The National Center for Science Education(NCSE) has just reported on two new bills introduced by the New Hampshire legislature that would restrict teaching of evolution in public schools. One would require evolution be taught as "a theory" along with "the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism."
The other, according to NSCE would, "[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes."
Hearings are scheduled for February.
NCSE's write-up cites the Concord Monitor, where one of the bills' authors, Republican Jerry Bergevin was quoted, "I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless." He reportedly blamed the acceptance of evolution for the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the 1999 Columbine shooting.
For more on the alleged Nazi connection to Evolution, see this column.
One of the authors of the other bill, Gary Hopper (R-District 7), also expressed some common misconceptions about the nature of science, according to NCSE:
Hopper acknowledged that although he would like to see "intelligent design" taught in classrooms, he was not able to find a successful legislative precedent. Instead, he explained, "I want the problems with the current theories to be presented so that kids understand that science doesn't really have all the answers. They are just guessing."
That last statement is an extreme expression of the common misunderstanding of the word "theory", which I hope to address more in upcoming columns. As for science not having "all the answers", well, that's true. When this generation grows up some might become scientists and solve them. It could be pretty stimulating for classrooms to discuss open questions. But I don't think that's what Hopper has in mind. His bill sounds like an attempt to cast misplaced doubt on the basics.
The first bill's intention doesn't seem crazy on the surface. Evolution did have an impact on culture, religion, and humanity's self-image. A little historical context would be a perfectly reasonable thing to teach as long as it was done accurately, didn't include bogus historical ties between Darwinism and Hitler, and didn't take away time from science. But according to NCSE, executive director Eugenie Scott says,