This Is The Dawning of Aquarius–In South Dakota

By Carl Zimmer | February 26, 2010 1:24 pm

South Dakota, are you kidding me? Astrology in the classroom?

In the fine tradition of creationist legislation that claims that evolution is “just” a theory and that requires the teaching of alternatives, the South Dakota legislature has passed a resolution on the teaching of climate change. Here’s how it starts.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Eighty-fifth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming include the following: (1) That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;
(2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative…

That red color is mine. This resolution was not just offered, folks. It was approved by a majority of the legislature. Astrology and all.

At least I know what astrological means. Someone’s going to have to help me with thermological, though. It’s not even in the dictionary. (Whoops–I found it in the Oxford English Dictionary. Having to do with heat. Still, though–what about cosmological? Is global warming from the Big Bang?)

Wow. That is all.

Update: Thanks to Loree for pointing out that this original language was amended before the vote. Here‘s what it ended up as:

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION, Calling for a balanced approach for instruction in the public schools relating to global climatic change.

WHEREAS, evidence relating to global climatic change is complex and subject to varying scientific interpretations; and
WHEREAS, there are a variety of climatological and meteorological dynamics that can affect world weather phenomena, and the significance and interrelativity of these factors remain unresolved; and
WHEREAS,  the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical viewpoints, which has complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of global climatic change phenomena:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Eighty-fifth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature urges that all instruction in the public schools relating to global climatic change be presented in a balanced and objective manner and be appropriate to the age and academic development of the student and to the prevailing classroom circumstances.”.

Thankfully, those who don’t know the difference between astrology and astronomy didn’t get their way. But the “balanced” rhetoric that remains is straight out of the creationist playbook. For more, see Science Progress.

[via Think Progress]


Comments (14)

  1. Dom

    I’m reluctant to give those clowns the benefit of the doubt, but isn’t it likely they just meant astronomical (as in astronomy), rather that astrological? One of the big tactics of climate deniers is to blame it all on changes in sun patterns, earth orbits, etc.

    [CZ: If you’re right, that means that this bill–an education bill–was written and approved by people who couldn’t tell the difference between astronomical and astrological. The stupid still burns]

  2. Jeff

    I agree with your views, but man, are you SURE you’re allowed to write for a science website?

    [CZ: Not sure what you mean by your question. My question is not, what is cosmology, but, what do these politicians think cosmology has to do with global warming.]

  3. Bill Gascoyne


    Yes, I’m sure they thought it meant “astronomical” and the fact that no one caught on to the error, or that they really didn’t know the difference, is exactly what’s sad/funny here. I suspect that the good Christian legislators of SD will be more embarrassed to have appeared to support something as pagan as astrology than at making obvious their ignorance of science.

  4. Michael Tobis

    Thermology, according to Wikipedia, is the use of the infrared spectrum in medical imaging.

  5. Andy

    Next on the agenda: Pi=3. It says so in the Bible.

  6. Loree Thomas

    The version they finally passed has most of the truly stupid removed:

    Still.. it’s a political resolution protesting the politicization of a scientific issue… I’m assuming the irony was unintentional.

  7. Tyler

    “Effect” is actually the correct verb there. The dynamics would effect (i.e., cause) the phenomena.

    (Sorry if this is a duplicate comment.)

  8. I guess yielding on the astrology point counts as a concession in the eyes of the bill’s supporters. Considering the give-and-take world of politics, you have to wonder what they got in return.

  9. roflmao – so glad they changes it before the vote, that would have been awfully embarrassing! Although studying how astrology relates to climate change would be… something… fun? Interesting? A complete waste of time?

    Personally I blame global warming on Mars entering Virgo. Now that’s hot!

  10. They probably did mean “astronomical”, but it speaks volumes that they both would make the mistake and not pick it up later. This, my friends, is the level of scientific understanding typical of the Denial industry and of creationists.

  11. the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical viewpoints, which has complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of global climatic change phenomena

    Wait, it’s the scientific community that is prejudiced? Um… project much?

  12. Amy

    Tyler, no, not in this case – “effect” would be more of a result while “affect” is an influence. So here, ‘dynamics that can “influence/affect” world weather’ would be the correct usage.

  13. Daniel J. Andrews

    I think balance on AGW is good. Teachers can show…

    …global warming isn’t happening
    …global warming is happening but it is the sun
    …global warming is happening but it is galactic cosmic rays
    …global warming is happening but it is El Ninos and the oceans
    …global warming is happening every 1500 years
    …global warming was happening but now it is cooling
    …global warming is happening but any time now it will cool
    …the hockey stick is broken and made by incompetent corrupt scientists
    …the hockey stick supports it is the sun, GCR, El Ninos etc.

    Then, they can show the actual science and the strong consensus on the mechanisms, and toss all those self-contradictory “balances” into the trash with the rest of the garbage. Of course, this presupposes the teachers actually have the necessary critical thinking skills and the discipline/time to learn the science…

    Nice summary of the real science with Peter Sinclair’s latest Crock of the Week, What We Know About Climate Change.

  14. MeX31

    I’ts been my belief that for a long time people have been confused because of a simple problem of labeling. Although it is evident that human activity is causing the world to get warmer, “global warming” may be a counterproductive name for the phenomenon. Especially since different parts of the world are likely to experience wild shifts in climate. If we could find a better term (I prefer anthropogenic climate change), then it would take a lot of wind out of the sails of the “It’s snowing out, how can global warming be true!?” crowd…

    I understand “anthropogenic” might be a little over some peoples heads. Any suggestions?


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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