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The Granite Geek on New Hampshire's antievolution bills

The Nashua Telegraph's science columnist revisits the two antievolution bills recently prefiled in the New Hampshire legislature. David Brooks, who writes the "Granite Geek" column for the Telegraph, interviewed the sponsors of both bills in July 2011 before the bills were actually drafted, and then concluded (July 3, 2011), "My taxpayer dollars pay science teachers to teach science, not philosophy. Let's hope lawmakers don't try to get in the way." After examining the text of the bills as introduced, his conclusion is if anything firmer: "Both of these bills should die a quick and deserving death," he now writes (January 2, 2012).

Under examination are House Bill 1457 (which 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") and House Bill 1148 (which 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").

With regard to HB 1457, introduced by Gary Hopper (R-District 7) and John Burt (R-District 7), Brooks wrote, "At best, it seems to say 'instruct pupils that proper scientific inquiry results from proper scientific inquiry' — which is true, if not exactly useful. At worst, though, it seems to say something like 'you can disregard any scientific theory if it is challenged.'” He observed that just as creationism challenges evolution, so astrology challenges physics, homeopathy challenges chemistry, the Hollow Earth theory challenges plate tectonics, and so on. "Ridiculous, of course. But if a law that vague got on the books, it's not out of the question."

With regard to HB 1148, introduced by Jerry Bergevin (R-District 17), Brooks observed that the idea of teaching evolution "as a theory" is "standard creationist fare," but the idea of requiring students to be told about the political and ideological viewpoints of scientists "seems downright ludicrous" — "Who are 'the theorists' that Bergevin wants polled about politics, ideology and atheism? Every scientist in the world whose work touches on evolution — all several million of them? Every biology teacher in New Hampshire? Anybody who has read [James D. Watson's memoir of the discovery of the structure of DNA] 'The Double Helix'?"