Thanks to the foresight of Rep. Terese Berceau, Sen. Spencer Black and a group of UW scientists, Wisconsin has an opportunity to prove why it's a national leader in the sciences. At a time when science is coming under attack across the country, Rep. Berceau's proposed bill, which requires material taught in public schools as science to actually be science, is a welcome relief. It's unfortunate that this sort of bill is necessary, but the alternative, leaving our public schools unguarded against any group willing to fight to get its agenda included in the curriculum, is even more undesirable.
Rep. Berceau's bill mandates that material taught in public school science classes must meet certain standards of scientific integrity. According to the "Capital Times," it would require that "anything presented as science in the classroom be testable as a scientific hypothesis and pertain to natural, not supernatural, processes. The material would also have to be consistent with any description of science adopted by the National Academy of Sciences."
The criteria set forth in the bill seems common sense enough, but with intelligent design proponents making inroads into science classes across the nation, it's clear that some people have lost their ability to differentiate between real science and mere religious posturing. Rep. Berceau's bill would bar ideologies like intelligent design and creationism from being presented as legitimate alternatives to the theory of evolution.
The vast evidence that exists in support of evolution, gathered from concrete, observable sources like the fossil record, has brought the theory of evolution as close to fact as any scientific theory can be. In the scientific community, the theory of evolution shares the same sturdy ground as the theory of gravity. Intelligent design, on the other hand, is anything but a viable scientific theory. Instead of seeking to explain how and why organisms have changed over long periods of time, intelligent design states that a higher being wanted it so, and leaves it at that.
Think about a magician performing a coin trick. A scientist's evaluation of the trick would seek to explain how the coin disappeared and where it went. Did the magician drop it down her sleeve? Is it hidden in between her fingers? Did she distract her audience with a different hand? Can the trick be replicated according to the scientist's theory? The so-called "science" that intelligent design proponents use would be satisfied by simply concluding, "it's magic."
As taxpayers, we should demand that nothing less than the most current and accurate material be taught to our kids in a science class setting. There is absolutely a difference between a solid theory like evolution and the fancy-sounding, but hollow ideology of intelligent design. Time and resources should not be wasted on this pseudo-science. If Rep. Berceau's bill becomes law, parents (and taxpayers) will have a legal guarantee that Wisconsin's K-12 science classes will only supply kids with information that gives them a solid base of scientific knowledge. This standard would be the first of its kind, but one which other states should also quickly adopt.
It's especially important that we adhere to strict, consistent scientific standards for those kids who will go on to pursue careers in science. College science professors shouldn't be burdened with having to spend their first weeks of class doing remedial teaching about what qualifies as science.
Wisconsin has always been a leader in science — we're at the forefront of stem cell research, we're a leader in the biotech industry, we're innovators in dairy science and we're constantly developing exciting new medical technologies. Our expertise in these areas has contributed to the health of our state economy and our state's economy will continue to grow as we invest more in these scientific pursuits. In order to remain competitive with other states and countries, we must demand the highest standards when training the next generation of Wisconsin scientists. Rep. Berceau's bill puts a safeguard into place in order to guarantee that this happens.
Liz Sanger is a senior majoring in violin performance and English.