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BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo

Surrounded by University of Wisconsin professors, state Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, introduced legislation at the Capitol Tuesday that would exclude the teaching of intelligent design and creationism from science education in the state.

Berceau said she was prompted to draft the bill as a means to stop the "undermining" of science instruction by "pseudo-science" and to boost the state's science standards.

"Every major scientific professional organization has stated clearly that ID is not science," Berceau said. "In spite of all of this, the pressure to introduce intelligent design into science curricula, and to challenge established scientific ideas like evolution, continues abated."

Though it would prohibit the teaching of ID and creationism in science classes, the legislation would allow those ideologies, and other related ideologies, to be taught as a part of other curricula.

"It does not ban the discussion of intelligent design or any other ideology in schools in non-scientific contexts," Berceau said. "It simply states that if something is presented as science, it must actually be science."

Several UW professors of various disciplines, including science and philosophy, spoke in favor of the legislation, echoing Berceau's concerns that the "assault on science" could be detrimental to the state and nation, including its universities and its economy.

Michael Cox, a UW professor of biochemistry, said while testable science has led to technological and medical innovations, ideologies like ID have not produced such benefits to society and humankind.

"The economic and military might of this nation is grounded in our preeminence in almost every scientific discipline," Michael Cox, a UW biochemistry professor said. "That preeminence cannot survive a dismantling of science education."

Cox also said exposing ideas of ID and creationism in the classroom as science makes students less prepared for higher education.

"If our students get a confusing and inaccurate presentation of science in high school — if they are misled about what science is — they may be less likely or unable to tackle the rigors of a university science program," Cox said.

Berceau also noted cases of the "assault on science" which have taken place in Kansas — where the state school board has made efforts to redefine science — and Grantsburg, Wis., where local school board members worked to have other theories on the origin of life added to the school district's science curriculum.

"This bill was inspired by recent events and trends in our nation and our state," Berceau said. "Think tanks have sprung up to provide experts trained to challenge the clear scientific consensus on issues like global warming."

If a school were to violate the proposed law, Berceau said parents would have the power to take action against the school.

But John Morris, of the Institute for Creation Research in California, said ID and creationism are just as science-based as others say evolution is.

"I think evolution is on very shaky ground scientifically," Morris said. "The only way that it can continue is if people pass laws so nobody can talk about the alternatives, because if the door is open, evolution will lose."

Additionally, Morris said evolution is a form of religion and history, but not sound science.

"Evolution is obviously not happening today," Morris said. "If it happened, it happened in the unobserved past. Science has to do with the observed present."

However, Elliot Sober, a UW professor of philosophy, said ID proponents use their theory as a "smoke screen" to attack evolution to "distract from the poverty of their own ideas."

"Defenders of intelligent design have a simple formula — whenever you see a complicated feature that an organism possesses, you should declare that the feature is present because an intelligent designer put it there."