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Wisconsin anticreationism bill dies


Assembly Bill 1143 died in the Wisconsin State Assembly on May 4, 2006, the last day of the last general-business floorperiod. Announced at a press conference on March 7 and introduced and referred to the House Committee on Education on March 21, AB 1143 (PDF) would have, if enacted, directed the school board to "ensure that any material presented as science within the school curriculum complies with all of the following: (1) The material is testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes. (2) The material is consistent with any description or definition of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences."

Although neither creation science nor "intelligent design" was explicitly mentioned in the bill itself, they appeared to be its primary targets. Its main sponsor, state representative Terese Berceau (D-District 76), told the Madison Capital Times (February 7, 2006) that her bill was intended to counteract recent attempts to undermine evolution education around the country and within the state, and Michael Cox and Alan Attie, both professors of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, reportedly applauded the prospect of preventing any incursion of the "intelligent design" movement in Wisconsin.

In a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (May 2006), a number of AB 1143's supporters, including Attie, Berceau, Cox, the philosopher of science Elliott Sober, and the historian of creationism Ronald L. Numbers, explain the origin of the bill -- ultimately prompted by a protracted controversy over evolution education in Grantsburg, Wisconsin -- and its objectives. In addition, the article reviews the history of the antievolution movement from Epperson to Kitzmiller, describes and refutes a few common misrepresentations used by the proponents of "intelligent design," and suggests a number of ways for scientists to defend the teaching of evolution.