Monday, December 19, 2005


Evolution in Utah (post 1 of 2)

Evolution in Utah (post 1 of 2)

Utah state senator Chris Buttars has been the primary driving force behind attempts to legislate the teaching of intelligent design in Utah. Buttars was first elected in 2001, is from West Jordan, graduated from Utah State University (Go Aggies) with a B.S. in Marketing/Economics, and is on the state senate education committee. I first became aware of Buttars this summer when I read about his attempt to have what he called “divine design” taught alongside evolution. According to the Salt Lake Tribune Buttars thought he’d avoid controversy by avoiding mentioning creationism. Apparently he thought that substituting “divine design” for creationism would keep religion out of the picture. “The only people who will be upset about this are atheists.” I’m not clear why he thinks something called “divine design” isn’t inherently religious. I have a hunch he thought that by explicitly avoiding mentioning the Bible he could get around the Establishment Clause. This is the approach taken by legislators from Arkansas in the early 80s. They introduced the " Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act" which required that creation science be taught alongside evolution. Creation science included the same beliefs about evolution and the age of the earth as biblical creationism (discussed here), but avoiding explicitly mentioning God or the Bible. That wasn’t enough for the U.S. District Court judge who presided over McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education. He ruled that “creation science” wasn’t actually science and violated the Establishment Clause. So, if Buttars is going down that same path, it’s going to be a very short show – his bill will quickly be shot down if it ever gets passed.

As I mentioned in this post, the Utah state school board wasn’t very keen on Buttars’ bill. Buttars was discouraged, but he’s certainly persistent. In November Buttars told the Utah Eagle Forum that he would introduce another bill on evolution. In contrast to the proposed bill from this summer Buttars wouldn’t give many details about the bill, other than it was ‘confidential’ and ‘prioritized.’ He did say that he agreed with the “. . . president of the United States that intelligent design should have an equal position,” (see here) but that he wasn’t sure he would be espouse that view in his bill. He did say that he would require the state school board to reword it’s position statement (the one I mentioned in my post from Dec. 18), and that he would require teachers to read some sort of statement before teaching about evolution (which sounds quite similar to the situation in Cobb County, Georgia to me). I’m anxiously awaiting the moment when Buttars makes his bill public.

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