Missouri's debated law on evolution is completely absurd

There is a little known, old school phrase that simply states, “I’m from Missouri.”

It’s meant to be a play off the lore that coined the state’s nickname – the Show-Me State – and, apparently, is supposed to represent skepticism or disbelief in something or a request for some sort of proof to back up a particularly questionable statement.

Let me assure you, though, it’s no coincidence that you haven’t heard of this phrase, and it’s certainly no mistake that it has dropped out of colloquialism.

Why? Simple. It’s because Missourians have completely abandoned their pursuit of evidence.

Instead, the state has elected to shy away from its history and renounce its namesake, in favor of supporting theories fundamentally lacking any substantiation at all and in favor of removing any sort of stimulating intellectual challenge from its classrooms.

Currently, the state of Missouri has a bill (arguably, two) passing through its congress that would effectively hamper an absolutely necessary – not to mention internationally accepted and scientifically backed – education in evolution.

House Bill 1472 would mandate that, “Any school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection…[have] a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s instruction on evolution.”

By ensuring that its students have the opportunity to exempt themselves from any instruction even just pertaining to the theory of evolution by natural selection, House Bill 1472 will completely undermine almost every lesson in biology at the K-12 levels. The fact is, evolution is an inherently accepted – perhaps even assumed – precursor for the study of biological processes and theories.

From the most specific discussions, that could hypothetically pertain to such studies as the development of mitochondria within cells, to the most basic and broad topics, such as of the basic kingdoms of living organisms, the theory of evolution runs throughout all of our sciences. Instead of excusing students from these studies, we should be mandating prerequisites in the study of evolution.

If students are excused from any part of an evolutionary education, and if we consider evolution to pervade the majority of a scientific education, where will the line constituting what pertains to a lesson in evolution be drawn? And, for that matter, who will draw it?

My fear is that every mention of a fossil, every conversation about the development of organs and vital structures, every single mention about the genetic similarity that we share with other organisms could potentially be systematically whittled out of these student’s education. But, I guess for them, the Lord only knows.

In the end, a lack of an education in this field will put students behind the rest of their class, and the rest of the world for that matter, in a way that they will not be able to recover from – much like leaving out multiplication would severely hinder any further advancement in mathematics.

The scary thing is that at this moment, both Virginia and Tennessee also have similar anti-evolution legislation passing through their congresses as well. And we wonder why the United States ranks 26th out of 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations in education.

Granted, this is a voluntary exemption, and will not entirely inhibit the learning of other students (though it may disrupt it). Still, with the importance of evolution, it cannot be denied that this will be an injustice for those students, who often times do not know the importance of the decision being made by their parents.

In the end, evolution is a theory, yes, though it is one of the most well researched, well-supported theories in scientific history. From genetic DNA code similarities to behavioral and physical fossil traces, this theory has worked its way deep into every facet of our lives. Any child removed from an education in this discipline is robbing them of vital knowledge that will be absolutely invaluable in their scientific lives.

Let them follow the evidence. Let them learn.

Let them say, as I am able to, “I’m from Missouri.”

Maxton Thoman is a sophomore majoring in biology. His column runs weekly on Wednesdays.

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