Anti-ID Legislation in Wisconsin

I really like this idea:

Creationism or intelligent design could not be taught as science in Wisconsin public schools under a first-of-its-kind proposal announced today by Madison state Rep. Terese Berceau.

Under the bill, only science capable of being tested according to scientific method could be taught as science. Faith-based theories, however, could be discussed in other contexts.

Alan Attie, a biochemistry professor at UW-Madison, said the bill puts Wisconsin on the map in the ongoing controversy over evolution and intelligent design.

"We can be the un-Kansas," Attie said in an interview.

William Dembski doesn't like the idea so much:

i'm offering $1000 to the first teacher in Wisconsin who (1) challenges this policy (should it be enacted) by teaching ID as science within a Wisconsin public school science curriculum (social science does not count), (2) gets him/herself fired, reprimanded, or otherwise punished in some actionable way, (3) obtains legal representation from a public interest law firm (e.g., Alliance Defense Fund), and (4) takes this to trial. I encourage others to contribute in the same way. Thank you Wisconsin.

And we get yet another contradiction on the question of whether ID should be taught in science classrooms. The DI says they're not for it, they just want the "evidence for and against evolution" to be taught. Just this past weekend at a forum, Dembski himself admitted that it was premature to teach ID in high school science classrooms. And yet here he is offering cash to someone to do what he previously said shouldn't be done.

I really like what I read from the bill's sponsors. They seem to really understand that science education really is under attack all over the nation:

At a news conference this morning at the State Capitol, Berceau, a Democrat, was flanked by Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, and 13 top researchers from the University of Wisconsin who helped draft the legislation.

She said her bill addresses the attempts in Wisconsin and across the country to undermine science education.

"It is designed to promote good science education, and prevent the introduction of pseudo-science in the science classroom," she said.

"It does not ban the discussion of intelligent design or any other ideology in schools in nonscientific contexts. It simply states that if something is presented as science, it must actually be science."

Naturally, the DI doesn't like it:

Rob Crowther, director of communications for the Discovery Institute, the main booster group for intelligent design, said his group opposes the bill.

"We think it is a scientific theory," Crowther said of intelligent design. "There are a lot of scientists and scholars doing a lot of research on the topic in research institutions. Any effort to stifle the subject really ultimately harms the work they're doing. We see this as an academic freedom issue, not just for teachers, but for scientists."

Same old nonsense from the DI. They've been claiming for years that there are a lot of scientists doing a lot of research on ID, but they have yet to produce any actual research that supports ID (and scouring the scientific literature for anyone who disagrees with some minor sub-theory within evolution and then screaming "Aha, see, a real scientist says Darwinism is wrong!" does not count as "research").

They also continue to deliberately conflate what may be taught in a science classroom with what a scientist may research. There are no limits on what a scientist can research. If ID is valid, then scientists should be able to produce solid research supporting it. Then and only then should there be any discussion of teaching it in science classrooms. The IDers seem to be the only scientific "revolutionaries" in history who think that you overthrow an accepted scientific theory with a PR campaign rather than with hard work to establish their alternative as a compelling explanation.


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How exactly does Dembski propose a teacher should teach ID as science? They haven't devised a falsifiable, predictive theory of ID that meets the criteria of the scientific method. Some teacher saying, "ID is science. No, it is. No, really!" doesn't quite count. As Behe pointed out in Dover to the movement's mortification, you could just as well teach astrology as science that way.

If the bill bans "intelligent design" by that name, it's a bad idea. Science shouldn't be about banning stuff to talk about and research about.

If the bill simply calls for higher science standards and requires that real science be taught, in effect banning pseudo-science and junk science, it may be okay.

But in that case, it should be headlined "Bill Bans Pseudo-science from Classrooms."

The danger is that we fall into a trap of looking as oppressive as the DI accuses us of being, when we are really just looking to stick to the facts.

What is the operative language in this bill? Anyone have it yet?

By Ed Darrell (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

I'm working on getting the text of the bill right now. Rep. Berceau's office is emailing me a copy of it and I'll post it as soon as I have it. It hasn't been assigned a bill number yet, so it's not on the Wisconsin assembly's website.

I'd tend to agree with Ed Darrell. This makes martyrs out of idiots. Better that they get creamed in court on the actual issues.

Anyway, singling out evolution for special treatment is their error - not sure it's a good thing for us to be seen as subscribing to it.

If it's a scientific theory, why should the DI be worried about a bill that requires testable hypotheses?

It will be interesting to see if this bill would ban the teaching of M-theory, for instance. In other words, do the hypotheses have to be testable in practice with our current scientific ability or only in principle?

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

PZ's not happy with it either --

Seeing the specific language is key, I agree with the other commenters. If it bans specific things like ID it's a bad idea. If it's a more general statement that anything taught in a science classroom has to meet the definition of science as laid out by the National Academy of Sciences, it might be great. Of course that leaves the door open to a President appointing someone as head of the NAS who would then redefine what science is, and we'd be screwed. Not that I could imagine that happening, I mean where could we find a journalism major from a hick school who didn't even graduate to run the NAS?!

It would be nice if we could all get along and didn't have to legislate this kind of thing, and leave it up to the experts. But that bridge was burned a long time ago by the Discovery Institute and creationist advocates. They've already tried changing the law rather than leaving it to those who know; this bill seems to be an attempt to fight the war that's being waged rather than pining for the peace that used to prevail.


The NAS is independent:

The Academy membership is comprised of approximately 2,000 members and 350 foreign associates, of whom more than 200 have won Nobel Prizes. Members and foreign associates of the Academy are elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research; election to the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer. The Academy is governed by a Council comprised of twelve members (councilors) and five officers, elected from among the Academy membership. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is the president of the National Academy of Sciences.

By Moses Cohen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

Darn it. That was supposed to be a quote...

By Moses Cohen (not verified) on 08 Feb 2006 #permalink

"Just this past weekend at a forum, Dembski himself admitted that it was premature to teach ID in high school science classrooms. And yet here he is offering cash to someone to do what he previously said shouldn't be done."

Wait, you are expecting Bill Dembski NOT to be a hypocrit?

What I think would be a more interesting question is whether or not Bill Dembski would show up to the court case that he's trying to incite. Just watch, he'll pay the teacher $1000 for getting fired, sign on as an expert witness again, drop out after he's spent another 100 hours at $200/hour, and then walk away with a net profit of $19,000.

Let's start a pot of money to hand over to Bill Dembski in exchange for showing up in court. I pledge 1 cent.

The text of the bill, from Pandas Thumb:

SECTION 1. 118.018 of the statutes is created to read:

118.018 Science instruction. The school board shall ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following:

(1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes.

(2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences.

Thanks Moses, I didn't know that. Appreciate the information! That makes me feel much better.

And RonZ, that Panda's Thumb post is actuall from Ed and this site :-)

If that is the full text of the bill, I think it's good politics, good for education standards, and good for science. How can you argue against it, unless you are a creationist? How can someone vote against the bill unless they have a hidden agenda to put the interests of religion above education and science?

I was working my way backwards in time and read the text of the bill and said: "i love this idea." Then i move down to this thread and Ed starts off with: "I really like this idea"

I have already passed it along to local Washington and Oregon political associates and friends. Pro-active and not re-active efforts are important, as is making the direct efforts to contact and personally lobby local and regional legislators!!!

Yet another bunch of rigid, pathetic adults who can't convince other adults of their crank pseudoscience, and instead resort to playing their con-games on children. TV ads used to do the same thing: "Make your parents' lives miserable until they buy..."

This is all sort of an intellectual equivalent of child-molesting.