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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Junk Science Elimination Act

There is a bill being considered in the Florida Senate entitled "Junk Science Elimination Act". Don't get your hopes up, it's not going to eliminate young earth creationism/intelligent design from the state of Florida, but it pertains to the weight of testimony given by non-experts. A similar bill has been introduced in the house. According to the general description the bill is about:

Testimony of Witnesses: Creates "Junk Science Elimination Act"; provides standards for opinion testimony by lay witnesses; provides standards for, bases of, & limitations on expert testimony; authorizes expert witness fees; provides requirements for mandatory pretrial hearings; provides requirements for mandatory pretrial disclosure of expert testimony; provides for interlocutory appeals; specifies standards of review.
So yes I got very excited in reading this bill because I thought for sure it would prevent 'expert testimony' against evolution taking place in Florida courts. Then I started to follow the paper trail. First and foremost, this legislation is sponsored by Republican Senator Wise who also sits on the K-12 education commission in Florida. Secondly, this legislation is being pushed by a group known as ALEC run by Executive director Lori Roman. Roman's bio states:

Lori Roman is the Executive Director of ALEC. Formerly Mrs. Roman served as the Chief of Staff of the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education where she was responsible for strategic planning and management of resources to achieve the goals set forth in the President’s Management Agenda.
Warning bells began to go off inside my head and I began to read some of the material on the site. ALEC has been critical of legislation in states trying to reduce carbon emissions according to the Kyoto protocol. ALEC has also been linked with efforts to erode civil liberties and in labeling what is and isn't 'junk science'. The legislation is partly about limiting corporate lawsuits and the label 'junk science' has been applied elsewhere in ALEC's documentation. Want to guess where? Under their 'junk science' page, ALEC makes the following assertion:

Students are increasingly exposed to classroom and textbook material designed to influence their point of view about certain topics. Furthermore, many classes in political action theory promote political action activity. These two facts, when presented together, present a threat to education and to the greater society as an entire generation of students matures into advocates of causes in which they may have been inadvertently coerced into believing, and for which they may feel coerced into fighting.

Students have the right to be educated from textbooks and curricula based on sound scientific evidence, and textbooks should be written in language appropriate for education that is understandable, factual, and based on sound scientifically replicable data.

Sounds great, but the reality is that there is not a clear definition of what constitutes sound science. That could mean that Intelligent Design should be considered sound science and that evolutionary biology is a form of coercive education. I'm just paranoid though, right? Here is their model legislation:

Resolution on Non-Verified Science Curriculum Funding. This legislation establishes that the state legislature will no longer fund curricula or textbooks that present “science” that promotes and advocates for or against only one side of an issue.

There you have it. In other words, these 'junk science' bills are simply a backdoor to allow junk science into the classrooms under the guise of 'equal opportunity'. While the above bill is supposedly about tort reform, the notion that 'junk science' legislation is making it's way into the legislature offers a cautionary note for those of us concerned with valid science. "Junk Science" bills are, in my opinion, trash.


Joe Meert


At 10:51 PM, Blogger RBH said...

These "sound science" proposals always mean (in my reading anyway) "science that agrees with my preconceptions, and that a doofus with a third grade education can understand."

At 6:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is completely off topic, but check this out Joe. Reckon it would make a good blog post:


At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The paper is:

Evolution and diversity of subduction zones controlled by slab width

and is in today's Nature.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Thermochronic said...

This reminds me of an email I recently got asking me to join a group called "geologists for the truth." They were neither geologists nor people in search of the truth, but the name sounds nice, better than Geologists for Packs of Lies. But, it was just a cover for intelligent design promoting jerkfaces.

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