Friday, February 10, 2006

 

Watering Down the "Origins of Life" Bill

Chris Buttars' Origins of Life bill has been amended in the Utah House of Reps. The changes to the bill now require:

the State Board of Education to establish curriculum requirements and policies that:
stress that no scientific theory, hypothesis, or instruction regarding the origins of life or the origins of species has been indisputably proven; and do not endorse a particular theory or hypothesis regarding the origins of life or the origins of species.


The House education committee recommended the bill to the full House (by a 7-6 vote) and it is scheduled for debate and voting early next week.

The changes to the bill in the House have actually widened the scope of the bill, but have also rendered it practically useless.

The original bill stated that there was no scientific consensus on the origin of life or the origin of the human species, and that the State does not endorse any particular theory on either subject. It also required teachers to inform students of this.

The new version of the bill states that no theory (or idea or hypothesis) on the origin of life or the origin of any species has been indisputably proven and that the State does not endorse any particular theory on either subject. It still requires teachers to inform student of this.

I am all for encouraging students to critically examine any scientific theory. That way they can draw their own conclusions based on the evidence. The question then becomes, why single out the origin of life (abiogenesis) and the origins of species (evolution)? Why does this not apply to all scientific theories. The answer is obvious: the legislators (especially Sen. Buttars) feel that evolution and abiogenesis threaten their (and some of their constituents') religious beliefs. Given the past statements by supporters of this bill (see my previous post on this bill), it seems extremely unlikely that this bill would stand up to the inevitable constitutional challenge should it pass.

Comments:
One of the points made by Judge Jones in the Dover trial is that the wording of legislation is not the only thing to consider when judging intent. So if this becomes law and the state gets sued, Buttars has left a pretty good trail as to whether the intent of the law is secular or not--not being the answer.
 
jared,

That is exactly what I pointed out in the original post on Buttars' bill. In that post, I also linked to specific documentation on Red State Rabble. I think the ACLU has a pretty strong case on this one, and they have indicated that they will pursue action on it if it passes. Which is why I am really hoping the House will vote this one down. Or (failing that) the governor will veto it.
 
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