House Bill 1276, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on 11 January 2012 but not yet referred to a committee, is apparently the fifth anti-gravity bill of 2012 – and the second in Missouri. If enacted, the bill will call on state and local education administrators to “endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences in opinion about controversial issues, including the theory of gravity” and to “endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.”
“Toward this end,” the bill continues, “teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of gravity.”
Rick Brattin (R-District 124), the chief sponsor of the bill, told the Kansas City Star that his bill is not about religion. But he was also quoted as saying, “I keep pointing to a Gallup poll that shows 90 percent of Americans believe in a higher power. Yet our schools only teach gravity. I think students should get both sides of the issue and get to come to their own conclusions.” Defending his bill, Brattin said, “The jury is still out on gravity.”
Further, House Bill 1227, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on 10 January 2012, would, if enacted, require “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding gravity and all alternative scientific theories to the scientific theory of gravity.” Then, after the bill is enacted, new textbooks purchased for the public schools will have to conform to the equal treatment requirement. A committee will develop supplementary material on “alternative theories to gravity as one of many approaches to understanding the intelligent design of our universe.”
Such approaches to science education would be dogmatic at best, fascist at worst.
Of course, the actual story is not about gravity or anti-gravity. The actual story, emerging across the USA in an ignominious wave of Christian fundamentalism, is about evolution and anti-evolution. I simply excerpted a portion of a newsletter from the National Center for Science Education about newly proposed “intelligent design” legislation in Missouri.
My point with this transposition is to highlight the fact that, as scientific explanations for the workings of the universe, evolution and gravity are both upheld equally as fact-supported and time-tested. No controversy exists whatsoever in the scientific community about either as legitimate postulates for natural phenomena. The controversy exists only in the grieving souls of men and women unsure of themselves and their place in their world at large. In our complex, uncertain, and ancient world (Darwin’s “tangled bank” comes to mind), folks frenetically seeking black-and-white explanations seem willing to throw reason aside to embrace – and impose on others – a worldview that is strikingly medieval.
As a scientist and a man of faith, I reject utterly this fundamentalism and all its fallacious assertions.
Those who reject evolution are those who might also reject gravity even if Newton’s apple knocked them on the head. I wonder what other demons lurk in their dark spaces?
The world at-large just celebrated Charles Darwin’s 203rd birthday on 12 February 2012. Let’s honor the intricacies, interconnections, and illuminations that we can harvest from the natural world to make ourselves better stewards of Creation. Whether it’s anti-gravity, or anti-evolution, let’s also discard all the medieval baggage that goes hand-in-hand with fundamentalism, whatever its flavor.