Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bills to teach Intelligent Design Creationism in Maryland

I guess I had not been paying attention, so it was not until just the other day that I found out that there were a pair of teach Creationism bills in the Maryland General Assembly.  House Bill 1531 was sponsored by Emmett Burns (D-10th District, Baltimore County) and is the well-known "academic freedom" type, which allows a teacher to teach any kind of codswollop they wish, as long as it's anti-evolution (ID is specifically mentioned). Delegate Burns and a dozen other cosponsors are also behind HB 1228, "Intelligent Design - Regulation", a bill to prohibit teaching ID in science class but allowing it to be taught in a philosophy or humanities class.  Note that the bill is worded to specifically allow ID to be taught (as if it were a valid scientific theory), it just may not be taught in science class. 

HB 1531 received an unfavorable report by the House Ways and Means Committee, so I guess it's dead. HB 1228 has not been snuffed out yet. I wrote the following letter to the Editor of the Baltimore Sun before I learned the status of HB 1531, but it applies just as well to HB 1228.

To the Editor:

I am writing out of concern that some politicians are acting to vitiate education in Maryland, bringing on the derision and scorn that have followed such action in Kansas and in Dover, Pennsylvania. House Bill 1531 will weaken science education in Maryland because its intention is to highlight biological evolution as dubious and alleges that there are alternative scientific theories of equal validity, specifically naming Intelligent Design.

As clearly shown by testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, Intelligent Design has absolutely no scientific basis and is merely a religious, creationist "explanation" that, because it offers the same explanation for all phenomena, explains nothing. The religious basis for Intelligent Design is evident in its proponents' own words--their ultimate goal is to replace empirical, testable science with the sort of supernatural doctrinairity that existed during the Dark Ages.

At first blush, it may seem fair to present opposing viewpoints in class. But this is not true if one viewpoint has enormous support of many years of research (evolution), whereas the opposing viewpoint has produced no research results whatsoever, does not follow the protocols of science, and cannot lead to any fruitful avenues of inquiry (Intelligent Design). We do not present "flat Earth" as an alternative theory, nor geocentrism, nor the Evil Spirit Theory of Disease. Furthermore, singling out evolution as the somehow dubious field of science is a disingenuous ruse of a religiously-motivated anti-evolution segment of society that has been engaged in a struggle against understanding the universe ever since people began to look around themselves and ask questions.

At least one high-tech company has rethought locating a facility in Kansas, and the Dover Area Board of Education has been presented with a $1 million legal bill. These are real consequences of presenting pseudoscience as if it was real science, but the greater misfortune is that many children will be shortchanged in their education.


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