Montana's antiscience bill in the news

"A Billings legislator has reintroduced a bill that would encourage high school teachers to present evolutionary biology as disputed theory rather than sound science and protect those who teach viewpoints like creationism in the classroom," reports the Billings Gazette (January 29, 2015).

The bill is House Bill 321 — formerly bill draft LC 1324 — which is the fifth antiscience bill in 2015, after Missouri's House Bill 486, Indiana's Senate Bill 562, Oklahoma's Senate Bill 665, and South Dakota's Senate Bill 114. All five bills are similar to Tennessee's "monkey law," enacted over the protests of the state's scientific and educational communities in 2012.

Introduced by Clayton Fiscus (R-District 46), who introduced a similar bill in 2014, HB 321 purports 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."

"That's all bunk," NCSE's Glenn Branch told the Gazette. "[Fiscus] thinks that these whole fields are scientifically controversial, and that's not true." He added that if enacted, the bill would allow teachers with fringe or crank ideas to present them in class, unchecked by administrations. "It's inviting the teachers to go rogue."

Craig Beals, a Billings science teacher and the 2015 Montana Teacher of the Year, told the newspaper that he teaches evolution, climate change, and the Big Bang in his classes, adding, "The topics have long been debated not because scientists disagree but because the topics don't always agree with people's beliefs."