Antiscience bill in Iowa

03.03.2017

Iowa's House File 480, introduced and referred to the House Education Committee on March 1, 2017, would, if enacted, require teachers in Iowa's public schools to include "opposing points of view or beliefs" to accompany any instruction relating to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, or human cloning.

There is no requirement that those "points of view or beliefs" have any scientific credibility — only that they are opposed to whatever material is presented in the classroom. In 2015, Iowa adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, so presumably evolution and global warming are presented in the state's classrooms.

"The rudiments of evolution and global warming, which are what is presented in Iowa's science standards, are scientifically uncontroversial," commented NCSE's executive director Ann Reid. "Passage of House File 480 would thus require the miseducation of Iowa's students on these topics and damage the integrity of science education in Iowa."

Echoing the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, the bill also provides that teachers may use supplementary instructional materials "to help understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" with the approval of the board of directors of their school district.

"The intention here is evidently to allow local school districts to allow their teachers to present creationism in their classrooms," NCSE's Reid observed. "The federal courts have repeatedly held that teaching creationism in the public schools is unconstitutional, so passage of HF 480 is likely to result in unnecessary conflict and even litigation."

The bill is sponsored by Skyler Wheeler (R-District 4), Larry Sheets (R-District 80), Ralph C. Watts (R-District 19), Rob Taylor (R-District 44), Sandy Salmon (R-District 63) — the sponsor of House File 140, which aims to undermine Iowa's adoption of the NGSS — Tedd Gassman (R-District 7), and Terry C. Baxter (R-District 8).

Already listed on the legislative website as opposing HF 480 are the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund and the Iowa State Education Association, which represents teachers, administrators, and educational support personnel from every level of public education in the state.

The only similar bill ever to appear in Iowa previously was House File 183 in 2009, which would have applied only to higher education and which would have allowed but not required instructors to present "the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution." HF 183 died in committee.