It’s Back… Intelligent Design Bill Reintroduced in Missouri

Last year, a Missouri State Representative, Rick Brattin (R-District 55), sponsored a bill that would have damaged science education in Missouri by attacking Evolution. Brattin received a firestorm of negative attention (he even took down his Facebook page in reaction*), and the bill died in committee.

Unfortunately, he is trying again.

House Bill 291 would demand that Missouri science teachers give equal treatment to both Evolution and Intelligent Design. This is akin to a mandate that teachers give alchemy as much time as chemistry or geocentrism as much time as astronomy. It’s madness.

Below is a message I posted on Rep. Brattin’s Facebook wall last year before he deleted it. I’m reprinting it here, and I will be emailing it to Rep. Brattin, his co-sponsors, and my State Reprentative:

Intelligent Design was proposed a few years ago as an alternative to Evolution after the Supreme Court ruled that Creationism couldn’t be taught. It’s essentially a way to insert Creationism under another label into public school curricula. This was demonstrated conclusively in a big court case in Pennsylvania a few years ago:

That ID is rebranded Creationism wouldn’t inherently be a problem for public school science education if ID presented any ideas that held up to scientific scrutiny. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. ID proponents have had more than a dozen years to demonstrate that their ideas have more predictive and explanatory power than Evolutionary Theory does, but they’ve never been successful. The closest they’ve come are with notions of “Irreducible Complexity” and “Specific Complexity”. Unfortunately for them, every example they’ve ever presented as an example of IC or SC has then been shown to be explainable through existing Evolutionary processes.

Further, IC and SC boil down to the idea that hard problems are hard, so we should stop trying to find answers to them. Instead of being an advancement of science, ID represents an end to scientific inquiry.

I care about science education, so this sort of interference rankles me. As an analogy, it would be the same as proposing giving 9th graders equal access to astrology and astronomy and expecting them to be able to figure out which is more likely to be true. Or asking 7th graders to be able to tell the difference between chemistry and alchemy when their teachers aren’t allowed to tell them which has evidence behind it. Or teaching 10th graders that the Holocaust might or might not have happened (and it’s just not fair to give evidence one way or the other).

Even with the failures of ID proponents to this point, that’s not to say they shouldn’t be able to continue trying. They should definitely keep trying. However, what they shouldn’t do is subvert the educational process by attempting to inject a failed hypothesis into science education.

The academic process is to test the frontiers of knowledge and develop and test new ideas in the post-graduate and professional ranks. When ideas have been demonstrated to be reliable, then they are taught to the lower levels of college and eventually to public schools.

This bill (and others like it) is an attempt to skip the line – to give a failed notion equal billing with a theory that has been tested and validated for 150 years and not give unsuspecting students the tools to tell the difference.

It’s not fair to science, and it’s not fair to the students.

Sadly, though, this isn’t even the only anti-evolution bill in the Missouri legislature this year. One of the co-sponsors for HB 291 sponsored House Bill 179, which isn’t as assertive as HB 291, but still is bad. HB 179 would allow any teacher to lie about Evolution, introducing any weakness that is imagined by the Creationist community, with immunity from correction. There’s no other area where we have a law that says “No administrator shall prohibit a teacher from helping students understand the weaknesses of gravity”. Or of germ theory. Or…

If you live in Missouri and care about science, education, and our children’s future, please send something like what I wrote this to your Representative to combat these two bad bills.

*Update: Someone on reddit found Brattin’s new Facebook page.

About Lance Finney

Father of two boys, Angular/TypeScript developer, Ethical Humanist, and world traveler (when I can sneak it in). Contributor to Grounded Parents.
This entry was posted in Politics, Skepticism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to It’s Back… Intelligent Design Bill Reintroduced in Missouri

  1. FLPatriot says:

    Your right, we need kids to only learn what we want to teach them. They should never be taught to think for themselves or to question what scientists tell them is fact. How dare people suggest that scientists could possible be wrong about anything, especially the scientific law of evolution.

    • Lance Finney says:

      In order to be able to think for themselves, they need to have the tools to be able to do so. This bill is an attempt to deny them the tools of critical thinking, to force upon them a bad idea as equally valid as a validated idea. That’s the opposite of what you claim to want.

      • FLPatriot says:

        You sound like a “flat Earther”. They believe the Earth is flat and that any other idea is a “bad idea”.

        Critical thinking is taught by given the kids the tools to separate bad ideas from good ones and letting them figure it out themselves. When you tell them what is a good idea and what is not, that is brain washing and creates a society of intellectually lazy people.

      • Lance Finney says:

        No, I sound like a “round Earther” who wants the correct and validated scientific information to be taught instead of one particular ancient mistaken idea.

        I agree that kids should be taught the tools to separate the good ideas from the bad, but the bill you are defending does the opposite of that. It requires children to be taught two ideas, one that has survived every scientific challenge for 150 years while increasing our knowledge of the world around us, and one that has barely any peer-reviewed papers in support of it and that has no predictive power whatsoever. It requires equal time for these two ideas, which means that the idea with years of accumulated knowledge will need to be shortchanged to make room for a failed hypothesis that can be fully explained and dismissed on the back of an envelope. It requires that the students not be told why one idea is a valid scientific theory and the other is a failed philosophical hypothesis.

        True brainwashing would be skipping the scientific and academic process to force a failed idea into the scientific curriculum. If ID were truly a valid idea, it would be winning in the scientific arena, and its discoveries would be spreading through education naturally. Ignoring that reality to score political and religious points is the intellectually lazy approach.

    • Trey Dockery says:

      The reason for stopping this law is exactly as you described, individual teachers that only have 4 years of college should not be able to teach students whatever they want instead of the scientists who go through many more years of much harder college courses and continue research after that. The cool thing about scientists is that their research is analyzed with extreme scrutiny by a bunch of other scientists, if anything is found wrong, it is changed. So yeah, we should only be taught what a huge group of highly intelligent people searching for the truth tell us.

    • Joe says:


      And scientists are always the first to tell you to question results.

    • Brandon says:

      Its the Theory of Evolution, not Law of Evolution. Yes children should be taught critical thinking so make a philosophy class mandatory to graduate. What they shouldn’t be taught is pseudoscience such as ID. If ID is a reasonable hypothesis let it undergo scientific testing, let them demonstrate and gather scientific evidence as to why their hypothesis is true. Evolution has done this for over 150 years, it’s been able to go from hypothesis to Theory and there is a large backbone of evidence for it to be true where as ID has 0 evidence, no peer reviewed articles in distinguished journals such as Nature, no physical evidence only unsupported hypothesis, thus why they are trying to get it into classrooms through the legislation, if it was real science it would be researched at universities internationally and would end up in a real science textbook.

      Science is based on questioning, why does x happen, what are the other possible explanations. Are there variable problems, does this fit in with other observed scientific laws, theories and fact?

      • Jordan says:

        I started reading this, and I immediately thought this was going to be a creationist misunderstanding of what a scientific theory is. I was pleasantly surprised. But seriously, read that first sentence from the perspective that it’s an anti-evolutionist speaking, and you get that “oh shit, this again” feeling.

      • FLPatriot says:

        “Yes children should be taught critical thinking so make a philosophy class mandatory to graduate.”

        So you don’t think critical thinking belongs in a science class room? I guess it is easier to get kids to accept what you want them to about science that way.

      • dave says:

        Turns out you have a misunderstanding of what the term “theory” means in the scientific community.

      • Brandon says:

        @FLPatriot Critical Thinking at the University Level is taught by the Philosophy Dpt, so it seems right for it to be taught under philosophy at the High-School Level.

        Yes it should be a skill within the science classroom. I don’t know about American Science classes, but back when I was in my Grade 9 science class in Canada. We were taught the Scientific Method and how it is used with science. We where given the facts behind the various scientific processes, Facts and Theories that we were taught in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. However we were not taught pseudo sciences such as Alchemy, Astrology, Intelligent Design etc… teaching something with no scientific backing as a scientific fact within a science classroom is wrong

    • Sean says:

      Weather you like it or not, evolution is true. The idea of teaching kids to think for themselves is in order to give them tools to separate fact from fiction, to engage in their own personal philosophies and make their own moral choices in increasingly gray areas. Teaching a child to think for itself, however, has nothing to do with teaching a child to reject proven ideas backed with publicly verifiable evidence generated over a century of studies. You apparently want to teach kids to think 2+2 can equal whatever they want it to, rather than 2+2=4.

      “How dare people suggest scientists could possibly be wrong about anything.” Scientists will tell you first that they may be wrong. Science rarely deals in absolute facts, but instead deals in models that suggest the closest thing to the truth we can obtain. Science doesn’t always find 2+2=4, but more often than not it gets pretty close, finding 2+2=3.99999999, as in the case of evolution and everything else rational, thinking people take as truths, even if they go against religious dogma. Sometimes science finds a .000000001 to add on to the end of that, bringing the overall answer closer to the “truth” then realize a better idea that changes that to a .000000009.

      • FLPatriot says:

        “Teaching a child to think for itself”, wow, do you call your children “it”? I treat my children like people and I let them think for themselves.

      • Sean says:

        So the only reply you have is to argue semantics with me over my proper use of a gender neutral reference to a previously mentioned noun (in this case, the singular child.) Whatever, I’ll ignore that and move on to your next reply. “…narrow minded side of the science community.” Do you realize how ridiculous that statement is? Science is anything *but* narrow minded. If science were narrow minded, as you purport it to be, it would’ve rejected biological evolution in favor of creationism, the standard dogma that, until evolution was figured out, was considered to be the “truth” of how humans came to exist. If science were narrow minded, it wouldn’t be, to this day, fighting religious dogma that is still considered, at least in America, to be the status quo.

    • The moment you called Evolution a Law, you exposed your ignorance.

  2. Sean says:

    The fact that these bills have been happening for so long without anyone raising a First Amendment issue all the way to the Supreme Court is alarming, as this should’ve been ruled against by now. So-called intelligent design is creationism dressed up under a fancy new name and does not belong to the field of science, but to the field of theology. As much as this angers me, I already know there’s naught I can do to stop it. My elected representative will be against it, but my voice is tiny in comparison to the fundamentalist religious voices that is the collective of Missouri. The only thing I can do is hope this bill is replaced and/or overturned by the time I have my own children going thorough a piss poor, sorry excuse for an educational system in Missouri, and that I can personally teach them better.

    • Lance Finney says:

      The Supreme Court has ruled against teaching Creationism in public schools before (Edwards v. Aguillard comes to mind). However, the Creationist movement responds by refining their attack and trying again. Ironically, creationism evolves.

      Teaching Intelligent Design has been ruled unconstitutional (See Kitzmiller v. Dover), but the case stopped before reaching the Supreme Court. I don’t know if legislators like Brattin think that their bill would survive judicial review, or if they think that Kitzmiller v. Dover would have been overturned by SCOTUS, or if they’re just playing to their base. Whatever their motivation is, they will keep trying.

      Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education has a video on the evolution of creationism:

      • Sean says:

        I never knew about Kitzmiller v. Dover, but I knew that SCOTUS had previously ruled creationism unconstitutional. The problem w/ ID is that, even though it is undeniably creationism, they attempt to dress it up to look like science, when in fact no science backs the idea. Thanks for the video, I’ll be sure to watch it later tonight after I get some time from class.

        My thinking is, however, that we won’t see these bills stop happening until and unless the SCOTUS directly rules them unconstitutional.

        Honestly, I’m more worried about the bill that past last summer in Missouri allowing students to opt-out of any assignments that violated their religious beliefs, essentially letting kids skate through biology class without ever having to learn a single thing about evolution. It directly undermines the teaching of science in a country that is already sorely ranked in science and mathematics education.

      • Lance Finney says:

        I’m worried about both – I’m not sure I can say I’m more worried about one than the other. I wrote about the amendment last summer, but obviously my little blog didn’t do much to combat the deception inherent in the referendum’s presentation.

  3. Southern Humanist says:

    Intelligent Design has zero scientific legitimacy. Creationism has zero scientific legitimacy. Zero. They no more belong in a science class than Gaia, Chaos, Odin, or Coatlicue,

  4. Lance Finney says:

    A bit of good news. I cc’d my State Representative on the email I sent to Rep. Brattin and his co-sponsors,and she called me this evening. She appreciated my call, and she opposes the bills because of her support for science and education.

    It’s limited good news since the Republicans have a supermajority in both houses in Missouri, but I’m glad at least my representative respects science, education, and secular government.

  5. after reading this blog s which is very interesting by the way through the comment s I found out that creationists are liberal fuzzy human beings until it comes to people who disagree with them, then the nice but arrogant in them comes out, oh how dare you say evolution is wrong, evolution is for people who do not live in the real world. These people have never been in a fight and think self defence is a dirty word,that when they are about to get beaten stabbed or robbed the best thing isnt fight or flight but to call the police while its happening, They vote for liberals like tony blair and Obama for what they can get or what they percieve he is doing without looking at any policies these people put forward(war is peace for liberals) and the glaringly bad details(who can remember Obamas broken promises)not the media or any of his followers. Evolution is a croc there is no evidence its an oposing world view to belief in god and in a sense a religion as it takes faith to believe in it, this view evolution is a religion is not is supported by the accademic geeks(DENIAL) with huge salaries most of them so smart they couldnt wire in a plug, big corporations who make millions and governments all telling us a lie which is not allowed to be challenged. If creationism had been able to be debated then at least 45 % would agree its possible. so why are the 45% in the USA ignored because liberal fascism is very well hidden under th eguise of truth(george orwels 1984 was based on liberal facist tactics). Let us not forget all progressives hate god and religion and will punish anyone who does if they can as we see in universities.There is an invisible war going on under or very noses as science is discovering what religionists have known for thousands of years the universe is actually a multiverse.In our world today in every spere in life we see bad things happening now, It is amazing how tis is ignored by th emsm(main stram media) is ignored is the world under judgement I dont know but something is happening. Here is an example story where these egg heads who dont belive in GOD but think they are gods themselves are going to help mankind. Is it me or is it just a coincidence that these maniacs are all evolutionists because if they were creationists they would have at least some common sense th elunatics are running the asylum.

    • your faith is not inspired by some divine, contant truth; its simply geograhpy says:

      creationism is debated all the time – the thing is science is right whether you believe it or not – religion is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction – god is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance, you also dont get anything worth getting by pretending to know somthing you dont know. the problem is that creationist dont understand what the word theory means. A theory is a structure of ideas that explain and interpret facts. the scientific fact is – biological evolution of species. the theory is the mechanics of how it works – Newtons theory of gravitation lasted for over a hundred years before Einsteins theory of gravitation replaced his model. Never did gravity cease to exist. Evolution is not a belief that one blindly follows with faith. its a scientific fact that you either accept or dont. you pick and choose from your religious text, and point fingers in the directions of those whom you disregard because they think for themselves

  6. I decided not to respond to FLPatriot directly, and hope everyone else follows suit. Some people are highly effective in ignoring empirical observations, lines of logic and history, and the predictive and/or explanatory power behind a scientific theory which effectively utilizes both. I suggest we take this opportunity not to become frustrated, but to laugh at her. I mean, did anyone else notice the irony of decrying scientists as advocates of a “flat earth” theory. That’s just funny!

    Anywho, outside of that, I did want to make mention of two things. First, a couple people keep saying evolution is “true” or “right.” I know we use these terms because they’re easy to work with, but I just wanted to make sure we are all on the same page: there is absolutely no model in any science that we know to be true one-hundred percent. Why not? Because we can only vouch for the success of a theory at the time and place of its testing. I know that temporal and spatial symmetry should account for all other times and places, but, TECHNICALLY, we cannot know. So the correct thing to say would be “it has yet to be disproven.” I know this must seem trivial, but it’s very pertinent to this issue because the failure of ID as a science is not a failure to explain. It’s its failure to provide an explanation which can be tested. I could say my cat created the universe last Tuesday (an oft used anecdote) and it would explain our current existence. But we cannot test this theory; therefore, it fails to be science, which is the number one reason for why ID should NEVER be taught as science.

    The second thing I wanted to say was actually just a kudos for this paragraph:

    “Further, IC and SC boil down to the idea that hard problems are hard, so we should stop trying to find answers to them. Instead of being an advancement of science, ID represents an end to scientific inquiry.”

    You hit the nail on the head. Bravo!

    Julien Haller

  7. I was taught alchemy in my high school chemistry class. It was used as a counter example to scientific inquiry. The instructor went through some of the basic hypotheses of alchemy, and showed how they were self referential and couldn’t stand up to independent scrutiny; thus failing the demands of modern scientific methods. Lamarckism was similarly used in my biology class (although Lamarckism is scientific in that it can be tested and has falsifiable hypotheses). ID would fare the same with a good instructor, so I have no problem bringing ID into the classroom in the same way, as a counter example to further elucidate what is and is not science.

    • Lance Finney says:

      I agree that ID could be a useful foundation for that sort of discussion. Unfortunately, though, that’s not what the bill in question mandates. It requires equal time for both ID and Evolution, and even in the hands of a good teacher, that would mean spending as much time on a failed philosophical hypothesis as on the foundational theory that explains all of biology. Even at the best, we are talking about a huge misallocation of precious time.

    • skeptik0 says:

      There is one fundamental difference between Creationism/ID and alchemy, astrology or other pseudosciences. No one is trying to teach either in our schools. There is no large and well financed movement with the goal of discrediting Astronomy in favor of Astrology.
      Conversely, Creationists have been trying for many years to have ID taught in schools as an alternative to evolution. Their “Teach the controversy” is a crafty plot to elevate ID above its real importance in the marketplace of ideas and doing so by presenting it as an alternative to evolution when in reality they have no more scientific grounds than Astrology has against Astronomy. In fact, I would say that at least Astrology was useful as a starting point for the understanding of the motion of celestial bodies.

      Creationism instead is a pseudo-science fabricated of whole cloth from creationism. The reason creationism was discredited in both the scientific and legal field was because there was no basis to what they were trying to affirm as true. They started with a declaration of faith and then derived their understanding of the physical world from that. Furthermore, creationists only accepted the judeo-christian creation story, totally ignoring the thousands of creation stories popular in other cultures.

      ID is doing exactly the same thing and the only difference lies in the number of fancy words they use. Otherwise, they are still trying to do science ass-backwards, starting from their faith based beliefs and trying to adjust the science to validate it.

      In addition, whenever known science and their beliefs are at odds (and that happens frequently) their way of resolving the problem is to declare the designer has otherworldly powers and can do anything.
      Essentially, they use magic instead of science to explain whatever they don’t have an answer for.
      Following their example, anyone would be able to come up with the most ridiculous ideas and then expect to see their ideas taught in schools.

      imagine if every religion was able to take their creation story, build a pseudo-scientific framework around it, use their god to explain away the difficult bits and then go to the local school district expecting to see their new “theory” taught in school.

      It would be madness.

      Why is the Judeo Christian tradition entitled to have their pseudo-science taught in schools but not other religions?

      So, yes. In a normal world, I too would like to see ID taught alongside evolution and used as you described astrology was taught at your school. I think that presented with the real facts, students would find it an easy task to see how ID has no scientific foundation. But given to the wrong teacher or in the wrong school it would be too easy to use this liberty as a way to teach creationism only.

      And it’s not just creationism that worries me. The problem is that once you have accepted that “science” allows for magic to explain away those aspects of the real world we don’t yet understand, why continue to research? Why go in a scientific career?
      Black holes? The entrance to hell.
      Pulsars? Baby Jesus is smiling.
      The polar hurricane on Jupiter? The Maori god Uenuku just farted.

  8. Clichoid says:

    ” I don’t know about American Science classes, but back when I was in my Grade 9 science class in Canada. We were taught the Scientific Method and how it is used with science. “__Brandon

    In the UK children are taught the scientific method during their first 6 years in school. By the time they are 11 years old, most children will understand the notion of a fair test, how to conduct one and how to interpret the results. Many children will also be able to propose a hypothesis and devise an experiment to test it. By the time they are ready to study difficult concepts like heredity, evolution, the age of the Earth and so on it is to be hoped that they are not going to be taken in by Intelligent Design.

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