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Nevada antievolution ballot measure dead


by Nick Matzke

An Associated Press story in the Las Vegas Sun reports [Link broken] that the so-called "Truth in Science" initiative in Nevada has died. The initiative would have amended the Nevada constitution to require public schools to teach that "parts Of evolution are unproven theories" and various specific points disputed by "some" scientists.

The backer of the initiative, Las Vegas masonry contractor Steve Brown, stopped an effort to collect the 83,184 signatures that were required by June 20, 2006 in order to get the initative on the ballot.

According to the story, Brown "said he did not think his Truth in Science proposal would be passed by voters if it were on the ballot."

The text of the initiative is available at the website of the Nevada Secretary of State. The initiative followed recent patterns in antievolutionism, in that it did not use the terms "creationism" and "intelligent design," but instead required students to uncritically accept common pseudoscientific objections to evolution put forward by creationists regarding the origin of life, new genetic information, complex biological systems, alleged gaps in the fossil record, and the origin of sexual reproduction. Many of these arguments were refuted at trial in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case on the constitutionality of intelligent design, and short rebuttals are found in the Judge's decision (PDF) in the case.

For more background on the petition, see the previous NCSE news story.

The only online copy of the initiative appears to be a scan of the fax that Steve Brown sent to the office of the Secretary of State of Nevada. For purposes of historical documentation the petition is transcribed below. Typos and other errors are original, although the scanned document is poor resolution and this may have resulted in some missing periods and commas.

[p. 1]

[stamped: FILE
FEB 24 2006
DEAN HELLER
SECRETARY OF STATE ]

02/24/2006 04:26 7024312161 BROWN MASONRY PAGE 02

Initiative Petition State of Nevada

The People of the State of Nevada do enact as follows:

We are amending the constitution of the State of Nevada by adding a new section concerning how evolution is to be taught in schools.

FULL TEXT OF THE PROPOSED MEASURE

Students should be encouraged to reflect critically and thoughtfully on all scientific material in all fields

Students must be informed that although most scientists agree that Darwin's theory of evolution is well supported, a small minority of scientists do not agree.

The following areas of disagreement about evolution, must be taught to all students before the end of the 10th grade Students will be taught about the strengths of evolution on each item, as well as it's weaknesses

1 Students will be informed that there are scientists who are skeptical that natural selection, or chemistry alone, can explain the origins of life. Some scientists insist that it is mathematically impossible for the first cell to have evolved by itself

2. Where did the information come from? Students must be informed of the complexity of DNA, and that some scientists insist that evolution can only speculate for how it came into existence.

3. Students must be informed that some scientists argue that evolution cannot explain the existence of some complex biological systems. They argue that the emergence of these systems is neither mathematically nor bio-chemically plausible under the theory of evolution by natural selection.

4. Students must be informed about the disputes concerning the fossil record. They must be informed that there are scientists who argue that nowhere in the fossil record is there an indisputable skeleton of a transitional specie, or a "missing link". They insist that the fossil record only shows species that are fully developed

5. Students must be informed that some scientists argue that sexual reproduction would require an unbelievable series of chance events that would have had to occur in the evolutionary theory. The students must be informed that the origin of sex, or sex drive, is one of biology's mysteries.

[p. 2]

02/24/2006 04:26 7024312161 BROWN MASONRY PAGE 03

Initiative Petition State of Nevada

DESCRIPTION OF EFFECT

Students will learn that parts of evolution are supported by scientific evidence and are beyound dispute, and that parts Of evolution are unproven theories.

County of _________________________________ (Only registered voters of this county may sign below)

1 PRINT YOUR NAME (last name, first name, initial) RESIDENCE ADDRESS ONLY
YOUR SIGNATURE DATE CITY COUNTY

[more signature boxes follow]

Links

Steve Brown (2006). "Truth in Science" petition. Proposed on February 24, 2006.
http://sos.state.nv.us/elections/initiatives/pdf/2006/TruthInScience.pdf

Associated Press (2006). "Deadline about a week away for backers of Nevada initiatives [Link broken]." Las Vegas Sun, June 11, 2006.
http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/nevada/2006/jun/11/061110572.html [Link broken]

Glenn Branch (2006). "Antievolution initiative petition in Nevada." NCSE News, March 6, 2006.
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2006/NV/328_antievolution_initiative_petit_3_6_2006.asp

Judge John E. Jones III (2005). Memorandum Opinion in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District (2005). Middle District of Pennsylvania. December 20, 2005.
http://www.sigmaxi.org/resources/evolution/051220_kitzmiller_342.pdf