Why now? Why are there so many bills being introduced in state legislatures that promote Creationism in some way? Whether by attacking evolution, protecting biology teachers who teach Creationism, or just promoting “teach the controversy” ideas in the name of “fairness”, these pieces of legislation are nothing particularly new. Over the years, various laws have been proposed, though a lot of the specific language has changed since the teaching of “Creation Science” and “Intelligent Design” has been found to be a violation of the separation of church and state. Today, we’re far more likely to see doublespeak like demanding Creationism be taught as a means of promoting critical thinking.
The problem of course is that Creationism is quite the opposite of critical thinking—it’s actually a killer of critical thinking, since once you postulate “God did it”, there’s no more room for scientific investigation. You are saying at that moment, “Don’t ask any more questions!”, which is antithetical to the purpose of education. And of course evolution is hardly controversial among scientists, not because scientists are all atheistic devil-worshipers bent on destroying civilization, but because the evidence is on the side of evolution.
As this interview with the author of the proposed Texas legislation makes clear, it’s not really about discrimination or critical thinking, but about promotion of a particular point of view. (He’s a proponent of the “scientists are frauds” view from my “creationist trilemma”—he thinks many scientists know that the evidence is on the side of creationism, but they are suppressing it.) Nevertheless, paying lip service to fairness works in many cases—I had a long, deep argument with a colleague at a college where I taught previously where he advocated the teaching of Intelligent Design and accused scientists of closed-mindedness for not accepting alternatives from outside the scientific community. He’s no young-Earth Creationist, and I’m sure he would hate it if I told him he had to accept criteria for teaching in his subject area proposed by people who don’t work in it—but he found the fairness argument to be persuasive. (He ultimately rejected Intelligent Design after reading a book by Francis Collins, which I admit I haven’t read; either way, my arguments utterly failed to convince him.) The argument that scientists know best what constitutes science (even while showing why we know what we do) doesn’t fare very well when faced with a belief that we’re suppressing truth or even “alternative ideas”.
If you live in the states where these pieces of legislation are being proposed, please take action and write to your representatives.