Mississippi Republican Lawmaker Pushes Bill That Would Allow The Teaching Of Creationism In Science Classes

Feb 17, 2016

Photo credit: Shutterstock

By Ed Mazza

A bill under consideration in Mississippi would allow science teachers to bring creationism and climate change denial into the classroom.

House Bill 50 “encourages students to explore scientific questions” and allows teachers to discuss “weaknesses” in the approved curriculum. The bill doesn’t mention creationism by name but refers specifically to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

While the text claims it does not promote religious doctrine, one of its sponsors admitted the bill is geared toward allowing educators to teach creationism in science classes.

“I just don’t want my teachers punished in any form or fashion for bringing creationism into the debate. Lots of us believe in creationism,” Rep. Mark Formby told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. “To say that creationism as a theory is any less valuable than any other theory that nobody can scientifically prove I just think is being close-minded.”


Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

30 comments on “Mississippi Republican Lawmaker Pushes Bill That Would Allow The Teaching Of Creationism In Science Classes

  • Never taught science, but I remember at school being fascinated by the stories of Galileo throwing the lead weights off the tower of Pisa, in order to debunk Aristotle, who was of course the official RC philosopher, due to the substance/accident theory.

    Also remember being taught about the official bible account(s) of creation, and the long slow process of debunking it (them). I found the history of ideas much more interesting than the actual science, and for most of us, who don’t possess the intellectual prowess of many members of the site, that’s probably all we need or want to know. We can leave the rest to our betters.

    So, I’m not averse to the various other “theories” being referred to, in order to show how knowledge and ideas develop, how the biblical account was slowly demolished over hundreds of years by increasing real scientific knowledge. I also think that it might be a more certain way of defeating the posturing of the fundamentalist Christians’ nonsense.



    Report abuse

  • I think we need to recognise that a very real war is being waged in the USA to maintain christianity and in particular fundamentalist christianity. As such there are certain problems that secularists have in fighting it.

    Firstly the compulsion of the religious to maintain their dogma is often stronger than that of secularists to oppose it. We tend to be more content to just live and let live whereas the religious are compelled to proselytize by their holy books and their belief systems are at the very core of their being. We have a potentially infinite number of things to NOT believe in such as fairies and unicorns of which religion is just one. They have a single agenda of which even the slightest wavering of their faith could mean not going to eternal salvation.

    Secondly it can be hard to realise that logical argument will play no part in how they wage this war or how to oppose it. We tend by definition to be logical, evidence based people and it can be both infuriating and baffling when the religious just trot out the same debunked arguments over and over such as evolution is just a “theory” or “well you can’t prove god doesn’t exist so it’s 50/50 either way”.

    On the whole “theory” thing we do need to find a better word and theorem does seem to be less prone to abuse but we also need to keep repeating that the word theory doesn’t even appear in Darwin’s work. It’s entitled “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” The word theory is not there. Giving something a name and then criticizing the name rather than the content is the epitomy of the straw man argument.



    Report abuse

  • @OP – ” Rep. Mark Formby told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. “To say that creationism as a theory is any less valuable than any other theory that nobody can scientifically prove I just think is being close-minded.”

    This is of course a statement of personal scientific illiteracy, in claiming evolution is not overwhelming proved beyond reasonable doubt, closed-minded assertive pig-ignorance in stating that “creationism is a theory” in any scientific sense, and basically the babblings of an uneducated clown, who really should be sent for basic training on a school science course, before being minimally qualified to participate in a debate on science education!



    Report abuse

  • Alan4discussion: who really should be sent for basic training on a school science course,

    Of course you’re right Alan, but there would be no point, you’d just be subjecting the unfortunate teacher to a barrage of smart comments. As the sour-tasting cut lunch says:

    Arkrid Sandwich: it can be hard to realise that logical argument will play no

    part in how they wage this war or how to oppose it.

    (sorry about the translation of your name, but the synonym for sour-tasting was the nearest I could find to the first part of it)



    Report abuse

  • “GOD” is just a theory. The god theory predicts nothing. The god theory has no practical use in engineering. Religion is nothing more than magical and wishful thinking. Religious people should grow up.



    Report abuse

  • One important element in rationalist opposition to fundamentalist dogma should be the Socratic approach.

    For example, ask the simple question, what is a theory? Get them to explain what they think it is.

    Then perhaps, ask them how natural selection works, and so on.

    Draw them out, and eventually they’ll reveal their ignorance themselves.

    It’s become manifestly obvious that arguing with them is fruitless.



    Report abuse

  • 7
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    eejit – So, I’m not averse to the various other “theories” being referred to, in order to show how knowledge and ideas develop, how the biblical account was slowly demolished over hundreds of years by increasing real scientific knowledge.

    Yes, that is a good idea, for a history class or social studies class. Also, it would be appropriate for the history of science references that are sometimes found in textbook sidebars. Ancient mythology is an appropriate subject.

    Of course, that is not the intent of the representative. He is of the “teach the controversy” camp. Well, no, primary school science education is not intended to teach scientific controversies, rather, students learn established science, which evolution certainly is and creationism is not, even if it is camouflaged as ID.

    The scientific controversy as to whether evolution is a fact has long ago been settled, so it would be a profound disservice to our students to present established science along with some imagined controversy.



    Report abuse

  • 8
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    On the whole “theory” thing we do need to find a better word and theorem does seem to be less prone to abuse but we also need to keep repeating that the word theory doesn’t even appear in Darwin’s work. It’s entitled “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” The word theory is not there.

    @arkrid-sandwich, that sounds close to a denial that evolution is a theory, or at least such a public approach could be easily portrayed as a denial. But, of course, evolution is both a scientific theory and a scientific fact. My favorite writing on the subject remains Evolution as Fact and Theory by Stephen Jay Gould
    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html

    One approach is to try to educate the public on the distinctions Gould so eloquently draws between a scientific theory and the use of the word “theory” in our common vernacular. While this approach is rationally sound I fear it will be generally ineffective due to the lack of public science education needed to really make that distinction stick in the public mind.

    My preference is to simply state the phrase “the scientific fact of evolution”, which it most certainly is. There is a certain audacity to calling evolution a fact (there shouldn’t be but there is). It is also a rock solid statement, particularly with the qualifier “scientific”. From there the conversation could go in a variety of directions and we can pull from our rhetorical quiver further explanations about scientific facts and theories.

    I share your desire to change the language of the conversation since “theory” is so easily misused as a diminutive or dismissive term, but since it is a scientific theory, rather than emphasizing that Darwin did not use the term we would be on firm ground to substitute the word “fact” where we might previously have said “theory”.



    Report abuse

  • Aaargh…not again…

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/11/is-it-a-theory-is-it-a-law-no-its-a-fact/

    Arkrid, Darwin would not have thought his book described a theorem when published, but rather more an hypothesis. It rapidly became a theorem as it notched up many supporting accounts and was prodigiously generative of successful lesser hypotheses.

    It is a fact in relation to specifics. It is not a fact as currently defined that it accounts for all aspects of the nature of living things. Common Decent is a fact.



    Report abuse

  • 10
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    @OP

    “I just don’t want my teachers punished in any form or fashion for bringing creationism into the debate. Lots of us believe in creationism,” Rep. Mark Formby told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper.

    Well, this is wrong at so many levels it’s hard to decide where to begin… First of all, I don’t think there’s any doubt as to Rep. Formby’s party affiliation here and this needs mentionning because it gives an outlook on what kind of devastation would be visited upon the education system in the US should the people elect nutters like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum as President.

    “I don’t want MY teachers…. “

    Yes of course, YOUR teachers, meaning the ignorant incompetent fools who believe in the same nonsense as you do.

    “lots of US believe in creationism…”

    There it is… there’s there that “US” again, that cue of blatant tribalism: me… we… us… my people, my tribe, to which you “close-minded” actual science teachers don’t belong BTW.

    “To say that creationism as a theory is any less valuable than any other theory that nobody can scientifically prove I just think is being close-minded.”

    Wow!! I never cease to be amazed by the sheer gall and thinly-veiled condescendence of religious ignoramuses like Formby who throw out words to which they haven’t a clue of what they actually mean. In order to know what close-mindedness really is, one first has to develop an open mind through education and critical thinking, two things that Formby definitely does not possess.



    Report abuse

  • Stardusty Psyche: Yes, that is a good idea, for a history class or social studies class.

    But not arcane enough to disturb the magnificent brains of the Greater Beings in the science department? Most people finish High School with little more than a rudimentary understanding of science, so it might be profitable for elitist teachers to humble themselves to spend at least some time on a History of Ideas approach, or is science not only esoteric, but it occurred outside of time, space and society?



    Report abuse

  • House Bill 50 “encourages students to explore scientific questions” and allows teachers to discuss “weaknesses” in the approved curriculum.

    This makes the crass assumption that there are “weaknesses in the approved curriculum”, and second crass assumption, that those who assert there are “weaknesses in the approved curriculum” have any clue as to:

    a) what the curriculum is.

    b) what a scientific theory is.

    c) understanding the science being taught.

    d. any perception of just how ignorant they are of the subjects, to be suggesting that they need apply a 100% god-gap-filler to cover their ignorance of their ignorance!

    The bill doesn’t mention creationism by name but refers specifically to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

    Obviously topics picked out as learned by “graduates of Faux-News” in the absence of science textbooks!



    Report abuse

  • eejit
    Feb 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Stardusty Psyche: Yes, that is a good idea, for a history class or social studies class.

    But not arcane enough to disturb the magnificent brains of the Greater Beings in the science department?

    Science classes have considerable pressure to try to fit in all the teaching of modern sciences into the few hours a week timetabled for them.
    By all means have a passing laugh for a few seconds at YECs and Flat-Earthists, but the science curriculum does not have time to waste on silly long refuted nonsense!
    It inevitably misses out on lots of valuable studies due to shortage of teaching time!



    Report abuse

  • Unfortunately the majority of people on our planet are NOT rationalists! They have an overwhelming desire to believe that there IS an afterlife and that if they believe in Jesus (or any other prophet) and in their own ‘goodness’ they will eventually go to heaven and live in paradise forever! How marvellous is that!! How dare anyone here suggest that we are a mere accident of nature and that there is NO God, and no afterlife!

    This is what rationalists are up against, unfortunately. For many, belief will always trump scientific knowledge because the latter has no emotional prize at the end.



    Report abuse

  • @NearlyNakedApe
    Feb 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    “lots of US believe in creationism…”

    Actually I suspect that it isn’t really an issue of “believing” in creationism per se for these people. What is actually happening here is they have been brainwashed and for ever compelled to believe that every word in the bible is literally true or risk their immortal souls. Abject fear drives all of this and the bible could actually say anything at all, regardless of how insane, and all of it would become literally true as well and anything that contradicted it would be wrong. Instead of it being about god vs the devil it really could be about the Holy Chocolate Teapot vs the Flying Spaghetti Monster and it would make not a jot of difference.

    They can’t defend these “beliefs” because there is really no substance to them other than “I won’t go to heaven for eternity if I allow any other viewpoint to gain a hold” so it’s fingers in ears time and “la la la I can’t hear you” ad infinitum.

    That’s why logic, reason or evidence will have no effect.



    Report abuse

  • 17
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    eejit – But not arcane enough to disturb the magnificent brains of the Greater Beings in the science department?

    SP Yes, that is a good idea, for a history class or social studies class. Also, it would be appropriate for the history of science references that are sometimes found in textbook sidebars.

    Maybe my comment about the sidebars was not prominent enough.

    Yes, I think an occasional sidebar about ancient cosmology, creation stories or other quaint mythologies such as the garden of Eden or the world on the back of a turtle or gods of war, love, and rapid messaging in the night sky all add a bit of color and historical context to actual science education.

    Any more detailed study of ancient religious myths should not take up precious time in the primary school science classroom. The representative is clearly laboring under the false notion that there is today some kind of scientific controversy that creationism can contribute to addressing, which is utter nonsense.



    Report abuse

  • “I just don’t want my teachers punished in any form or fashion for
    bringing creationism into the debate”.

    Then let them teach RE in another class and give up science!

    Although……..I would love to see some “biblical experiments” repeated in class. The parting of the petri dish full of water or splitting the class to see if power of prayer will make those salt crystals grow any quicker or in the shape of jesus.

    I think the real intent might be to leach on the science lessons as given the choice, in a modern world, parents will choose useful subjects for their children future.



    Report abuse

  • Asteroid1Miner
    Feb 15, 2016 at 7:22 am

    “GOD” is just a theory. The god theory predicts nothing. The god theory has no practical use in engineering.

    The god notion, does not even qualify as a scientific hypothesis, let alone a scientific theory!

    http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistry101/a/lawtheory.htm

    .A hypothesis is an educated guess, based on observation.
    It’s a prediction of cause and effect. Usually, a hypothesis can be supported or refuted through experimentation or more observation. A hypothesis can be disproven, but not proven to be true.

    .A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it. Therefore, theories can be disproven. Basically, if evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, then the hypothesis can become accepted as a good explanation of a phenomenon. One definition of a theory is to say it’s an accepted hypothesis.

    .A scientific law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law. Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them. One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain ‘why’. The word “law” is used less and less in science, as many laws are only true under limited circumstances.



    Report abuse

  • Alan4discussion: Science classes have considerable pressure to try to fit in all the teaching of modern sciences into the few hours a week timetabled for them.

    “Now, what I want is, Facts. . . . Facts alone are wanted in life.” I’m surprised at you Alan! Inside every great scientist, is a Mr Gradgrind trying to get out.



    Report abuse

  • 21
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    It Oughtta Be A Law To Outlaw Laws

    @Alan4discussion
    A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it.
    .At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law.

    Thus, a distinction without a difference.
    A theory has no evidence to dispute it.
    A law has no exceptions yet found.
    Same thing.

    Scientific laws explain things,
    but they do not describe them.

    Alan, you have that exactly back to front. So called scientific laws explain nothing, they are merely descriptive. Nobody knows why, ultimately, anything is the way it is. We merely observe the universe and describe it as accurately as we can within the limits of our powers of observation and reason. That’s all a so called law does.

    One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain ‘why’.

    No matter what so called law you might wish to cite you cannot tell me, ultimately, why it is so.

    That is what I like about presuppositional apologists. They incessantly ask why why why like a little child until we reach the limits of our knowledge and must answer simply “nobody knows but perhaps with some more scientific investigation we will make further progress on that question”

    The word “law” is used less and less in science, as many laws are only true under limited circumstances.

    So called laws are never known with certainty to be ultimately true under any circumstances. The term is a holdover from theistic thinking wherein things are the way they are because a lawgiver spoke it to be so.

    I live by provisional postulates and probability estimates based on limited observations and analysis. I suggest you shed this vestige of theistic thinking and delete “scientific law” from your terms of usage.



    Report abuse

  • As usual this comes from the backward, ignorant American “religious” south and the fundamentalists and their ridiculous religious beliefs, a nation held capture by these morons, and the politicians who need them to get elected..



    Report abuse

  • Stardusty Psyche
    Feb 17, 2016 at 9:38 am

    @Alan4discussion
    A theory is valid as long as there is no evidence to dispute it.
    .At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law.

    Thus, a distinction without a difference.
    A theory has no evidence to dispute it.
    A law has no exceptions yet found.
    Same thing.

    Nope! A law is direct observation and measurement.
    A theory is an inductive or deductive explanation of why and how!

    Scientific laws explain things, but they do not describe them.

    Alan, you have that exactly back to front. So called scientific laws explain nothing, they are merely descriptive. Nobody knows why, ultimately, anything is the way it is.

    The quote I pasted was not as clear as it should have been.

    We merely observe the universe and describe it as accurately as we can within the limits of our powers of observation and reason. That’s all a so called law does.

    That is correct.

    One way to tell a law and a theory apart is to ask if the description gives you a means to explain ‘why’.

    No matter what so called law you might wish to cite you cannot tell me, ultimately, why it is so.

    In science, all “Why questions”, ultimately lead to “How” explanations.

    So called laws are never known with certainty to be ultimately true under any circumstances. The term is a holdover from theistic thinking wherein things are the way they are because a lawgiver spoke it to be so.

    Science does not do “absolute certainty”, but it does do very high levels of probabilities which are unlikely to be refuted, although they may be subject to added modifications later. That is why technologies work!

    I live by provisional postulates and probability estimates based on limited observations and analysis. I suggest you shed this vestige of theistic thinking and delete “scientific law” from your terms of usage.

    Not at all! It is important to distinguish the direct observations of laws, from the inferences of theories.



    Report abuse

  • Will it allow on the other side science teachers to enter religious classrooms and teach the theory of evolution and debunk religious myths? Will it allow science teachers in their own classrooms to explain how rediculous religious claims are if they touch the field of scientific explanations?
    This would mean teaching both sides! At least I don’t think so, for the religious crap enjoys an extra portion of defense … Otherwise religious feelings could get hurt! And what about belittling the intelligence of all sane people? No protection for them?



    Report abuse

  • Will it allow science teachers in their own classrooms to explain how rediculous religious claims are if they touch the field of scientific explanations?

    I don’t see it quite that way. Science is a story of the supplanting of religious explanation, whether it be animist, occultist, polytheistic, monotheistic, or deist. The story is of the development of human thought, not a tale of sneering at the beliefs of our ancestors.

    Where sneering could, with some justice, enter the narrative, is when the obvious shortcomings of previous belief systems are ardently supported well past their time has expired. I still don’t think that sneering is often useful, though gentle satire may have its successes. Belief systems are either an exercise in power for the cognoscenti, or in sad submission for the helots, and taking the mickey is unlikely have much impact on either.

    Sound science and explanation of how ideas develop do stand a chance of success. The stories of Aristotle’s struggles with the Platonists, Copernicus and Galileo’s struggles with the church, the influence of Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell’s ideas about the canals on Mars, the phlogiston theory, the development of evolutionary theory through Lamarck and Darwin are all exciting real stories about how science is actually done, and why it works. Unless you are a real nurd, the stories of science are likely to be much more compelling than the actual mechanics of what scientists do in the day to day drudgery of their profesional lives.



    Report abuse

  • 26
    fadeordraw says:

    “A bill under consideration in Mississippi would allow science teachers to bring creationism and climate change denial into the classroom.
    House Bill 50 “encourages students to explore scientific questions” and allows teachers to discuss “weaknesses” in the approved curriculum…(referring) … specifically to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning.”

    Actually, as written, if we are actually referring to science class and the person teaching is a trained science teacher, I would have no problem with the proposed legislation. For the approved curriculum there will be lots of evidence-based intel on the subject matter. This will not be the case for the bug-a-boo creationism, which fundamentally is a faith-based, belief system and would be demonstrated to be so under scientific approach. I think the climate change discussions would be more educational. Climate change is about homo sapiens’ effluence being so extensive that it’s significantly influencing weather in a way that is detrimental to homo sapiens’ communities. Folks who deny this proposition, are simply taking the position that it doesn’t matter and no coordinated action is required. The proponents warn of devastation, with “scientific evidence”, and sometimes hysterically or with desperation, call upon governments and industry to take action. What a fine discussion! If only to have students contemplate the idea that homo sapiens have, as a species, grown so well on the planet, and there doesn’t seem to be an abatement, that we are amazingly influencing the operations of the thing.



    Report abuse

  • fadeordraw #26
    Feb 17, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Somehow your comment and my reply ended up over here!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/02/china-telescope-to-displace-9000-villagers-in-hunt-for-extraterrestrials/#li-comment-198109

    fadeordraw #7
    Feb 17, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Actually, as written, if we are actually referring to science class and the person teaching is a trained science teacher, I would have no problem with the proposed legislation. For the approved curriculum there will be lots of evidence-based intel on the subject matter.

    True, – but then it does not require legislation for science teachers to discuss the merits of scientific evidence in class, so at best this legislation is irrelevant, and as we know from other comments in the OP, seeks to introduce opportunities to present ambiguity and created false doubts about evidenced science, using spurious opinions from the deluded ignorant as substitutes for science.



    Report abuse

  • House Bill 50 “encourages students to explore scientific questions”
    and allows teachers to discuss “weaknesses” in the approved
    curriculum.

    In that situation, I would definitely discuss weaknesses in Christian beliefs, such as the God delusion. I would also discuss what a scientific theory is and the reason God is not even an hypothesis. I would also discuss the reason that there are weaknesses in ANY biological theory.

    I taught theories of evolutionary biology in my Introductory Biology courses for 41 years.



    Report abuse

  • 29
    fadeordraw says:

    …seeks to introduce opportunities to present ambiguity and created false doubts about evidenced science, using spurious opinions from the deluded ignorant as substitutes for science.

    ‘been thinking about this and just gotta add that the teaching of science is the teaching of doubt. I’ve been reminded lately by reviews of a few great scientists, that one of their touch-stones have been skepticism, more particularly, they emphasize, on their own hypotheses and related measurements. It is that doubt, as an hypothesis, that refines thinking and exploration, that is a positive. So you know, perhaps we should legislate that the task of grad-school science teachers is to introduce the benefits of doubt and of a doubt ridden examination of the existing or need to be developed evidence.



    Report abuse

  • fadeordraw #29
    Feb 19, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    It is that doubt, as an hypothesis, that refines thinking and exploration, that is a positive. So you know, perhaps we should legislate that the task of grad-school science teachers is to introduce the benefits of doubt and of a doubt ridden examination of the existing or need to be developed evidence.

    It is important when recognising that science is provisional and sceptical, that those looking sceptically at existing well supported scientific evidence, are thoroughly familiar with scientific methodology and with the scientific evidence being questioned, before they attempt to do so.
    That is is why we have peer-review!
    Muppet-review by ignoramuses expressing their cognitive biases or incredulity, is an entirely different and utterly invalid process!
    Likewise, we should not expect half educated students to effectively or competently, evaluate advanced complex science.
    Part of being a scientific sceptic, is recognising what skills we to not personally possess, and which complex subjects, we do not personally understand.

    Another skill is in recognising in those posing as experts, elementary blunders, which expose their lack of study and lack of relevant capability.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.