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Antievolution legislation in South Carolina again


On June 1, 2005, a bill modeled on the so-called Santorum language stripped from the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was introduced in the South Carolina Senate and referred to the senate's Committee on Education. If enacted, S. 909 would require that:

In the promulgation of policies and regulations regarding kindergarten through twelfth grade education, the State Board of Education shall implement policies and a curriculum that accomplish the General Assembly's desire to provide a quality science education that shall prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.
Such bills have been common in state legislatures over the past few years, although none has been enacted.

The lead sponsor of S. 909 is Michael L. Fair (R-Greenville County), described [Link broken] in the June 17, 2005, issue of The State as the "dominant voice advocating for S.C. schools to teach more than Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution." In 2003, Fair attempted to amend a textbook bill to require a textbook disclaimer reading "The cause or causes of life are not scientifically verifiable. Therefore, empirical science cannot provide data about the beginning of life." Subsequently, he repeatedly but unsuccessfully attempted to pass legislation to establish a committee to "study standards regarding the teaching of the origin of species; determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of science; [and] determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools"; the Greenville News reported [Link broken] on May 1, 2003, that "his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools."

S. 909 was introduced the day before the South Carolina legislature adjourned; the bill will therefore be at the top of the agenda when it reconvenes in January 2006. The State reports, "Fair says he plans to mount a major push during the next legislative session to win colleagues' support for his latest idea to modify standards for teaching science, particularly in high schools. Public school students, he said, should be told a 'full range of scientific views ... exist' when it comes to explaining how fauna, flora and man came to inhabit the earth," and quotes him as acknowledging that his critics "will say all this is a thinly veiled attempt to mandate that creationism must be taught," a charge he rejects. The newspaper's report noted that South Carolina's science standards include evolution but not "alternative theories" and also quoted the Reverend Baxter Wynn of Greenville's First Baptist Church as writing, "It is not necessary to choose between Christianity and evolution -- they are not mutually exclusive."

Residents of South Carolina concerned about S. 909 are encouraged to get in touch with NCSE's Susan Spath at spath@ncseweb.org.