Antievolution legislation in Michigan again

On September 29, 2005, Michigan House Bill 5251 was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Education. If enacted, HB 5251 would require the state board of education to revise the state science standards to ensure that students will be able to "(a) use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution [and] (b) Use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and to formulate arguments for or against those theories."

Michigan Information & Research Service reported (October 1, 2005) that the lead sponsor of the bill, Representative John Moolenaar (R-Midland), introduced the legislation in part in reaction to Barbara Streisand's characterization of the recent spate of hurricanes as due to global warming. He was quoted as explaining, "If we, as a society, didn't pursue the truth on scientific theories we'd still believe the earth was flat and bloodletting was an effective cure for the common cold ... Current events such as the hurricanes or evolution lead to great teachable moments. We must make sure students are given the tools to critically evaluate the world around them."

"While critical and deductive reasoning is essential to the scientific method," responded Dr. Gregory Forbes, "this bill singles out two theories for special attention that Representative Moolenaar happens to find objectionable to his personal views: global warming and biological evolution. Since Michigan's science standards already require that students to be able to think scientifically and to use scientific knowledge to make decisions about real-world problems, it's clear that the only point of HB 5251 is to lead students to believe that evolution and global warming are somehow less scientific than other scientific theories. In fact, evolutionary theory is the most critically tested and robust theory in modern science." Forbes is Professor of Biological Sciences at Grand Rapids Community College and serves as the Education Director for the Michigan Scientific Evolution Education Initiative and as the National Course Director for the National Science Foundation's course on evolution. He is also on the board of the grassroots group Michigan Citizens for Science.

Moolenaar was a cosponsor of previous antievolution legislation in Michigan in the previous (2003-2004) legislative session: HB 4946, which would have amended the state science standards to refer to "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator," and HB 5005, which would have allowed the teaching of "the design hypothesis as an explanation for the origin and diversity of life" in public school science classes. Both bills were opposed by the Michigan Science Teachers Association; both seem to have died in committee.

We can't afford to lose any time when it comes to the future of science education.

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