Evolution-as-theory bill defeated in New Hampshire

"A bill that would have required public schools to teach evolution as a theory, a move often used by proponents of creationism to discredit the science of evolution, was handily shot down by the House of Representatives Thursday, 280-7," the Nashua Telegraph (March 16, 2012) reports. The bill was House Bill 1148, introduced by Jerry Bergevin (R-District 17), which would have charged the state board of education to "[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism."

Bergevin told the Concord Monitor (December 29, 2011), "I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they've been pretty criminal domestically and internationally." He reportedly blamed the acceptance of evolution for the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the 1999 Columbine shooting, adding, "As a general court [the official term for the New Hampshire legislature] we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott responded, "Evolutionary scientists are Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians and Greens and everything. Similarly, their religious views are all over the map, too. ... If you replace atheism in the bill with Protestantism, or Catholicism, or Judaism or any other view, it's clear to see it's not going to pass legal muster." She also noted that the bill would presumably require teachers to ascertain the political and religious views of every scientist mentioned in their biology textbooks, a requirement which she characterized as "pretty dopey."

The Telegraph added, "Another bill that also targeted the teaching of evolution in public schools, mandating instructions about 'proper scientific inquiry' (HB1457), was killed by voice vote last week." That bill would have charged the state board of education to "[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes."

Although HB 1457 as drafted was silent about "intelligent design," the initial request of its sponsor Gary Hopper (R-District 7) was to have a bill drafted that would require "instruction in intelligent design in the public schools." Hopper later told the Concord Monitor (December 29, 2011) that although he would like to see "intelligent design" taught in classrooms, he was not able to find a successful legislative precedent. Instead, he explained, "I want the problems with the current theories to be presented so that kids understand that science doesn't really have all the answers. They are just guessing."