YEC/IDvengers Endgame

SB0235.pdf (

“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.”


This is yet another example of how bad these people are at writing legislation. A few notes:

(1) There is no mechanism given for enforcement. Perhaps some other mechanism already exists for enforcing statutory curricular mandates, but if not, a law which lacks an enforcement mechanism isn’t a law at all; one can ignore it at will, and what will happen? Nothing.

(2) The definition of “scientific fact” isn’t very useful and can easily enough be construed to include all scientific work which flows from experiment and observation. It’s therefore not clear to me that there is very much that this would exclude. One could construe it to mean that no “theory” may be taught at all – that all one may teach are isolated facts – but I can’t imagine anyone really intends that. Classes full of data only, no theoretical observations that flow therefrom?

(3) The statute specifies that it is to be “narrowly interpreted.” As its provisions are in the nature of prohibitions, what the drafter has not understood is that it is these prohibitions which will be “narrowly” construed. In other words, the statute itself says it should be interpreted so as to have as little effect as possible, consistent with its wording.

(4) Assuming there’s an enforcement mechanism of some kind and all that, and assuming that this really gets construed, contrary to all reason, as prohibiting such things as evolutionary biology, any teacher who gets called on the carpet about this is going to have a pretty legitimate excuse that runs along the lines of “I have read this over and over and I have no damned idea what it means, or how it is possible to teach science at all if, contrary to the statute’s own statement, we construe these words broadly.”

Later Edit: I looked up the relevant part of the Montana statutes. The “basic instructional program” is, by statute, to be specified by the board of public education, in the form of standards of accreditation. The superintendent of public instruction makes recommendations, then, for accreditation of schools in accord with these standards. I cannot imagine a statute like this proposal being easy to enforce through those mechanisms unless one had a pretty hard core of creationists all up and down the board of public education and the superintendent of public instruction’s office. My suspicion is that some of the people in the process are liable to be current or former science instructors, and that will throw a wrench into it, if the intent is to kill off instruction in evolutionary theory.


Any definition of scientific fact that rules out evolution would also rule out geology.

You can teach the boiling point of water, but any reference to the underlying statistical mechanics or thermodynamics would breach the act. The outcome would be a science education of factoids without unifying principles or understanding.


The whole point of science is to create theories. It’s science class, not observation class. Science class without theories would be like math class without numbers.


Yeah, exactly. I think that people like this often haven’t thought about how much of our knowledge is inferential in nature. There is a suggestion in the bill’s wording that all “theories,” being nothing but speculation, are candidates for becoming either “scientific fact” or “fiction.” Not a very good model for scientific reasoning, eh?

But there’s where statutory construction really comes into the thing. If we have used the word “theory” as equivalent to “speculation,” then it means that wherever the word “theory” is used in the statute, it doesn’t refer to a “scientific theory,” but means only a mere unsubstantiated conjecture. If we accept the exceedingly poor notion that science is the process of resolving conjectures to the status of “scientific fact” or “fiction,” a pretty strong argument is going to be evident: that if these are the only categories, then evolutionary theory falls into the status neither of unresolved conjecture nor of fiction, but of “scientific fact,” and is hence not prohibited by the statute. And given the statute’s proviso that its prohibitions are to be “narrowly interpreted,” that is what a court would likely do.


I mainly included this infamous bill because I wanted to see if the main DI/YEC site would address it. It has been a few days and crickets. They address many other things especially in their political advocacy regardless of their actual effectiveness and so it was interesting to see the silence on this

I should perhaps add that it is a universal principle of statutory construction that statutes are to be construed so as to avoid absurd or strained consequences. So if the most natural construction of the statute would have the result of effectively banning all science books from use in the science curriculum, and of destroying the ability to teach basic scientific concepts, a court will try to find a different way to read it.

Often these things are just culture-war signal flares. Somebody has made someone very happy by introducing this bill, and now the bill will probably quietly die. The greater danger is that, every now and then, someone crafts a better-thought-out bill which actually can and will damage science education.

Oh for sure this bill is destined to die. It is more about the signaling and lack of a response by certain groups that I find telling.

Where was this?

Presenting the primary sponsor for SB 235, Daniel Emrich, Montana state senator, facebook page, former car salesperson. From this news report, home schooled. No further education noted. It seems that he desires for all public school students not to be deprived of the same excellent science education that he himself enjoyed.

Co-sponsor Steve Hinebauch does not seem to have disclosed his eductation. Tom McGillvray, however, earned a BA in Agriculture from Montana State, 1980. He declares his GPA as 2.8, which may be too much information.

These are the gentlemen who wish to mold the young minds of upcoming talent. Are they smarter than a 5th grader? Because even middle school students are speaking against the bill.

I could be surprised yet, but would indeed be surprised if the DI did not spot this folksy concept of theory as a poisoned chalice from a mile away; even were it to pass it is sure to be ill fated. The YEC organizations do like to stir the fact vs theory pot, so who knows?

The bill? Montana. Something else?

I meant main sites like DI, AiG, etc

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Got it now. Yes, it’s all about signalling. First complain about how oppressed they are, next propose something outrageous that is doomed to fail, then when it fails use it as proof of how oppressed they are.

I believe the point is that those sites have not mentioned the bill.

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