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The Denver Atheists Meetup Group Message Board Legislation Watch › "Teach the Controversy" bill by Rep.

"Teach the Controversy" bill by Rep. Humphrey to be heard in committee at State Capitol, Monday Feb. 4th

A former member
Post #: 1
A politician that prides himself on his campaign website as being "a committed Christian who is unapologetic for his faith and won’t back down on social issues," will present a measure in the House Education committee Monday afternoon that's intended to help schools teach the controversy about evolution and global warming. The bill is written in a way to sound like it's meant to raise critical thinking and academic freedom in the classroom, and to be non-religious, but that's really a game that politicians like to play in writing their legislation.

The bill number for those who might like to read it, and maybe testify against it, is HB 13-1089, and will be heard in the afternoon in the House Education committee (after 1:30 sometime) on February 4, 2013. The hearing room is on the ground floor in room HCR 0112, which is located between the elevators. If you go to the Capitol, anybody there can tell you where the House Committee rooms are. Or you can listen to the proceedings online live or on archive afterwards, available through links on the State Legislature website www.state.leg.co.us.­ You can read a draft of the bill here at this link: House Bill 1089.

The Capitol is a free and open place and anybody can testify, as long as they try to stay within the contours of the bill. You may wonder: am I smart enough to testify against a bill? I assure you that the average member of the Denver Atheist Meetup group is smart enough to testify against an Academic Freedom Act that wants schools and colleges to teach the controversy about evolution. You will be amazed at the stupid things politicians can say about science.

Now, I imagine that this bill won't have enough votes to pass through the Democratic controlled committee and will die on a party line vote. I imagine the State Education Board, etc. will be against it and make simple and mild-mannered plea that schools and colleges don't need to be micromanaged by the legislature and that the way we teach science is fine as it now stands. Then, I imagine the Right-wing proponents of the bill to come down hard on them and say: Don't you believe in teaching both sides of an issue! Don't you believe in critical thinking! Or do you believe in brainwashing our children with your narrow viewpoints! I hope some scientists go down to the Capitol on Monday and defend reality.
A former member
Post #: 37
Norman, any updates on HB1089 that was heard this afternoon? Hopefully, it got shot down and put out of its misery. Thanks for keeping us in the loop on this smile
A former member
Post #: 3
The bill died in committee on a party line vote, which is a little terrifying because that's one vote away from passing. The proponents of this legislation wanted to make it out that there was trouble in River City and that there are, admit the proponents, rare incidents of teachers intimidating students and preventing freethought--that we must teach science correctly and consider controversial issues from both sides. The opponents of the legislation said there are adequate teaching standards already in place and existing framework to deal with rogue teachers. The public testimony and comments by the legislators wasn't particularly interesting but there were some interesting moments.

My favorite moment was when Representative Court (Democrat from Denver) asked a question of Joshua Youngkin of the Discovery Institute, who came out from Seattle to testify on the bill. She asked if he knew, as a person interested in science, if there was any scientific research--non-anecdotal, like studies or statistics--that prove that teachers are not doing their job and that there's a problem with how science is currently being taught in our schools.

Mr. Youngkin dodged the question and so Representative Court asked the question again. He seemed to dodge the question again, but this time a little more artfully. The best he could say is that he had some polls with him. But I don't know what he was talking about, because after he said he had these "polls" he said biotech companies didn't vacate Louisiana after they passed a similar measure (which sounds like a different topic to me). He gave some information to the committee. That information should be posted on the legislative website in a few days. It probably doesn't answer her question, but we'll see.
A former member
Post #: 39
thanks for the update... I posted a longer reply on the Boulder Atheist's discussion board... thank you for keeping every one informed!
A former member
Post #: 6
The audio recording of the hearing is posted on the legislature's website. You can navigate through the website to the recording of the House Education Committee hearing for February 4th, or this is a link to that recording: http://coloradoga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=18&clip_id=2615­. The committee heard a couple bills first. HB 1089 came up a little after 1:09 on the Media Player timer and lasted until after 2:27. The testimony and questioning by the Discovery Institute guy was roughly between 1:44 and 1:57 on the Media Player timer.

After listening to his testimony again, I see that I somewhat misconstrued what the Discovery Institute guy said. He did mention through a jumbled response that they commissioned a poll of teachers who thought they would be negatively impacted in their jobs if they tried to teach controversial issues. I don't know if I could trust a poll commissioned by the Discovery Institute. Also, it seems like the polling question was vague. The way he's framed the issue, he'd be happy to let you imagine that there are these scared teachers out there who desperately want to teach arguments against evolution to their students but can't for fear of their jobs.

Listening to the testimony it sounds like the Discovery institute was responsible for writing the bill. I wish those people would stay out of our state legislature, because they make Colorado look dumb.

In his testimony he said the bill was constitutional. That got me to thinking: what would an unconstitutional anti-evolution bill look like? Probably one that had more substance and consequence to it, like a bill that called for equal time in teaching creationism and evolution. That would fail in the courts. So the best they can do is play with tautologies and try to pass a bill that says schools and colleges need to teach science that's scientific, critical, fair-minded, and unbiased.

I wish the proponents outlined their objections to evolution in the bill's legislative declaration or explained why it's a doubtful theory. Instead the bill takes it for granted that evolution is only a controversial opinion and that there's another side to the debate.

I didn't testify, but later I was thinking that if I were to testify I might argue that evolution is widely considered a fact in textbooks, encyclopedias, peer reviewed journals, museums, and universities. That in the "free marketplace of ideas," something that proponents of the bill seem to want to protect, evolution as a theory won honestly and is doing well.
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