New creationist shenanigans in Indiana

January 27, 2012 • 5:24 am

It never ends, does it? Even in the face of palpable unconstitutionality, state legislatures keep trying to sneak creationism into American public schools.  Of course it’s illegal, but so long as religion holds sway in the U.S. we’re going to have initiatives like this.

As the National Center for Science Education reports, such a bill has just passed an Indiana state senate committee:

Indiana’s Senate Bill 89, which if enacted would allow local school districts to “require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science,” was passed by the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development on January 25, 2012. . .

. . . Testimony against the bill stressed the unconstitutionality of teaching creation science, established by the Supreme Court in 1987. Among those testifying against the bill were John Staver, professor of chemistry and science education at Purdue University; Chuck Little, executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association; David Sklar, the Director of Government Relations for the Jewish Community Relations Council; the Reverend Charles Allen, a chaplain for Grace Unlimited, a campus ministry in the Indianapolis area; and Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director of the Indiana Center for Inquiry.

Note who voted for and against the bill (in America “D” stands for Democrat and “R” for Republican):

The vote was 8-2, with the bill’s sponsor and committee chair Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), Carlin Yoder (R-District 12), Jim Banks (R-District 17), Jim Buck (R-District 17), Luke Kenley (R-District 20), Jean Leising (R-District 42), Scott Schneider (R-District 30), and Frank Mrvan Jr. (D-District 1) voting for and Earline S. Rogers (D-District 3) and Tim Skinner (D-District 38) voting against the bill.

As usual, it’s the damn Republicans behind this stuff.

 Here’s what State Senate Bill 89,says:

    A BILL FOR AN ACT to amend the Indiana Code concerning education.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana:


Sec. 18. The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.

Of course to become law, the bill has to pass the State Senate, then the state House of Representatives, and then be signed into law by the governor.  As the Indiana ACLU notes, the bill is unconstitutional on its face: teaching of creationism in public schools was rejected on freedom-of-religion grounds by the U. S. Supreme Court in the 1987 case of Edwards v. Aguillard.

Given all this, the bill is likely to be stopped at some point short of becoming law. But I want to say for the gazillionth time that we wouldn’t be facing these brushfires if there were no religion.  If we didn’t have goddy creation myths, why would anyone oppose the teaching of evolution?

67 thoughts on “New creationist shenanigans in Indiana

      1. But disastrous economic policies and global warming, and overpopulation for that matter, are all simply part of god’s plan. god will fix everything. god knows best. god…blah,blah, blah.

  1. I see there is no proposal to teach how the great Lord Ishywoodoo and the Holy Marzipan Man created the heavens and earth out of a packet of salted peanuts. I find that fact insulting, racist even.

    1. It does refer to “…the teaching of various theories, including…” so it is not exclusively “creation science” so the great Lord Ishywoodoo and the Holy Marzipan Man (Almonds Be Upon Him) theory can be taught alongside other myths, provided the Supreme Court does not strike the law as unconstitutional.

      And I hope both Salted and Unsalted versions of the story can be told, as some of us have to keep our blood pressure down.

  2. “…may require the teaching…” and set themselves up for a revisiting of the Dover trial. “May require” is the same wording that got Katherine Harris in trouble in Florida over the Bush/Gore recount in 2000.

    It’s silly, but only political puffery, not a threat to public education. If there’s a school system in Indiana ignorant enough to pursue this, their education will be that of a lawsuit akin to Dover.

    1. Don’t count on it. For a lawsuit to be filed takes a student and parents willing to stand up to the sort of ostracism experienced by Jessica Ahlquist. (And perhaps moreso here in Indiana, than in Rhode Island.)

      The fact is, I’ve heard multiple first hand reports of the theory of evolution simply being dismissed by the teacher in high school biology classes across Indiana. That was my experience as well 30 years ago. That’s not the case in my kids’ school, but then it is likely that the John Staver mentioned in the article above lives in my kids’ school district, and the local community would not put up with such miseducation.

      Jen at Blag Hag has links to contact info for Indiana state senators, in her blog post on the same topic.

      1. I don’t count on it, but trust that the increasing interest among Christian clergy in this situation changes things… maybe not in Indiana, however.

    2. It may be puffery, but I assure you it IS a threat to public education in this state. Kids will be at the mercy of their local school board’s decisions, and plenty will follow the lead of these knuckleheads and demand “creationism” be taught as “scientific theory”.

      1. First it must pass and be signed by the Governor.

        There are two opportunities here. One, it is defeated and the creationists continue their efforts. Two, it passes and some school district includes it in their curriculum with one or more citizens objecting bringing to light, in a costly fashion, the absurdity of ID/creationism.

        For me, ID/creationism is like a fungus which, kept in the dark grows, but exposed to a bright light withers.

        1. But, as evidenced following President Obama’s State of the Union speech the other night, when Indiana Gov. gave the rebuttal, the man IS a dunderhead, so he’ll probably sign the bill.

    3. I don’t remember Katherine Harris actually getting in trouble. We all know excluded a list of voters who had similar names to convicted felons, but she never got in trouble for it.

      1. She did many things, but caused trouble for herself by using a lay interpretation of the law instead of a legal one, or so an attorney friend, a republican, tells me. He was there at the time. I trust his assessment.

        It also alienated her with Democrats, most Democrats and some Republicans. She was elected to Congress in 2002 with 55% of the vote in a district which usually delivered more than 60% to the Republican and reelected in 2004.

        In 2006 she decided to run for the U.S. Senate and lost to Bill Nelson 60/40, to some extent due to the disaffection Florida Republicans had for her.

  3. Apropos the NCSE, has anybody here looked at their new section on climate change? I heard a couple of interviews with Eugenie Scott, and it was interesting to note the reactions from various groups to the NCSE’s decision to add the subject. It turns out, and perhaps it’s no surprise, that the set of opponents to the science of climate change does not completely overlap the set of cdesign proponentsists.

    1. Of course we, or rather the NCSE, have to remember that the historical medieval alternative is a constant climate without any greenhouse effects, only hell labored under a warming climate. And that a god given climate is compatible with AGW science.

    1. Well, actually, it’s a good thing they chose that wording. At the moment, there’s nothing more they can teach, as there’s no such thing as “creation science” …



    2. Much like the endless assault on ‘Roe v. Wade’, et. al., they are probably looking toward a Supreme Court decision overturning ‘Edwards v. Aguillard’.

    1. In 1976, to celebrate the Bicentennial, I drove out I-70 from Jersey to Colorado. At the Indiana line we were greeted by a large homemade billboard just on the other side of the highway fence on a farm that proclaimed:

      Made America Great
      Let’s Keep All Three

      At least, colleagues at Purdue and people I met in Columbus a few yrs ago prove the whole state isn’t like that.

  4. As a Hoosier I am embarrassed at such stupidity in my state government. It is obviously not a serious attempt to get the law passed. It is rather, a cheap attempt to win favor of fundamental religious voters. But, what really tees me off is the relative silence of other religious folk who understand the farce that is going on but remain silent.

    1. I think it goes beyond cheap pandering for votes. I think these idiots believe this nonsense and truly want to inject their beliefs into every child possible. They aren’t content to confuse and mislead their own children. They want to do the same to yours. It is apparently a ‘higher calling’. Yippee! By the way, I too am an embarrassed Hoosier.

  5. I live in Indiana, so this is particularly annoying. But like most of you said, it won’t get past the senate. Good thing I live in a college town where were slightly more liberal than the rest of the state.

      1. The liberal attitudes on campus hardly make a dent in the overall landscape of Muncie.

        The wind doesn’t blow in Muncie, it sucks.

  6. Mitch Daniels and his minions are going nuts up there in Indiana. He comes across as some kind of even tempered guy, but all you have to do is watch his response to the state of the union, and google what he said once about atheists to know that he’s a snake. He’s also gone after public schools with the charter school and voucher pushes, and teachers’ unions plus any other kind of union. Of course, all of these pushes are inspired by a group called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) which is one of the most powerful groups in the country. Look them up. This is definitely a group to watch and expose.

      1. Yup — this state is determined to slide its way backwards all the way to the middle ages.

        Have I mentioned the confederate flags dotting the countryside in southern Indiana? Make sampling trips all the more exciting, knowing there’s a slight but non-negligible chance of getting shot in the name of science!

  7. This is probably just politicing — doing things to make the rubes think their concerns are being addressed, even though everyone in the know is aware that nothing will come of this.

    Or, these politicians may be so stupid they think they can just pass laws like this.

    I suppose there’s one more possibility, though very remote. Republicans control the Supreme Court, and they do communicate among themselves. Might an attempt to overturn precedent be in the works?

    1. The wording is politically (and religiously) intentional. Fundamentalist Christian Republicans would love to see this tested in the courts again. You know how these folks hate ‘activist judges’, unless, of course, those judges advocate their personal causes (e.g. ‘Citizens United v. FEC’)

  8. Sec. 18. The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the value of Pi, including 3, 4 and 10, within the school corporation.

    Oh wait .. Indiana tried that once already ..
    I guess they have a precedence for trying to legislate incredibly stupid ideas ..

  9. I live in IN. I saw this in the news last night and the comments section nearly made me weep.

    I have a 5yo son and 2yo daughter, so this is immediately relevant.

    Why are they wasting our money on bills like this?

    Oh yeah, to pander to the Holy Rollers.

    It makes me sick.

  10. “‘Creation science’ has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage — good teaching — than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?”

    — Stephen J. Gould, “Verdict on Creationism”, The Skeptical Inquirer, 1988, 12 (2): 186.

    Have we really made so little progress in nearly a quarter of a century? 🙁


  11. lol. It’s very strange. Why is this kind of thing so closely-knit to the Republican party? Is it because the kooks took over an entire party? It’s almost a certainty that if a Republican is talking about something, it for sure will have some sort of religious connotations to it. Can a republican party exist without all the religious stuff?

      1. Because if it works for the Republicans, Democrats have to do it too. It’s like how, in the years leading up to its disappearance, Circuit City tried to copy everything Best Buy did. The result was that anyone who shopped at Circuit City because they didn’t like Best Buy stopped shopping at Circuit City as well.

    1. The very nature of reality has been revolutionized by the Republicans, don’t you know? Take it from Karl Rove (or so it seems):

      The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

      …and there you have it.

    1. This sort of thing just blows my mind. Old Earth Creationism is bad enough, but anyone over the age of 10 or so who believes the Earth is only 6000 years old, in this day and age, should probably have parental supervision at all times, and wear a helmet.

      And he trots out the old “evolution also requires a leap of faith” as if the ToE lacked solid, empirical evidence like his religious beliefs do.

      What a maroon.

  12. This is not exactly on-topic, but; recently I posted a comment on a British newspaper, noting that religion in politicians is worrying. Another commenter acidly asked why a politician’s private religious beliefs are important, and yet another commenter responded that the ability to distinguish fact from fiction is desirable in a politician.

    Could somebody in the States ask one of the candidates, please, if they too believe that the ability to distinguish fact from fiction is desirable in a politician? Thanks.

    1. Sadly, the ability to distinguish fact from fiction is not a requirement for politicians in the US. In fact, the opposite is very often advantageous.

    2. They make their own facts. That’s how create America is – it can make its own facts. Why do you hate America?

  13. Speaking of creationism and science, have we discussed how New Scientists makes creationists happy by implying cosmologists, including Hawking, is searching for god?

    Faye Flam is taking the NS on:

    “The New Scientist story did imply that the physicists were bumping up against the Almighty. It even quoted Hawking seeming to admit that science can never explain the beginning of the universe without God: “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.”

    So are creationists rushing in where cosmologists fear to tread?

    Hawking is inaccessible – his neurological condition, ALS, makes all but the slowest communication impossible – but I was able to reach the two scientists accused of coming to the conference bearing “the worst presents ever.”

    One of them, MIT cosmologist Alan Guth, said he did not get the impression that Hawking or anyone else was giving up on a scientific explanation for the origin of the universe. Guth certainly is not, and he thought Hawking’s God quote was probably referring not to the state of cosmology but to some specific ideas.

    Guth said Hawking has consistently embraced a picture of the universe that has no beginning, despite its apparent expansion from a big bang. As Hawking described in A Brief History of Time, there’s a way to think about space and time in a configuration so that the beginning of the universe is like the South Pole – you can’t go any farther south.

    That defies intuition but it’s oddly consistent with the laws of physics.”

  14. Greetings,

    Perhaps they’ll reconsider if enough people point out that this means that science teachers will have to cover ALL versions of “creation science” – Hindu, Mualim, etc.

    Not just the American Protestant version.

    Kindest regards,


  15. As a sort of lay expert on the Scopes trial, I am reminded by this Indiana nonsense that the Butler Act — the very short and very stupid 1925 law applied against John Scopes at his trial — remained the Tennessee law until 1967.
    I was shocked to learn this but more shocked, when I traveled to Dayton, Tennessee to work on a piece about the trial, to find that the creationists at the William Jennings Bryan College in Dayton control the transcript and historical record of the event.
    You’d think they wouldn’t have grabbed the rights to an event that should be an endless humiliation. But maybe they just don’t understand it. And, hey, it brings in bucks.

    What sort of graduates does Bryan College produce? “Missionaries and church organists,” sarcastically drawled the owner of the B&B I stayed in. Not everyone in Dayton is a god-fearing creationist.

  16. None of the creationists I’ve ever met knew the the difference between an hypothesis and a theory.

    Creationism is an hypothesis….no proof to support it as a theory.

    1. Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested.

      Magical creation can’t be tested so it’s not a scientific hypothesis. I would call it a fantasy.

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