Article Last Updated: 2/09/2006 01:11 AM
Evolution bill survives by a vote
Critic asks why lawmakers are telling teachers how to teach
By Matt Canham
The Salt Lake Tribune
A proposal targeting evolution survived its toughest challenge Wednesday when it eked out of a House committee by one vote.
SB96, which requires teachers to say the state doesn't endorse any theory involving the "origins of species," needs only the support of the full House to pass the Legislature after gaining approval by the House Education Committee 7-6.
The bill is the brainchild of Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, who is disgusted that some educators teach that humans have a common ancestor with chimpanzees.
But Buttars wasn't present Wednesday. He remains hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.
That left Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, to carry the bill. Ferrin changed the "origins" bill to remove wording that implied more than one scientific theory on the origin of species existed. He told the committee that evolution is the only scientific explanation, but that scientists have a variety of opinions under the umbrella term "evolution."
He also said he has concerns that teachers are offering evolution as a fact when it hasn't been "indisputably proven."
Ferrin would like science teachers to "simply acknowledge what is proven and what is not proven."
Much of the debate over SB96 in the Senate focused on religion, atheism and intelligent design, which is the idea that nature is too complicated to have formed without the help of a supernatural designer.
But Ferrin downplayed religion.
"Religious beliefs are simply not germane to this discussion," he told the committee.
Rep. Ron Bigelow, R-West Valley City, didn't buy it.
Bigelow voted against SB96. He said if the intention behind the bill is religious then it is "inappropriate" and "if it was purely based upon a desire for scientific principles, then why did they pick origins of life and origins of species and nothing else in the huge array of science?"
House Majority Whip Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, also voted against the bill, along with the four Democrats on the committee.
"Why are we trying to dictate how teachers teach subjects they are well trained in," said Rep. Carol Spackman-Moss, D-Holladay.