New Bills Revive Intelligent Design Debate

With all the fighting over reproductive rights, unions, and healthcare, you've probably been thinking, let's fight about intelligent design again! Yes, the issue the nation already spent way too long discussing in the last decade is back, and poised to take up more time that could be spent debating real problems (though we'll probably just keep talking about where President Obama was born).

Last week, Texas State Rep. Bill Zedler introduced a bill that would create new protections for intelligent design advocates in the workplace, Mother Jones reports. (Fun fact: Texas still doesn't specifically ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status.) The new bill reads:

An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member's or student's conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.

Currently, no one is actually discriminating against faculty members or students conducting studies on intelligent design, because despite all the discussion of the idea in the media, it never yielded any credible peer-reviewed papers.

Texas isn't the only state bringing up the phony issue. The National Center for Science Education found a nine anti-evolution bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2011, which is a new record. According to Religion Dispatches, a bill introduced in Florida this month would require, a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in the state's public schools. Another bill recently introduced in Tennessee says educators could not be prohibited from "helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught."

In 2005, the federal court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District found that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and teaching it in schools as science violates the First Amendment. The new bills get around this by suggesting teachers should discuss the controversy, and using terms like "critical analysis." With the emergence of the Tea Party and its seeming disdain for facts, it isn't all that surprising that the creationism debate has returned. Hopefully even though many Republicans have been pushing to inject more of their religious values into our laws, sensible members of the legal system will once again manage to keep creationism out of the classroom.

Texas Bill Would Outlaw Discrimination Against Creationists [Mother Jones]
Record Number Of Stealth Creationism Bills Introduced In 2011 [Religion Dispatches]