Amendment!?!?

            So, alas, the judiciary isn’t always reliable. I do, however, agree with iknklast and Glodson that a prohibition on trying to pass legislation that has repeatedly failed is problematic. I suppose we’ll have to keep working to find a good solution (aside from the obvious “elect people who understand and respect the First Amendment”).

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “‘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.”

    Tools for carpentry include hammers, saws and salmon.

  • baal

    “he’s a six-legged dog”
    Until evolution explains how we don’t have 6 legged dogs, we should throw out the entire theory!!!!(eleventy). Aren’t the number of legs on animals further proof of kinds? I mean the the crustacean kind gets 10, the spider kind gets 8, insect kind gets 6, the ‘lower animals’ get 4 legs for its kind, man gets 2 legs for it’s kind, and that leaves just angels as the kind with 1 leg and god is legless (which is why Stan appears as a snake, he’s making a bad copy of G-d).

    • ZenDruid

      According to the Nag Hammadi Scripture, Gawd (and I paraphrase) “squirted out like an aborted fetus with the head of a lion and the body of a serpent”. You see, his mother Sophia was getting so caught up with the creation fever that was under way, she just couldn’t help herself. I can’t help thinking that that describes the pharyngula stage of embryonic development… so yeah, no legs.

  • Brad1990

    “noun (plural theories)a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained:

    Darwin’s theory of evolution•a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based:

    a theory of education
    [mass noun]: music theory
    •an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action:

    my theory would be that the place has been seriously mismanaged
    •Mathematics a collection of propositions to illustrate the principles of a subject.”

    I hope a massive number of intelligent Missourians send Mr. Brattin an OED with the first definition highlighted.

    • Brad1990

      Oops, forgive my poor formatting. I’m sure you get the gist.


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