Saturday, February 04, 2006

"Divine design" faces an uncertain fate

Evolution Measure Splits State Legislators in Utah. A bill requiring an unconstitutional disclaimer before science classes discuss evolution faces an uphill battle in the Utah (!) House:
One of the reasons why is State Representative Stephen H. Urquhart, a Republican from southern Utah whose job as majority whip is to line up votes in his party. Mr. Urquhart announced last week that he would vote against the bill.

"I don't think God has an argument with science," said Mr. Urquhart, who was a biology major in college and now practices law.

"I don't have to talk about religion — it's of no meaning and it's not part of this discussion," said State Representative James A. Ferrin, a Republican and the sponsor of the bill in the House. "It's not about belief, it's about not overstepping what we know."

Opponents of the bill, including State Senator Peter C. Knudson, the Republican majority leader, openly laugh at talk like that.

"Of course it's about religion," Mr. Knudson said.
So, the Mormon Republican Majority Leader and the Mormon Republican Whip in the Utah House oppose sowing confusion about science.

The article also contains this excellent and admirable passage:

"I got tired of people calling me and saying, 'Why is my kid coming home from high school and saying his biology teacher told him he evolved from a chimpanzee?' " Mr. Buttars said.
State Senator Buttars has advocated teaching "divine design," and sponsored the bill in the state Senate. Kirk Johnson, the article's author, immediately follows Buttars's statement with this clarification:
Evolutionary theory does not say that humans evolved from chimpanzees or from any existing species, but rather that common ancestors gave rise to multiple species and that natural selection — in which the creatures best adapted to an environment pass their genes to the next generation — was the means by which divergence occurred over time. All modern biology is based on the theory, and within the scientific community, at least, there is no controversy about it.
Damn straight. None of the usual "he said, she said," just a clear reportorial statement about what evolution actually says, and what scientists actually think. That's how it should be done.

I intend to send Johnson a quick note thanking him for doing it right.