You are here

Monitoring antievolution bills in New Hampshire

The two antievolution bills in the New Hampshire legislature attracted the attention of the Concord Monitor (December 29, 2011). As NCSE previously reported, House Bill 1148, introduced by Jerry Bergevin (R-District 17), would charge the state board of education to "[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism," while House Bill 1457, introduced by Gary Hopper (R-District 7) and John Burt (R-District 7), would charge the state board of education to "[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes."

Bergevin told the Monitor, "I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless." He reportedly blamed the acceptance of evolution for the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the 1999 Columbine shooting. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott explained, however, that "Evolutionary scientists are Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians and Greens and everything. Similarly, their religious views are all over the map, too. ... If you replace atheism in the bill with Protestantism, or Catholicism, or Judaism or any other view, it's clear to see it's not going to pass legal muster." She also noted that the bill would presumably require teachers to ascertain the political and religious views of every scientist mentioned in their biology textbooks, a requirement which she characterized as "pretty dopey."

Hopper acknowledged that although he would like to see "intelligent design" taught in classrooms, he was not able to find a successful legislative precedent. Instead, he explained, "I want the problems with the current theories to be presented so that kids understand that science doesn't really have all the answers. They are just guessing." Scott retorted, "You're not improving science education for young people by pretending that well-established ideas are up for grabs. The idea of evolution, that living things have common ancestors, is not being challenged in science today." She summarized, "Neither of these bills are going to advance science education in New Hampshire and neither of them deserve to be inflicted upon the students in your state." Both bills were referred to the House Education Committee; HB 1148 is scheduled for a hearing on February 9, 2012, and HB 1457 is scheduled for a hearing on February 14, 2012.