Ohio Law Allowing Creationism Into Public Schools Sets Up A Dover Trap

clipart of science items

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reported on August 19th that Ohio Representatives Andy Thompson (R-95) and Matt Huffman (R-4) introduced House Bill 597 to repeal Ohio’s participation in the Common Core curriculum. Even with recent changes, it includes language that would allow creationism and climate change denial to be taught in the public schools.

House Bill 597, introduced in the House of Representatives on July 28, 2014, would, if enacted, require the state’s science standards to “prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another” — and a sponsor of the bill told a newspaper that it would allow local school districts to teach creationism alongside evolution and global warming denial alongside climate science.

Asked whether the law would require “intelligent design” to be taught alongside evolution, Thompson explained, “I don’t know that it needs to be treated on par, but districts will be able to choose based on their judgment.” Asked whether faith-based beliefs belong in a science class, he demurred: “I’m not prescribing that to classes,” Thompson said. “There’s not one settled perspective they should be doing, to another perspective.”

Antiscience legislation in Ohio

As the NCSE points out there is no debate in the scientific community about the validity of evolution or climate change. This is just an attempt to bring in religiously based misinformation about science in the backdoor of schools.

It was reported on September 5th that the bill was changed in committee. The anti-science provision was removed but the new language doesn’t change the fact the law attacks real science education.

The original bill set specifications for science standards that said they must not prohibit “political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another.” A number of experts viewed that as a way to bring intelligent design or creationism into science lessons.

But under changes adopted yesterday, House Bill 597 now says that students would “review, in an objective manner, the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories in the standards.”

Specified that the content standards not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine. “It’s an attempt to reassure people there is no particular philosophy or religion we were touting there,” said Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, a main bill sponsor.

Common Core bill loses ‘creationism’ language

As NCSE posted:

Also added to HB 597 was a similarly familiar provision — “Nothing in … this section shall be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion” — which is apparently intended to immunize the bill from the charge that it would violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

“If the sponsors of the bill are trying to reassure the public that they’re not trying to open the classroom door to creationism, climate change denial, and pseudoscience of all kinds,” commented NCSE’s deputy director Glenn Branch, “they’re not doing a good job.” He added, “As a product of Ohio’s public schools myself, I earnestly hope that the state legislature will not accept such a bill that would compromise the integrity of science education.”

Ohio out of the frying pan

HB 597 is still a problem and is still something secular Ohioans need to pressure your elected officials about. The law would expose school districts to federal lawsuits that many of these districts can ill afford to fight.

Back in 2006, when Ohio last visited the “creationism in public schools” fun house, Richard B. Hoppe at the Panda’s Thumb blog called the unnecessary exposure to a federal lawsuit a “Dover Trap” after the 2005 federal court ruling Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District:

By “Dover Trap” I meant that the Trojan Horse “critically analyze” benchmark and the creationist model lesson plan that operationalized the benchmark tacitly sanctioned teaching intelligent design creationism (in any of its guises) in Ohio schools, and in doing so it exposed Ohio local school districts to the same risk that Dover took. Aside from the pedagogical problems of teaching the intellectual vacuity of creationism, any district that tolerated or sanctioned teaching Wellsian B.S. would in effect be betting $1 million that it was worth teaching.

The Dover Trap

How many times does Ohio have to visit the creationism roller coaster before religious conservatives learn that pseudoscience can’t be taught in the public schools?


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