Antievolution legislation afoot


On December 15, 2004, S 114 was introduced (by prefiling) in the South Carolina Senate and referred to the Committee on Education. In addition to revising two aspects of the system whereby the state selects textbooks, S 114 would, if enacted, establish a nineteen-member South Carolina Standards Committee, charged to "study standards regarding the teaching of the origin of species; determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of science; [and] determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools." The idea of such a committee was broached in the last legislative session, in a context that amply revealed its antievolutionist motivations.

On April 9, 2003, during consideration of S 153, Michael L. Fair (R-Greenville County) offered an amendment containing this provision: "The following must be placed in all science books published for kindergarten through twelfth grade: 'The cause or causes of life are not scientifically verifiable. Therefore, empirical science cannot provide data about the beginning of life.'" When another senator objected, no action was taken at that point on Fair's proposed amendment or on the bill itself.

Senator Fair was reportedly irritated by the A grade given to South Carolina's science standards for their treatment of evolution by Lawrence S. Lerner in his Good Science, Bad Science report for the Fordham Foundation. "Fair said his intention is not to inject other theories of origins into the public school curriculum, or to teach religion in the schools -- even though he believes Darwin's theory is 'foolish' and is a religious belief in itself. His goal, he said, is to stimulate discussion in classrooms where 'dogmatic' teachers present evolution as fact rather than theory" (Greenville News [Link broken], April 15, 2003). The Greenville News also noted that Fair's view is at odds with that of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers.

On April 29, 2003, Fair withdrew his original amendment, but proposed another, which would establish a South Carolina Science Standards Committee, charged with the same task as S 114's committee. Fair "said his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools" (Greenville News [Link broken], May 1, 2003). The new amendment was adopted by the Senate, which subsequently passed S 153; it then was referred to the Committee on Education and Public Works of the House of Representatives, where it died when the legislature adjourned on June 5, 2003.

The legislature convenes on January 11, 2005.

Legislative page for S 114