On eve of Darwin’s birthday, states take steps to limit evolution

By Kimberly Winston
Religion News Service

On the eve of the 203rd anniversary of Charles Darwin‘s birthday, lawmakers in at least four states are taking steps to hinder the teaching of evolution in public schools, while other bills would do the same without naming evolution outright.

    One of the bills, New Hampshire’s House Bill 1148, not only singles out evolution, but would require teachers to discuss its proponents’ “political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.” It is scheduled for a hearing in early February.

Wikipedia Photo of Charles Darwin

    The author of the bill, Republican state Rep. Jerry Bergevin, has linked the teaching of evolution to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and Hitler’s atrocities and associates it with atheism.
    “I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented,” Bergevin told the Concord Monitor. “It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: They don’t respect human rights.”
    In many ways, the debate over evolution mirrors strategies adopted by opponents in the battle over abortion: If it can’t be outlawed outright, critics will at least try to make it more difficult.
    Several atheist organizations have called for the withdrawal of all the bills, but are keeping an especially close eye on Bergevin’s. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, has called it “ignorant, infuriating bigotry.”
    Ahead of Darwin’s birthday on Feb. 12, other current anti-evolution bills include:
    — In the Indiana Senate, a bill would allow school districts to
“require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of
life within the school corporation.” That bill has already passed a statehouseˇ
committee and was scheduled for a vote on Jan 31.ˇ
    — The “Missouri Standard Science Act” would require the equal treatment of evolution and “intelligent design,” an idea that the universe was created by an unnamed “designer.” A second bill would require teachers to encourage students “to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution.”
    — A bill in the Oklahoma Senate would require the state’s board of education to help teachers promote “critical thinking, logical analysis, open and objective discussion of scientific theories including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning” if a local school district makes that request.
    — A second bill in the New Hampshire House would require science teachers to instruct students that  “proper scientific inquir(y) results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established.”
    — A bill in Virginia would make it illegal for state colleges to require a class that conflicts with a student’s religious views. Critics say that would enable a student to receive a biology degree, for example, without studying evolution if he or she objected to it.
    — A second bill in Indiana would require the state board of education to draft rules about the teaching of ideas in science class that cannot be proven by evidence — a clear doorway for the teaching of creationism and intelligent design, critics say.
    While all the bills have drawn the attention of several large atheist groups including the Center for Inquiry and the National Atheist Party, Bergevin’s bill in New Hampshire has raised the most eyebrows.
    “Evolution is not just for atheists, and has been accepted as fact by many religious institutions, including the Catholic Church,” Silverman said. “It is clearly an attempt to create religious discussion in science class, and to somehow make science ‘not for believers.'”
    Even if the bill were to become law, some expect it to be short-lived.
    “In the unlikely event it would pass, it would quickly be struck down by the courts as unconstitutional,” said Rob Boston, a senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
    “It is just warmed-over creationism, which the Supreme Court has already said is unconstitutional, and the government cannot require anyone to stand up and explain where they stand on a religion or a philosophy.”
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5 responses to “On eve of Darwin’s birthday, states take steps to limit evolution

  1. This is sad. There is nothing more comprehensively and completely proven than evolution. The details might wrong sometimes with regards to this or that organism, but nothing has shown the Earth is less than millions of years old and species derive from other species. For the religious person to deny it is to deny the facts that are the very basis of all life on the planet, and to deny education of it to children is not only to take from them the knowledge of how our universe works, but rob them of critical thinking skills that will protect them from innumerable charlatans and bad ideas.

  2. Hanane Neff-Loutf

    What is also sad is the fact that many people paint all religions with the same brush when it comes to this issue of evolution and faith.
    I believe that a true religion cannot and should not contradict a scientific FACT.
    How can a religious scripture survive eternaly when we do not have miracles anymore and when there is a huge emphasis on science? we need to be openminded and use our intelect… Nothing is wrong with accepting that things evolve and that God makes them evolve.

    The evolution theory is now more like the “No God theory”, books written by atheists and billions of Dollars are spent to prove that we are from monkeys. Even if we suppose that it is true, where do monkeys come from? oh from a green thing in water blabla… ok, and where that green thing come from? and why do monkeys still exist?
    There no such thing as spontaneous generation of life, yes there are mutations but there is nothing as random mutations, everything is directed toward something precised which has a purpose.

    Wait a second who said that Dawrin is the first to talk about this? here are some different news:
    – In the Book of Animals, Al-Jahith (or Al Jahiz) (781-869), a Muslim intellectual was the first to speculate on the influence of the environment on species. He said: “Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring.”

    Many other muslim scientists have talked about this, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Kathir…

    Even Darwin himself calls it the “Mohammedan Theory”.

  3. Great conversation you guys!

  4. I agree with the comments above that this is quite sad. These are legislators who don’t understand their own rich religious heritage, whether it is Christian or Muslim or other, and are passing on ignorance to the next generation. Most religious scholars have agreed for hundreds of years that both natural and supernatural forces were involved with the creation. There is no contradiction with evolution.

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