Pierre, SD — This year, South Dakota has an opportunity to encourage more scientific inquiry in the classroom. The state’s legislature is considering an academic freedom bill, SB 55, introduced by Senator Jeff Monroe. As noted here last week, the bill seeks to thwart censorship, yet ironically is opposed by the National Coalition Against Censorship. The group has misrepresented its contents, comparing mainstream exploration of weaknesses in Darwinian theory with Holocaust denial.
The text of SB 55 says just this:
No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48.
A prominent South Dakota scientist we heard from gets it, applauding the bill as a means to foster critical thinking. “SB 55, under consideration by the South Dakota legislature, is a promising step forward for South Dakota science education,” said William S. Harris, PhD. Dr. Harris is the President of OmegaQuant Analytics, LLC (Sioux Falls, SD), and an NIH-funded biomedical researcher with over 300 scientific publications.
Under this legislation, students would have the opportunity learn more about scientific topics, practice critical thinking, and engage with scientific questions facing researchers today. One of those questions pertains to the origin of biodiversity.
Scientific controversy over the ability of Darwin’s version of evolution (i.e., natural selection acting blindly on random mutations) to explain the expanse of life on this planet continues to grow with each new revelation of the exceeding complexity of even the “simplest” life forms, not to mention humans. In my view, it is very important for today’s students to understand the evidence for and against important scientific theories like Darwinism and to honestly consider challenges even to such long-held dogmas.
“South Dakota students can only benefit from such an approach — and hopefully, legislators will seize this occasion to promote scientific inquiry,” added Harris. If the bill is enacted, South Dakota would join Louisiana, Tennessee, and at least five other states with science standards or laws recognizing the role of teaching scientific strengths and weaknesses in the classroom.
The law has been a target for activists and journalists spreading misinformation about what SB 55 would permit. We have addressed false claims from Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Washington Post, which merit being described as fake news, here and here.