Anticreationism legislation in Wisconsin


At a press conference in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 7, 2006, state representative Terese Berceau (D-District 76) announced her intention to introduce legislation in the state assembly which would, if enacted, prohibit the teaching of supernaturalistic pseudoscience in the science classrooms of the state's public schools. The Madison Capital Times (February 7, 2006) reported that Berceau's bill would "require that anything presented as science in the classroom be testable as a scientific hypothesis and pertain to natural, not supernatural, processes. The material would also have to be consistent with any description of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences."

Although neither creation science nor "intelligent design" was explicitly mentioned in the bill itself, they appear to be its primary targets. Michael Cox and Alan Attie, both professors of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, were reported as applauding the prospect of preventing any incursion of the "intelligent design" movement -- which Cox described as attempting "to introduce fake science as science into the school curriculum in public schools" -- in Wisconsin. No explanation of the need for such a bill to prohibit the teaching of creationism, in light of the decisions in Edwards v. Aguillard and Kitzmiller v. Dover, was reported to have been offered.

Berceau emphasized that the bill would not prevent the mere discussion of a pseudoscience, telling the Capital Times, "You can even include it in a science class if you want to say why it's not a science." She added, "Otherwise it should be taught in a history of religion class or social studies or philosophy." Berceau also said that her bill was intended to counteract recent attempts to undermine evolution education around the country and within the state; Grantsburg, Wisconsin, where in 2004 a policy requiring the teaching of "all theories of origins" mutated, under pressure, to a policy requiring the teaching of the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, was cited as a case in point.

The bill was described by the Capital Times as "a first-of-its-kind proposal," a characterization that appears to be accurate. In the last five years, at any rate, the only other anticreationism bill that seems to have emerged was Montana's Senate Joint Resolution 8, introduced on January 7, 2005. As a resolution expressing the legislature's support for local science curricula based on sound science and its opposition to the imposition of "religious interpretations of events and phenomena on local schools under the guise of science curricula," SJR 8 would not have directly affected curriculum and instruction. Also unlike Berceau's bill, it explicitly referred to creationism. SJR 8 died in committee on March 1, 2005.