1/16/10

Action Alert: Oppose House Bill 586

Action Alert.gifI received the following today from the National Center for Science Education:

Dear Mississippi members of NCSE,

We thought you would like to know about a proposed bill which has just been introduced in the Mississippi legislature by Rep. Gary Chism [R-District 37]. House Bill 586 has been referred to the House Education Committee.

HB 586 would require local school boards to begin every high school biology course with a lesson on human evolution. However, the bill mandates that such lessons "... shall not evidence bias through selective instruction on the theory of evolution, but rather, shall have proportionately equal instruction from educational materials that present scientifically sound arguments by protagonists and antagonists of the theory of evolution."

The bill provides no indication of how to define or recognize "scientifically sound arguments", but is clear in requiring equal time for "educational materials" [also undefined] from both supporters and opponents of evolution. Since there are no "scientifically sound arguments" against evolution which have been presented or accepted by the scientific community, it seems clear that any arguments against evolution presented in such a lesson are very likely to be the sort of religiously-based ones which creationists put forward. Thus this bill could easily have the effect of opening science classrooms to the presentation of those particular religious views which reject evolution.

Last year Rep. Chism introduced a bill which would have required biology textbooks in Mississippi to include an evolution disclaimer similar to that mandated in Alabama. At the time he was quoted in the "Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal" as saying "Either you believe in the Genesis story, or you believe that a fish walked on the ground."

To read the full text of HB 586, see:
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2010/html/HB/0500-0599/HB0586IN.htm

NCSE has a news story about this bill here:
http://ncse.com/news/2010/01/antievolution-legislation-mississippi-005283

If you should want to contact your representative or members of the Education Committee about HB 586, the following may prove useful.

A roster of House members, with contact information:
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/members/h_roster.pdf

A list of House committees with their members:
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/htms/h_cmtememb.xml

To track the status of HB 586 [or any other bill]:
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2010/pdf/lookup.htm

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