Last week, I wrote about an unusual piece of legislation in Texas that would ban workplace discrimination against creationists. HB 2454 would make it a crime to “discriminate against or penalize in any manner” a professor or student based on his or her “conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design.” On Friday, the author of the bill, Republican state Rep. Bill Zedler of Arlington, called me to defend it. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
Mother Jones: Are you a creationist?
Bill Zedler: Evolutionists will go “Oh, it just happened by chance.” Today we know that’s false. Today we know that even a single-celled organism is hugely complex. When was the last time we’ve seen someone go into a windstorm or a tornado or any other kind of natural disaster, and say “Guess what? That windstorm just created a watch.”
MJ: Are you saying a windstorm is like the Big Bang?
BZ: It has to do with things occurring by chance.
MJ: Ok. [Long pause]. Is a windstorm analogous to a genetic mutation?
BZ: Well, not really. I don’t want to go that far. Let me put it to you this way: When we talk about people with faith, there is no greater faith than that life began by chance, with the amount of knowledge that we know now.
MJ: I thought people doing work on the science of evolution typically don’t weigh in on what caused the beginning of life.
BZ: I wonder why?
MJ: They say they don’t know the answer.
BZ: If somebody does decide to weigh in, why should they be discriminated against?
MJ: Because they don’t have the scientific evidence to substantiate their views.
BZ: The debate ought to be: “How did it happen?” But we’re not gonna allow that one to be brought up! I don’t think they oughta be thrown off campus if they come up with it.
MJ: The bill basically deals with the treatment of creationists as a matter of workplace discrimination. It got me thinking about other efforts to deal with that issue, such as legislation that prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. A lot of states have laws outlawing that type of discrimination, but Texas doesn’t. Do you think that it should?
BZ: Gender identity? You know, yeah, before I authored the bill I would have to think about it a little bit.
MJ: Do you see a reason to protect creationists but not. . .
BZ: Here’s the deal: We have college professors that will defend Hugo Chavez, ok? You have college professors that will espouse communism despite all the evidence of its overwhelming failure. And yet they are tolerated, but someone who even dares to mention intelligent design or who questions the idea that life could begin by chance, they are kicked out, lose their tenure, all kinds of discrimination working against them. I think that flies in the face of academic freedom.
You know what, we are willing to sit there and tolerate the ideas of Hugo Chavez and the ideas of communism and stuff like that, we oughta be able to tolerate somebody else that questions the idea of life beginning by chance.
MJ: Do you really think that scientists are arguing that life began by chance, or are they just declining to weigh in on what initially caused life to begin?
BZ: Maybe the reason they aren’t willing to weigh in is because they are afraid of the repercussions.
MJ: What evidence do you have that scientists are suppressing scientific evidence that substantiates a creationism perspective?
BZ: Let me tell ya, I have had people already contacting me as far as they would be willing to get lots of people to come down and testify when the bill goes before committee regarding the discrimination and persecution that they have already faced. So there won’t be any problem there. . .
I don’t believe that political correctness should play any part in the academic arena.
MJ: Is banning discrimination “political correctness”?
BZ: Not at all.
MJ: So banning discrimination against gay people, in your view, is not a reflection of political correctness?
BZ: Well, here’s the deal, all we are saying is that you should be able to debate it. There is a difference between having a law to do something and a law where we ought to be able to at least discuss it.