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Antiscience bill dies in Arizona

Arizona's Senate Bill 1213 died on February 22, 2013, when the deadline for Senate bills to be heard in their Senate committees passed. A typical instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the integrity of science education, SB 1213 specifically targeted "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming[,] and human cloning" as supposedly controversial. Unusually, however, a sponsor of the bill, Judy Burges (R-District 22), told the Arizona Star (February 5, 2013) that climate science was her primary concern, complaining of imbalance in the presentation of climate change in the public schools.

But Andrew Morrill, the president of the Arizona Education Association, told the Star that there was no need for the legislation. "The curriculum for teaching science is already balanced," he said. "If there's overwhelming evidence on one side, then within the science curriculum there's going to be a look at that evidence." He added, "The controversy is at the political level, not the scientific one." (Morrill misattributed the language of the bill to the American Legislative Exchange Council; it is, rather, based on the language circulated by the Discovery Institute.)

The prime sponsors of SB 1213 were Judy Burges (R-District 22) and Chester Crandell (R-District 6), with Rick Murphy (R-District 21), Steve Pierce (R-District 1), Don Shooter (R-District 13), and Steve Yarbrough (R-District 17) as cosponsors. The bill was the first antiscience bill introduced in Arizona in at least the past decade; the last statewide controversy over the teaching of evolution was evidently in 2004, when the Arizona state board of education was lobbied, in the end unsuccessfully, to include a directive for teachers to discuss "intelligent design" in the state science education standards.