Evolution: Buttars bill is an embarrassment

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Listening to state Sen. Chris Buttars describe the theory of evolution is like hearing Karl Marx describe capitalism. If it were the only description you heard, you'd probably be as against it as he is.

But every time the West Jordan Republican opens his mouth to address the subject, he removes all doubt about the fact that he has absolutely no idea what he's talking about.

So it is more than disturbing that the senator's proposed law on the subject has received even a hearing, much less the approval of the Senate Education Committee. That panel voted Tuesday - four Republicans to two Democrats - to advance the bill to the full Senate.

There are doubtless many passages in the Utah Code Annotated that are unwise, outdated, confusing or in need of improvement. But Buttars' Senate Bill 96 would probably be the first article, section or clause in our state statute book that is a downright lie.

The bill would mandate that the State Board of Education "shall require that instruction to students on any theory regarding the origins of life, or the origins or present state of the human race, shall stress that not all scientists agree on which theory is correct."

Put that before our brighter young people and they will wonder what else we are fibbing to them about.

The theory of evolution has been refined since it was first put forward in Charles Darwin's 1859 book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, but it remains the rock-solid foundation of biological science. Its core principle, that all life on Earth has evolved from common beginnings and has changed over time to meet the demands of different environments, is not challenged by any scientist or scientific body worthy of the name.

Buttars' constant references to the lack of a "missing link" or his insistence that he's never seen a dog change into a cat display a towering ignorance of the subject. That would be his own business, and perhaps a source of comfort to him, were it not for the fact that he is trying to enshrine his willful misunderstandings into state law.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is trying to improve both the fact and the reputation of Utah schools in the areas of math and science. But our state's reputation for educational excellence will only devolve if the Legislature is foolish enough to pass Buttars' bill.

The governor should have his veto pen at the ready for this one.