Utah and Human Evolution

Some of you may remember the story of Chris Buttars, the Utah state legislator who submitted a bill to require the teaching of "divine design" in public school science classrooms in that state. That led to a couple of long exchanges between myself and John West, associate director of the Discovery Institute. One of my readers from Utah sent me an update on the story. It seems that Buttars has now dropped his plan because he found out that Utah public schools don't teach human evolution anyway:

The Utah lawmaker who was kicking around the idea that Utah's schools should teach the theory of "divine" or "intelligent" design alongside biological evolution is abandoning the effort.

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, said Thursday that after talks with the state Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington, he is comfortable -- at least for now -- with what Utah classrooms are teaching.

"She assured me in a phone call and then followed up with a letter, that we should not be teaching human evolution of any kind," Buttars said Thursday.

The state's core science curricula doesn't teach the evolution of the human species as a scientific fact, Harrington said. It does, however, emphasize that biological diversity is a result of millions of years of evolution.

"Science is a way of knowing and a knowing based up on evidence," Harrington said by telephone from Cedar City Thursday. "There is not evidence yet to claim how the Earth was created and no evidence to connect the family of apes with the family of man."

Yikes. The Superintendant of Public Instruction in Utah doesn't understand the difference between a family and a genus, and thinks that there is no evidence to connect humans and apes. I suppose this might be true if one ignores the incredible genetic similarities, the shared retroviral sequences in our DNA, the well known series of paleo-species that appear in just the right temporal and anatomical sequence showing a gradual increase in brain size, bipedal adaptation, technological sophistication and cultural development leading from the late Miocene primates to modern Homo sapiens. It's one thing to say that one doesn't find such evidence compelling; to claim it doesn't exist is sheer lunacy; and to come up with an explanation for it other than evolution appears to be fantasy. My favorite quote from Buttars:

"It's not fact," Buttars said. "It's a theory. You know, the trouble with the missing link, is that it's still missing."

As a basic rule, anytime you find someone speaking about the "missing link" or using the "it's not a fact it's a theory" argument, you're dealing with someone whose understanding of evolution stopped at about the 5th grade level. Is it really too much to ask that those who want to change science education be at least minimally educated in science?

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It reminds me of southpark. Only they're saying 'without having had any science education myself, I can say without doubt that science education is wrong'. Only they won't come out and say it.

I'll bet that when the superintendent spoke of the "family of apes", she didn't mean family in the taxonomic sense, but rather the colloquial sense. Of course that doesn't make her statement any less false.

And yes, this should probably be on the Thumb.

I was planning to post this to PT, but my ISP decided to play around with their DNS servers and I've been offline for the last couple hours. Going to put this up there now.

Anti-evolutionism in Utah seems a bit ironic because the most evangelicals are just as opposed to Mormonism as they are to evolution. I realize that you don't have to be an evangelical Protestant to support ID or even young earth creationism, but outside of the Mormon stronghold of Utah, a Mormon would be unwelcome in most creationist groups.

I realize that you don't have to be an evangelical Protestant to support ID or even young earth creationism, but outside of the Mormon stronghold of Utah, a Mormon would be unwelcome in most creationist groups.

That's just it, ID is about the "big tent" that all the religious (and even one or two "non-religious", i.e. David Berlinski) antievolutionists can join together under. That way a YEC like Paul Nelson and an OEC like William Dembski can work together, and either can tolerate someone like Jonathan Wells who belongs to the Unification Church (the Moonies who are another cult according to fundamentalist Christians).

It's the old let's pretend we don't think the other guy is hell-bound long enough to beat down our common enemy (science) trick.

By Troy Britain (not verified) on 15 Jul 2005 #permalink

Hey, whatever. Serious science is going over seas. The US government has made it so difficult for foreign scientists to get into the US for even conferences that many of the conferences are going elsewhere.

Oh, and just to remind you, serious particle physics will, in the future, largely be carried out in CERN (Geneva) and the far east.

Any predictions from anyone as to what will be the state of science education in 10 years?

Let's see... every 1 year we go forward in time, we go 100 years backward in progress of science education. So in 10 years, we will be teaching whatever was believed about 1000 AD. Ah, the good old days!

... every 1 year we go forward in time, we go 100 years backward in progress of science education. So in 10 years, we will be teaching whatever was believed about 1000 AD.

THAT is hiLARious! LMAO!

Oohh, but scarily possible. Thus we blog (and vote!)

Great post & comments!

One other thing, Ed, I notice that your buddies at In The Agora don't want dissenting comments posted.

Just to wonder. How many other names can they come up for "creationism?" Devine Design? Intelligent Design? The Big Poohbah Design?

At some pointn, this gets to be ridiculous.

"It's not fact," Buttars said. "It's a theory. You know, the trouble with the missing link, is that it's still missing."

Yeah and the belief that youre computer is powered by electrons is merely a theory. But you use the computers nonetheless.

This guy is a nut case.

Just to let you know, I have an advanced degree in physics.