A new bill in the Missouri House of Representatives outlines that if biological evolution is to be taught in public schools, then biological intelligent design is to be given equal treatment.
House Bill 1227, which was introduced by Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Osage Beach, is this year’s fourth attempt at including creationism in public school curriculum. The other three bills were introduced in Indiana and New Hampshire, according to the National Center for Science Education.
The legislation, also known as the “Missouri Standard Science Act” defines various terms, such as “analogous naturalistic process,” “biological evolution” and “biological intelligent design.”
HB 1227 directs teachers to give equal time addressing both evolution and creationism in the classroom. It will require new textbooks ordered after the implementation of the law be manufactured illustrating both evolution and creationism in an equal amount of pages. However, any public schools that continue to use previous textbooks will not be penalized.
The bill also mandates to not impose or influence student belief in regards to human origins when teaching both theories.
Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark referred to the school district’s standards in reference to the proposed bill.
“There is a fine line between teaching scientific theory and religious teachings,” Baumstark said. ”These standards are becoming common core standards that all states have to adhere by.”
With the proposition of the bill, the long-held idea of the separation of church and state is being called into question.
Rev. Amy Gearhart, the senior pastor at the Missouri United Methodist Church, said the Methodist Christian denomination supports the separation of church and state.
“Too often, a proposed bill … is an attempt to ‘Get God back into the schools,’ when in fact, God has never left the schools,” Gearhart said. “God is in the teachers and teaching and the students and learning.”
Gearhart said Christian teachings are better left out of the classroom.
“Our Christian faith is to be taught in the home and church so that Christians can interact with people of all races, faiths and creeds in the public schools and witness to a way of compassion, generosity and justice,” Gearhart said.
HB 1227 also requires the same procedures outlined for Missouri public school system be carried out by any introductory science course at a public institution of higher learning.
Dr. Karthik Panchanathan, an MU professor of anthropology, said for intelligent design to be taught in a classroom, it would need to have a more supported hypothesis.
“As a scientist, I'm troubled by attempts to undermine science with appeals to religion,” Panchanathan said. “Life on earth may well have been ‘intelligently designed.’ I see no evidence of this, but that doesn't mean it's not true.”
If this bill were to pass, it could affect introductory level science classes at MU.
“To me, claims that cannot be substantiated with evidence (like intelligent design), have no place in a science class,” Panchanathan said.
Similar legislation has been proposed before, but to no avail. This bill reads almost verbatim to a previous bill proposed in 2003.
The sponsors were unavailable to comment.