February 01, 2004

"In nature, there are no rewards or punishments; there are consequences"

My fellow Americans, I present the Knowledge of the Elementary Facts of Life Promotion Act of 2004.

Whereas a sound understanding of evolution is essential to the study of all aspects of biology and its applications, particularly those relating to agriculture;

And whereas it would never, ever do for the Federal government to actually dictate school curricula, or for that matter drinking ages;

But whereas it is also not fair for the rest of us to have our money poured down the drain on those too ignorant to know how to use it properly;

Be it enacted that:

  1. The National Academy shall establish a set of standards for the adequate teaching of the facts of evolution at the primary and secondary school level, present it to the Congress and the Secretary of Education, and prepare revisions every ten years.
  2. The Secretary of Education shall present a yearly report to Congress and the people, assessing, for each district, whether evolution is taught in a manner meeting the standards set by the Academy, and clearly stating, for each failing district, the nature of the deficiencies and the steps required to eliminate them.
  3. The Department of Agriculture shall not, in any capacity whatsoever, spend or disburse any money in a district failing to adequately teach evolution, nor provide any aid to farmers there, whether directly or through intermediaries, and shall reduce any payments made to State (or smaller jursidiction) agencies by a factor equal to the fraction of children in that jurisdiction living in non-compliant districts.

One of you legal types can fix up the wording, I'm no good at that. Now if only we had a snowball's chance in Hell of getting something like this passed...

Update, 2 February 2004: Heidi rises to my bait and gives good reason to doubts this would survive Constitutional challenge; I'm relieved, to be honest. She points out that the courts might think the link between the teaching of evolution and agriculture is too weak to stand, so I'll repeat what I said in her comments. The point, of course, of hitting agricultural money is to attack one of the economic (and symbolic) bases of the opposition. But there's at least a bit of a justification, because there are a lot of things in modern agriculture where you really are helped by a good understanding of evolution, starting with pesticide resistance and why feeding animals lots of antibiotics is not such a good idea for people. And when you start getting into genetically modified organisms, and how we even begin to understand what to do there, you very quickly find yourself needing to do evolutionary phylogenies and comparative evolutionary biology (as Fernando Pereira notes). So I don't think it's as tenuous as all that, though I seriously doubt it would survive Constitutional review, and a good thing too. --- For a rather more critical view of this, not picked up by trackback, see Lex Communis.

Trackbacks: Pharyngula; Letters of Marque

Biology; Modest Proposals; The Running-Dogs of Reaction

Posted by crshalizi at February 01, 2004 13:14 | permanent link

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