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Proposed Texas Law Would Bar “Discrimination” Against Creationists

Yet another example of the plethora of creationist legislation that Republican control of state legislatures has brought about:

Unlike many other states, Texas does not ban workplace discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. But don’t be alarmed; the Lone Star State is working on that whole civil liberties thing. Last week, Republican State Rep. Bill Zedler introduced HB 2454, a bill that would establish new workplace protections for proponents of intelligent design. Here’s the key part:

An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.

Someone somewhere will, I am sure, claim that this is an effort to protect “academic freedom,” but that’s fundamentally absurd. Forbidding a university from refusing to hire a biology (or geology or archeology or palentology or cosmology, etc.) Professor who espouses theories that rejects the very fundamental principles of the science they would be teaching is a silly idea. You may as well say that they shouldn’t be allowed to refuse to hire someone who denies the Holocaust to teach a class on World War II.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. sam says:

    Yahooismus über alles.

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  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    You know I’ve always wanted to be a professor, but I just don’t have the drive to extensively study a subject, formulate new theories or revise old ones, and contribute to the greater world of knowledge. Wouldn’t it be easier if I could just be wrong and still teach?

    Now in Texas I can. That’s what I call freedom!

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  3. mantis says:

    This law wouldn’t really be a problem.

    An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member’s or student’s conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms.

    There is no published, peer-reviewed research in “Intelligent Design.” Academic hires tend to be based on what the candidate has published.

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  4. Steven Plunk says:

    Let me start by stating I’m not a creationist. I’m not interested in the debate. In the interest of debating this particular law should we not look to history and see how excluding what is considered heretical thought played out? If we allow discrimination against creationists who might otherwise be great scientists could we also discriminate against scientists who propose other outlying theories or beliefs? If a scientist believes in UFOs should we not allow that person to teach? What about Scientologists or other religious groups?

    Let’s go further. If a CPA believes the income tax violates the constitution should he be allowed to prepare taxes? If a physician rejects the Hippocratic oath can they practice? Can a socialist economics professor teach a class on capitalism?

    It seems the only acceptable discrimination is that against Christians who believe certain things. Yet time and again scholars have reconciled faith and science. Looks like intolerance is okay and long as it flows one direction.

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  5. TG Chicago says:

    It seems the only acceptable discrimination is that against Christians who believe certain things.

    False. Nobody is suggesting that one should be able to discriminate on the basis of religion. I’d be highly surprised if there aren’t a great number of science professors in Texas who are Christian.

    Yet time and again scholars have reconciled faith and science.

    Right. So why can’t the Intelligent Designers do that? There’s nothing about Darwinian evolution that can’t be reconciled with a belief in Intelligent Design. It’s just that one is based in science and one is not.

    One should not be allowed to teach or practice nonscience as part of a job in science.

    Similarly, if someone writes a book explaining how God’s hand was behind the Allies’ victory in WWII, that’s fine as long as they write the book on their own time. They shouldn’t be allowed to write or research it as part of their work as a history professor. It’s not history; it’s religion.

    Looks like intolerance is okay and long as it flows one direction.

    Christians are horribly victimized in America, aren’t they?

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  6. mantis says:

    If a CPA believes the income tax violates the constitution should he be allowed to prepare taxes?

    That is an opinion on tax policy. The proper comparison would be to a CPA who refuses to acknowledge that income taxes exist.

    If a physician rejects the Hippocratic oath can they practice?

    No, but if a physician rejects the existence of viruses, he/she will probably not pass his/her boards, and thus will not be able to legally practice medicine.

    Can a socialist economics professor teach a class on capitalism?

    This one is too stupid to even bother correcting.

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  7. Tano says:

    If we allow discrimination against creationists who might otherwise be great scientists…

    It is not possible to be a great scientist and a creationist. To accept creationism as the core explanation for the existence of biological diversity is to repudiate the scientific method.

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  8. TG Chicago says:

    It is not possible to be a great scientist and a creationist. To accept creationism as the core explanation for the existence of biological diversity is to repudiate the scientific method.

    If one believes that God created evolution, is one a creationist or not?

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  9. George says:

    One of the reasons I moved out of Texas.

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  10. Ben says:

    If one believes that God created evolution, is one a creationist or not?

    As far as I know, Intelligent Design specifically disavows that any evolution occurred, at least at the level that would result in any sort of speciation. The people that believe that God created evolution are a distinct group from the ID proponents.

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  11. Steven Plunk says:

    Tano, Can a chemist be a creationist? Can he teach chemistry while believing what he believes? What if he wrote an article in a religious journal supporting creationism that waslater used to disqualify him from a chemistry position? How about physicists? Meteorologists? Geologists? This law could very well protect those people without creating any conflicts within their teaching disciplines.

    Mantis, In each example those people could practice competently without adhering to the belief system that pervades the profession or having one that seems unusual. If the teaching applicant has the credentials to be hired they have already proven proficiency so that’s not the issue. And thanks again for showing us how quick you are to try and demean people. Nothing I wrote was stupid and you know it so quit acting like the schoolyard king.

    TG, I’m really not arguing creationism, intelligent design, or any of that. I’m arguing tolerance of those who believe differently and until proven that those beliefs undermine their teaching they not be discriminated against. That’s what the law does.

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  12. Tlaloc says:

    In the interest of debating this particular law should we not look to history and see how excluding what is considered heretical thought played out?

    It’s not heresy, it’s just wrong. say it with me- “I am entitled to my own opinions but not my own facts.”

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  13. Tlaloc says:

    Tano, Can a chemist be a creationist?

    Not a good one, no. In the same way that an illiterate simply cannot be a good writer. They lack the most basic requirement. Science requires an ability to work with facts and construct a viable testable hypothesis irregardless of what you personally want. Creationism is exactly the opposite. It requires ignoring facts because they violate what you want to believe. Barring schizophrenia nobody is able to be both rigidly objective and utterly fanatical.

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  14. wr says:

    Plunk — “TG, I’m really not arguing creationism, intelligent design, or any of that. I’m arguing tolerance of those who believe differently and until proven that those beliefs undermine their teaching they not be discriminated against. That’s what the law does.”

    And this is why you’ve been so fervent in your condemnation of all those anti-Muslim and anti-Sharia laws that Republicans keep passing. Because you’re such a fierce fighter for tolerance of those who believe differently.

    Oh, wait. You haven’t. Your just sticking up for your tribe and whining about how icky people are mean to them, and then dressing it up in the language of civil rights. How noble.

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  15. TG Chicago says:

    Ben, thank you for the correction. Earlier, I said “There’s nothing about Darwinian evolution that can’t be reconciled with a belief in Intelligent Design.” As you say, that was incorrect. I should have ended that sentence with “creationism” instead of “Intelligent Design”.

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  16. TG Chicago says:

    I’m arguing tolerance of those who believe differently and until proven that those beliefs undermine their teaching they not be discriminated against.

    But science is not about “belief”; it is about what can be proved using the scientific method. You can have whatever beliefs you wish to have and still be a scientist. However, you cannot conduct scientific research about nonscientific things, such as Intelligent Design.

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  17. Tlaloc says:

    You can have whatever beliefs you wish to have and still be a scientist.

    I have to disagree here. You can have whatever beliefs you want about supernatural matters. But when it comes to physical phenomenon you cannot simply have beliefs that run contrary to evidence and be a good scientist. You can disagree about hypothesis and suggest alternate explanations 9assuming you are able and willing to parse the data fairly) but you cannot simply believe something contrary to fact. Not and be a good scientist.

    If you want to believe that a god or goddess or a whole pantheon exist and they created the world we see around us that’s fine. The problem comes when you say they created the world in x way and the empirical evidence says your wrong. When that happens you’re wrong. The world is not just 6000 or 10,000 years old. Modern animals did not come into being as they are now. If you want to believe that evolution is god’s plan for life on earth then feel free, but if you want to believe that evolution never happened, then again, you’re just wrong.

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  18. mattb says:

    Ok, so couple points (from someone inside the ivory tower):

    @Tano/@Taloc – you are imagining that Scientists are in some way far more internally consistent than they are. Period. I know a number of good (i.e. published in peer reviewed science journals) that are Christians. Science and religion are not irreconcilable in general practice. Scientists, contra the image of Spock, are not walking computers.

    Talking about “Old/New Earth Creationists” is a good way of constructing an undefeatable strawman (and not surprisingly, you are correct that it’s hard to imagine any way that sort of person could be a good scientist). That said, there are a lot of more moderate Christians who are good scientists.

    The key thing to understand here is that you section off (and account for) specific belief sets as best as one can in producing and interpreting data.

    @Steve Plunk – this last point is also what you are fundamentally missing in your “discrimination” argument. Christian’s (and Conservative for that matter) are already protected under discrimination laws.

    However, as already stated, Intelligent Design, as popularly discussed is fundamentally bad science. As others have put it, if you can find a way to turn it into good science (within the methods of good science) and have it published in an academic source — then it’s good research.

    Up until that point, it’s a fundamental waste of money.

    The thing is, none of that is discrimination. The Texas bill represents an example of the worst type of pandering.

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  19. Steve Verdon says:

    There is no published, peer-reviewed research in “Intelligent Design.” Academic hires tend to be based on what the candidate has published.

    Well…technically….as much as it pains me to say, there is one article by Stephen Myers that did get into a lower tier journal through some editorial shenanigans…sooo….

    If one believes that God created evolution, is one a creationist or not?

    Yes, and this would describe the position of Ken Miller. So strictly speaking scientist and creationist are not mutually disjoint sets. Now, scientist and intelligent design supporter…those may very well be mutually disjoint sets (i.e. the intersection is null/empty).

    But science is not about “belief”….

    Uhhhmmm…no. Beliefs enter into science no matter what. The idea is that we should not hold dogmatic beliefs. That our beliefs should be amenable to change as we gather new evidence. Many philosopher’s of science point to the Bayesian methods for learning and evaluating hypotheses in which (subjective) beliefs do a role. You just agree that you will alter your beliefs as you acquire data.

    You can have whatever beliefs you wish to have and still be a scientist.

    This is tricky. If your beliefs are dogmatic and are impacting what you are doing as a scientist, then this is very bad. On the other hand if you can manage the trick of keeping certain beliefs separate from your work as a scientist then that is fine. You’ll have to walk a careful line, for example, between your beliefs in a supreme being and methodological materialism.

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  20. mattb says:

    Beliefs enter into science no matter what. The idea is that we should not hold dogmatic beliefs. That our beliefs should be amenable to change as we gather new evidence. Many philosopher’s of science point to the Bayesian methods for learning and evaluating hypotheses in which (subjective) beliefs do a role. You just agree that you will alter your beliefs as you acquire data.

    +1

    This is a critical point. And one that has been pretty clearly demonstrated over and over again. You can take steps to minimize the impact of “belief” (or probably better stated “ideology”) on the production of science — but it can never be eliminated.

    Believing the two can be separated is perhaps the greatest “evil” of the post-enlightenment. On the flip side, radical subjectivity is the greatest “evil” of the late 20th century.

    The good new is that objectivity and subjectivity were never binaries to begin with.

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  21. [...] has once again come to the fore–last week a Texas Republican introduced a bill that would protect proponents of “Intelligent Design” from discrimination by misguided individuals who are persuaded by facts–the primary focus of [...]

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