Field of Science

Indiana's clumsy attempt at theocracy


An edible FSM

Those state legislators are meddling with science again.  This time it's Indiana, trying to promote their religious views in public schools by dictating what science teachers will teach.  As usual when legislators try to do science, they messed up badly.

What happened?  Just a few days ago, the Indiana state Senate passed a bill, sponsored by Republican Dennis Kruse, that required the teaching of creationism.  Actually, the original bill called for schools to teach "creation science," but then the Senate amended it to make it much funnier.  Thanks Indiana!

The amended bill, which was approved 28-22, says:
"The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology."
Holy cow!  I can't wait to see what Indiana students will be spouting when they go on to college.  Maybe they'll learn Scientology, which is one of the religions listed in the new law.  Scientologists believe that life on Earth started 75 million years ago, when an evil galactic warlord named Xenu brought 13.5 trillion of his people to Earth in a spaceship, stacked them around volcanoes, and vaporized most of them with hydrogen bombs.  (No, I'm not making this up.)

If I were teaching in Indiana schools, I'd be sure to cover the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which has a wonderful theory about the origin of life:
"We believe the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world much as it exists today, but for reasons unknown made it appear that the universe is billions of years old (instead of thousands) and that life evolved into its current state (rather than created in its current form). Every time a researcher carries out an experiment that appears to confirm one of these “scientific theories” supporting an old earth and evolution we can be sure that the FSM is there, modifying the data with his Noodly Appendage. We don’t know why He does this but we believe He does, that is our Faith."
Now that's a theory you can sink your teeth into.

Finally, a little bit of science education for Indiana's legislators.  The next time you write a law trying to force the teaching of creationism instead of evolution, get the wording right.  You see, you wrote the bill incorrectly, because evolution is not a theory of the origin of life, as any good high school science teacher could have told you.  (Note to Indiana teachers: I've no doubt that you tried to teach these legislators back when they were in school. Apparently they're still not listening.)  Instead, evolution is a theory that explains how species arise: how a single species can evolve into many, through the process of natural selection.  You might have guessed this from the title of Darwin's book: The Origin of Species.  Scientists do have theories about the origin of life, but evolution isn't one of them.

Two years ago, South Dakota's legislature declared that astrology can explain global warming, which gave the rest of the country a bit of entertainment. Last week, it was Indiana's turn to look foolish.  After a huge flurry of embarrassing publicity, it appears that Indiana's legislature has changed its mind, and the bill will not become law.  But if they try again, I'd be happy to send them some materials on the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

[Note: I also recommend the blog posts by PZ Myers at Pharyngula and Jen McCreight at BlagHag.]

2 comments:

  1. Not really the main point of your post, I know, but actually students *wouldn't* be taught about Xenu even if Scientology were taught in schools. Remember that that's supposed to be a secret; before the Internet era and the leaking of copyrighted "scriptures", only high ranking scientologists had access to that "information". Kind of the inverse of most religions where the rank-and-file believe in absurd miracles and the higher ups blithely claim that it's all sophisticated metaphors or something (at least while debating atheists).

    ReplyDelete
  2. When I took AP Biology in high school, our teacher included a section on alternative hypotheses of the origin of life. These included alien visitations, microbe-containing meteorites colliding with Earth and, yes, divine design. While he may have been trying to placate the religious sensitivities of the community, I felt the presentation had the opposite effect. He did not try to disguise his opinion of the alternate hypotheses that he covered. Though he was a religious man personally, he didn't think much of the book of genesis as a scientific document and described its feasibility in the same terms as the idea that we were brought here as slaves by an extraterrestrial race to build the pyramids in Egypt.

    ReplyDelete

Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="http://www.fieldofscience.com/">FoS</a> = FoS