Glenn Branch's picture

Party Time! Part 1

Themed birthday party, ca. 1910-1915, likely in New Jersey. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Sorry. No funny hats, no crepe streamers, and no cake today. Instead, I’m talking about political parties, in particular state political parties in the United States. And I’m prompted by the news that the Alaska Republican Party recently revised its platform. According to Alaska Public Media (May 4, 2014), at its recent meeting, the party “condensed the Alaska Republican platform. Sections on education and crime were streamlined, and specific provisions on school vouchers, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, and the teaching of creation science were removed.” Removing support for the teaching of creation science in Alaska’s public schools from a party platform is just a wee bit overdue, twenty-seven years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) that teaching creation science in the public schools is unconstitutional, but welcome nevertheless. Good job, Alaska Republicans.

The news reminded me that I haven’t recently skimmed through the platforms of the various state political parties to see what, if anything, they say about attacks on science education. It seems like a good time to revisit the issue, since the last time I conducted such a review was eight years ago. In 2004, I located seven state political parties with antievolution planks in their platforms: the Republican parties of Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas; in 2006, when Liza Gross wrote in a PLoS Biology article that “[i]n the 1990s, the state Republican platforms in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Missouri, and Texas all included demands for teaching creation science,” I commented, “NCSE is currently aware of eight state Republican parties that have antievolutionism embedded in their official platforms or policies those of Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.”

Not all of those called for creation science as such, I added: “Five of them—those of Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas—call for teaching forms of creationism in addition to evolution; the remaining three call only for referring the decision whether to teach such ‘alternatives’ to local school districts.” That’s accurate as far as it goes, but there’s actually a lot of diversity in the platforms, which called variously for:

  • equal time for creation science (Alaska)
  • equal time for creationism (Oklahoma)
  • inclusion of creationism (Oregon)
  • inclusion of “intelligent design” (Texas)
  • allowing teachers to discuss creation science (Minnesota)
  • allowing districts to decide whether to teach creation science (Iowa, Missouri)
  • allowing districts to decide whether to teach “intelligent design” (Iowa)
  • evolution to be taught as theory, not fact (Alaska, Texas)
  • disclaimers for textbooks that fail to present evolution as theory, not fact (Oklahoma)
  • science standards that present evolution as controversial (Minnesota)
  • presentation of the scientific strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories (Texas)
  • teaching all science-based theories for the origin of life (Kansas)
  • public libraries to include creation science materials in their collections (Iowa)

Eight years later, there isn’t a whole lot of difference. NCSE is currently aware of eight state Republican parties that have antievolutionism embedded in their official platforms or policies: those of Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas. The roster is almost the same (Oregon was replaced with North Dakota), and the diversity of antievolution proposals is comparable:

  • equal time for creationism (Iowa, Oklahoma)
  • inclusion of Biblical creation (Oklahoma)
  • inclusion of creation science (Alaska)
  • inclusion of “intelligent design” (Alaska, Oklahoma)
  • teaching the evidence for and against macroevolution (Alaska)
  • allowing districts to decide whether to teach creationism (Missouri) 
  • allowing teachers to discuss creation science (Minnesota, Oklahoma)
  • allowing teachers to discuss “intelligent design” (North Dakota)
  • evolution to be taught as theory, not fact (Iowa)
  • teaching all science-based theories for the origin of life (Kansas)
  • science standards that present evolution as controversial (Minnesota)
  • ability to discuss the scientific strengths and weaknesses of all scientific theories (Texas)
  • school libraries to include creationism and “intelligent design” materials in their collections (Iowa)

Starting in part 2, I’ll offer pairwise comparisons between the seven platforms including antievolution planks in both 2006 and 2014, and I’ll also say a word about the platforms including proevolution—or perhaps antiantievolution—planks. First, though, let me share my data sources with you, so you don’t have to take my word for it.

POLITICAL PARTY PLATFORMS 2014

National

Republican (PDF)

Democratic

Alabama

Republican*

Democratic

Alaska

Republican

Democratic

Arizona

Republican**

Democratic (PDF)

Arkansas

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

California

Republican

Democratic

Colorado

Republican**

Democratic***

Connecticut

Republican

Democratic

Delaware

Republican

Democratic

District of Columbia

Republican (PDF)

Democratic

Florida

Republican*

Democratic

Georgia

Republican*

Democratic (PDF)

Hawaii

Republican (PDF)

Democratic (PDF)

Idaho

Republican (PDF)

Democratic

Illinois

Republican (PDF)

Democratic*

Indiana

Republican

Democratic*

Iowa

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

Kansas

Republican

Democratic

Kentucky

Republican*

Democratic*

Louisiana

Republican

Democratic*

Maine

Republican*** (PDF)

Democratic*** (PDF)

Maryland

Republican**

Democratic*

Massachusetts

Republican (PDF)

Democratic

Michigan

Republican**

Democratic (PDF)

Minnesota

Republican (PDF)

Democratic-Farmer-Labor (PDF)

Mississippi

Republican

Democratic

Missouri

Republican

Democratic

Montana

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

Nebraska

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

Nevada

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

New Hampshire

Republican

Democratic

New Jersey

Republican*

Democratic*

New Mexico

Republican

Democratic

New York

Republican*

Democratic

North Carolina

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

North Dakota

Republican

Democratic-Non Partisan League

Ohio

Republican*

Democratic*

Oklahoma

Republican (PDF)

Democratic*

Oregon

Republican

Democratic

Pennsylvania

Republican**

Democratic*

Rhode Island

Republican*

Democratic*

South Carolina

Republican (PDF)

Democratic**

South Dakota

Republican

Democratic*

Tennessee

Republican*

Democratic*

Texas

Republican (PDF)

Democratic (PDF)

Utah

Republican (PDF)

Democratic (PDF)

Vermont

Republican

Democratic

Virginia

Republican

Democratic

Washington

Republican

Democratic

West Virginia

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

Wisconsin

Republican

Democratic

Wyoming

Republican

Democratic (PDF)

* No platform located on-line; link is to party website
** Provided the national party platform only
*** Described as proposed or draft