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Antiscience bill on the Pennsylvania horizon

Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania legislator is seeking cosponsors for a bill that would allow public school students to assess "the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories," the Philadelphia Inquirer (August 4, 2013) reports. As NCSE previously reported, there were calls for such legislation in April 2013, following a series of presentations from young-earth and "intelligent design" creationists in a Murrysville, Pennsylvania, church. But there was no apparent reaction until August 1, 2013, when Stephen Bloom (R-District 199) circulated a memo seeking cosponsors for a proposed "academic freedom" bill closely resembling the bill enacted in Tennessee in 2012.

In its draft form, Bloom's bill claims (PDF) that "[t]he teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy" and that "[s]ome teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects." It thus directs state and local educational administrators to permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught" and forbids them from prohibiting teachers from doing so.

Andy Hoover of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania — which helped to litigate Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case in Pennsylvania in which teaching "intelligent design" in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional — told the Inquirer, "[T]his is the code people use when they want to inject religion into public-school science classrooms." NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott agreed, saying, "Because of the various court decisions, they can't overtly promote creationism, so they've found a backdoor way of promoting creationism." She added, "It's not another point of view, it's bad science ... Why would you deliberately teach kids bad science?"