Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What did I tell ya? South Carolina tries a new tactic.

The NCSE is reporting that new anti-evolution legislation was introduced in the State Senate.

"Senate Bill 873, introduced in the South Carolina Senate on May 21, 2009 and referred to the Senate Committee on Education, would, if enacted, require the state board of education to "examine all curriculum in use in this State that purports to teach students about the origins of mankind to determine whether the curriculum maintains neutrality toward religion." The bill further provides, "Related to non-religion, the examination must include a review as to whether the curriculum contains a sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus preferring those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs."
This is a new tactic, one the bill's sponsor hadn't tried before. Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6),
  • 2003, he sought to establish a committee to "determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools." The Greenville News (May 1, 2003), reported that Fair "said his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools."
  • 2005, he introduced a bill modeled on the so-called Santorum language often misrepresented as contained in the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The bill failed, but Fair won himself a description as "the dominant voice advocating for S.C. schools to teach more than Charles Darwin's theories of evolution," according to The State (June 17, 2005).
  • 2008, he introduced a version of the "academic freedom" anti-evolution bill, which died in committee.
This new tactic is worrisome because nowhere in the bill does it define what is meant by neutrality or hostility. How many times has someone claimed that Science, in general, and Evolution, in particular, is hostile to religion, or promote atheism, or is anti-God. Remember the plaintiffs in the Dover case and how many of them were turned upon by members of their own churches as being atheists and anti-religion.

The NCSE is certainly correct in categorizing this bill as anti-evolution. It's target is the teaching of evolution. I can certainly see the head of the SC State School Board backing this bill, Ms. Maguire is an avowed Creationist. I can also see Senator Fair renewing a push to introduce Intelligent Design, since it doesn't mention God, it must meet the requirements of neutrality, right? Especially when what constitute neutrality is conspicuously missing from the bill.

This could get pretty ugly pretty quickly. Let's hope it does like the last attempt and dies in committee. I like South Carolina! I remember childhood trips to Sesquicentennial State Park in Columbia and learning about some of the indigenous plants, animals, and insects by a Park intern named Debbie. Mrtyle Beach and Charleston are great places to visit, as is Greenville. The State doesn't deserve the treatment it's getting from it's elected officials. How much time has to be wasted on the campaign designed to bring religion into Science class.

And to anyone who thinks Intelligent Design is not religious, read this interview from William Dembski, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute where he states:
"I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.The focus of my writings is not to try to understand the Christian doctrine of creation; it’s to try to develop intelligent design as a scientific program."
I do like how he squeezed in "try to develop intelligent design as a scientific program". I know I would take that to mean that currently it is NOT a scientific program. So it should not be allowed in South Carolina classrooms for two reasons, first it is not scientific, and second, it is certainly not neutral toward God. Quick someone tell the Senator.

One last little thought. Snuck into the small print is " This section does not prevent classes being taught pursuant to Section 59-29-230." Guess what that section addresses:

SECTION 59-29-230. Old and New Testament era courses.

(A)(1) A school district board of trustees may authorize, to be taught in the district's high schools, an elective course concerning the history and literature of the Old Testament era and an elective course concerning the history and literature of the New Testament era.

(2) Each course offered must be taught in an objective manner with no attempt to influence the students as to either the truth or falsity of the materials presented.

(3) Students must be awarded the same number of Carnegie units that are awarded to other classes of similar duration.

(4) A particular version of the Old or New Testament to be used in either course may be recommended by the board of trustees; provided, that the teacher of the course and students enrolled in the course may use any version of the Old and New Testaments.

(B) The board of trustees of a district that offers a course pursuant to this section must:

(1) maintain supervision and control of the course;

(2) hire any new teachers that it determines are required to teach the course in the same manner all other teachers are hired;

(3) assure that all teachers teaching the course are certified by the State; and

(4) make no inquiry into the religious beliefs, or the lack of religious beliefs, held by a teacher when determining which teacher shall teach the class.

(C) The State Board of Education shall develop and adopt academic standards and appropriate instructional materials that must be used by high schools offering a course pursuant to this section. These academic standards and instructional materials must ensure that the courses do not disparage or encourage a commitment to a set of religious beliefs.

(D) The academic standards and appropriate instructional materials developed and adopted by the board must:

(1) be designed to help students gain a greater appreciation of the Old Testament and the New Testament as great works of literature, art, and music; assist students in gaining greater insight into the many historical events recorded in the Old Testament and the New Testament; and provide students with a greater awareness of the many social customs that the Old Testament and the New Testament have significantly influenced; and

(2) provide that the Old Testament is the primary text for the course exploring the history and literature of the Old Testament era and that the New Testament is the primary text for the course exploring the history and literature of the New Testament era.

(E) The academic standards developed and adopted may provide that students may be assigned period-appropriate secular historical and literary works to supplement the primary text.

Gee no Double Standard here!


  1. Pretty slick. Now parents who object to teaching evolution can file lawsuits claiming unlawful religious discrimination instead of parents filing lawsuits against creationism or intelligent design claiming unlawful government support of religion. It puts the onus on the school district to defend itself if it teaches adequate science education. It will have a chilling effect on the ability of teachers to teach biology. They just never quit, do they?

  2. On the bright side, given the Section 59-29-230 exception they likely wouldn't be able to apply this to courses that taught the Documentary Hypothesis or variants thereof. Hmm, that's a pretty tiny bright side given that almost any of those classes aren't going to be teaching the DH anyways.

  3. No Scripto, they never do!

    Agreed Joshua, as an explanation of Biblical inconsistencies, it would be an interesting study.