Antiscience legislation in South Dakota

01.27.2015

South Dakota's Senate Bill 114 is the fourth antiscience bill of 2015, following on the heels of Missouri's House Bill 486, Indiana's Senate Bill 562, and Oklahoma's Senate Bill 665. All four bills are broadly similar to Tennessee's "monkey law," enacted over the protests of the state's scientific and educational communities and without the governor's signature in 2012.

SB 114 would require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers in finding effective ways to present the science curriculum" where it addresses "scientific subjects that may cause debate and disputation"; it would prevent such authorities from "prohibit[ing] any teacher in a public school from helping students to understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the courses being taught." A further section of SB 114 attempts to immunize it against constitutional scrutiny, insisting that the bill "may not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine."

The bill identifies "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, [and] human cloning" as scientifically controversial. (Missouri's bill identifies only "the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution" as controversial, Indiana's bill identifies only human cloning as controversial, and Oklahoma's bill offers no specific examples.)

The sponsors of SB 114 are Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), Bob Ewing (R-District 31), Brock L. Greenfield (R-District 2), Jenna Haggar (R-District 10), Ried Holien (R-District 5), Dan Lederman (R-District 16), Betty Olson (R-District 28), David M. Omdahl (R-District 11), Bill Van Gerpen (R-District 19), and Mike Vehle (R-District 20). Twelve members of the House of Representatives are also listed as sponsors, although there is no House equivalent of the bill. Monroe, Lederman, and Van Gerpen were Senate sponsors, and Greenfield and Haggar were House sponsors, of 2014's Senate Bill 112, which would have forbidden administrators from preventing teachers from presenting "intelligent design."