With the fresh intake of Republicans now manifesting I was perhaps convinced that the Nebraska draft bill that seeks to ban kids attending drag show story hours in libraries was the weirdest bit of legislation for this new session. Nope, I was oh so very wrong to think that. This new example takes utterly crass stupidity and ignorance to depths never before seen.
Over in Montana we have a new Republican freshman who is brimming full of enthusiastic lunacy, and so he has tapped into his barrel of ignorance to sponsor a bill that seeks to ban the teaching of scientific theories from all science classes.
Sadly yes, this is ever so real.
The Draft Bill Itself
Here it is in all its gory procedural detail.
Below is the opening text (SANITY WARNING: Prepare yourself for an epic facepalm moment) …
Legislature 2023 SB 235.1
SENATE BILL NO. 235
INTRODUCED BY D. EMRICH, S. HINEBAUCH, T. MCGILLVRAY
A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: “AN ACT ESTABLISHING REQUIREMENTS FOR SCIENCE INSTRUCTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS; DEFINING “SCIENTIFIC FACT”; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE.”
WHEREAS, the purpose of K-12 education is to educate children in the facts of our world to better prepare them for their future and further education in their chosen field of study, and to that end children must know the difference between scientific fact and scientific theory; and
WHEREAS, a scientific fact is observable and repeatable, and if it does not meet these criteria, it is a theory that is defined as speculation and is for higher education to explore, debate, and test to ultimately reach a scientific conclusion of fact or fiction.
The utterly bizarre claim there is that a “Scientific Theory” is “Speculation”.
If the writer of this piece had briefly connected to reality and spent all of 10 seconds to fact check by … oh I don’t … let’s suggest Googling the phrase “Scientific Theory”, then he would discover the following link is the top hit. It is a Wikipedia page on the topic that explains very clearly within the opening paragraph …
A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world and universe that has been repeatedly tested and corroborated
… and then explains in the second paragraph …
A scientific theory differs from a scientific fact or scientific law in that a theory explains “why” or “how”: a fact is a simple, basic observation, whereas a law is a statement (often a mathematical equation) about a relationship between facts. For example, Newton’s Law of Gravity is a mathematical equation that can be used to predict the attraction between bodies, but it is not a theory to explain how gravity works.Stephen Jay Gould wrote that “…facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts.”
The full article is long, detailed and covers it all rather well.
What does the Montana legislation propose to actually do?
It goes on to mandate that only “Scientific Facts” as defined above, can be taught.
What “Theories” should they exclude?
So which of these would you advise Montana to now exclude from science “education” …
- Germ Theory
- Gravitation Theory
- All Mathematical Theories
- How about Music Theory, should they bin that as well?
The issue is that the word “Theory” in general use really does mean speculation. For example, if I said this …
I saw somebody I know get in their car in the middle of the night. I have a theory concerning why they left
… then you would understand that I’m simply speculating.
This is how the word is commonly used, but of course you already knew this.
The problem is that when you prefix the word “theory” with another word such as “Music” or “Mathematical” or “Scientific”, then what you are describing is not speculation. This is perhaps not so well known because it is not the common usage of the word, so a misunderstanding is understandable. It is however not wholly elusive or a hidden deep dark secret.
Seriously now, “Music Theory” is really not some wild speculation, you can see that and grasp that … right?
Terms such as “Scientific Theory” have a very specific meaning. If you are drafting legislation, then there exists an expectation that you would be very careful about the terms used and will have people to carefully fact check the basics.
Well yes, apparently the authors of this specific piece of legislation started with a false assumption and then ran hard and fast with it. That whooshing sound was the actual meaning of the term flying right over their heads far beyond the grasp of the few remaining grey cells that cling together within their heads in the vein hope that they can successfully masquerade as a viable brain.
To be wholly clear, this is not about left vs right, nor is it Democrat vs Republican. Instead, this is really about “Stupidity & Ignorance” vs “Reality & Education”.
Who is behind this?
The “brain” behind it all is Daniel Emrich.
So what can we find out about him if we dig a bit?
Well here are a few of his recent highlights …
- Via his Facebook account we learn that he “thinks” that COVID vaccines are a Crime Against Humanity. Check his posts and you will find lots and lots of COVID disinformation. Clearly the things that he thinks are “scientific facts”, are in fact very obviously right-wing science fiction.
- Regarding elections, oh come now, you can guess this one – he embraces the “stolen election” lies and promotes them as “truth”
- Apparently, within his very own alternative reality we can also observe that conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza, a felon who has been convicted for dubious campaign financing, is supposedly a guy he loves to quote and promote.
Keep digging and you will appreciate that this is a guy who has gone so far down the conspiracy rabbit hole that reality is now a completely undiscovered country.
Honestly now, knowing all that, are you actually surprised that he wants to morph education in Montana into something that panders to the “alternative facts” that rattle around inside his head.
One Last Thought
Once upon a time conspiracy nutters remained at the fringe of society and were ignored by most. Unfortunately, in this instance, Montana District 11 appears to have decided to elect one to represent them.
If indeed there is to be a new clarity and focus within an educational context, then Montana would perhaps be wise to start that process with their elected representative from District 11.
What is truly scary about this is that the Republicans have a super majority in Montana, so it will be fascinating to see how far this bill runs.
- National Center for Science Education – A draft antiscience bill in Montana
- Hemant Mehta on OnlySky – Draft bill bans everything but ‘scientific fact’ in Montana’s science classes