Antievolution bill imminent in Montana

A Montana legislator, Clayton Fiscus (R-District 46), is preparing to introduce a bill purporting to "emphasize critical thinking in instruction related to controversial scientific theories on the origin of life" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries." 

When introduced, the bill is expected to be the fourth antiscience bill of 2015, following on the heels of Missouri's House Bill 486, Indiana's Senate Bill 562, and Oklahoma's Senate Bill 665. All four bills are broadly similar to Tennessee's "monkey law," enacted over the protests of the state's scientific and educational communities in 2012.

Bill draft LC1324 contains a preamble, which invokes "academic freedom," the lack of scientific agreement, and "critical thinking" in support of the draft bill's provisions, and five sections, of which the first is the most substantive. Claiming that "some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on these subjects," the draft bill in its first section encourages state and local education administrators "to assist teachers in finding effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and forbids them to prohibit teachers from presenting "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught." The remaining sections of the draft bill integrate it with existing state code and provide that it will take effect on passage and approval.

The draft bill is almost identical to Montana's House Bill 183 in 2013. As NCSE previously reported, in 2012, Fiscus, then a new member of the Montana House of Representatives, asked for a bill to be drafted that would "[r]equire public schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution"; HB 183 was the result.

HB 183 was tabled after receiving a hearing in the House Education Committee in January 2013. Over twenty people attending the hearing, including scientists, teachers, theologians, school board members, and concerned parents, testified against the bill; none testified for it. Highlights from the hearing are available on NCSE's YouTube channel.