Monday, July 13, 2015

#1412: Rick Brattin & Andrew Koenig

Rick Brattin

A.k.a. The Rick and Andy Show

Another year, another slew of creationist efforts to get creationism taught in public schools through state legislation – usually under the guise of “teach the controversy”, which does not refer to an actual controversy among those who know anything about the subject, of course. In Missouri, 2013, for instance, the most significant attempt was through House Bill 291, sponsored by Rick Brattin, a high school graduate who operates Brattin Drywall Company, and Andrew Koenig, who owns a paint company and who has a license to sell health and life insurance. They had also sponsored a previous creationist bill.

Andrew Koenig
The bill started out defining evolution in one paragraph – as common descent – and without mention of anything specific concerning mechanisms or evidence but instead stating that evolution denies “operation of any intelligence, supernatural event, God or theistic figure”. That paragraph is followed by 12 paragraphs defining Intelligent Design, primarily by pointing to biological processes and phenomena and claiming that they are the result of intelligence – with scant discussion of, you know, scientific status or research programs – concluding that “course textbooks [should] contain approximately an equal number of pages of relevant material teaching each viewpoint.” They did require that all the Intelligent Design claims be backed up by evidence, which makes the requirements contradictory (no they wouldn’t know). However, in line with Discotute guidelines, they asserted that “[i]f biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth’s biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course.”

Of course, no textbook is going to meet that requirement. But Brattin and Koenig have a solution: They will put together a committee that will provide supplemental material on creationism of equal weight to the textbooks, to be written by a select team of “nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design and reside in Missouri.” Now, all experts on the field would know that Intelligent Design is bunk, but somehow we suspect that Brattin & Koenig didn’t have experts on biology in mind when they mention “individuals who are knowledgeable”. They did, for the record, try a similar bill in 2012 (discussed here).

The bill didn’t meet with much success, so they tried again in 2014, this time requiring that “[a]ny school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection shall be required to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s instruction on evolution.” It is notable that geocentric parents or holocaust denying parents don’t get the same opportunity. They also submitted this one. Neither worked out for them.

As a solo stunt, Brattin submitted one of the strangest anti-evolution bills ever in 2013, one that basically asserted that nature is really complex (including the noteworthy claim that amino acids are “recurring discrete symbols”), so evolution cannot be true, therefore God.

Koenig went solo in 2015 with House Bill 486, which would confer “academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution” to teachers, thereby encouraging science teachers with, uh, idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they please without responsible educational authorities intervening. Once again, the bill specifically cited “the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution” as controversial. And once again, the bill died a sorry death.

Diagnosis: Feeble clowns who apparently decided to use their voters’ trust in them to devote their time to combat science, evidence, truth and reason in truly quixotic ways. Apparently, that hasn’t shaken some of the voters’ confidence in these two, a situation that fails to paint a very flattering image of (certain groups of) Missouri voters. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm married to a creationist... who is also a middle school science teacher. He does not teach the controversy, he teaches what's in the textbook. As it should be.