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A draft bill in Montana sponsored by first-term Republican State Sen. Daniel Emrich would effectively destroy science classes throughout the state by requiring them to teach “scientific fact”… and nothing else. Which is the sort of thing you’d propose only if you didn’t understand the meaning of scientific “theory.”

LC 2215 claims that “a scientific fact is observable and repeatable,” while a scientific theory is purely speculative. That’s nonsense, of course, since the “theory” of evolution and climate change (just to name two examples) have mountains of evidence supporting them to the point where they’re foregone conclusions… but they could theoretically be discredited by evidence to the contrary.

As the saying goes, scientific theories don’t become facts; they explain facts. To say otherwise suggests a complete misunderstanding of the subject. Science is all about theories that have withstood the test of time. They get better with more information.

The idea that facts are all that matter in science would be a shock to any actual scientists. Even the National Science Teaching Association notes that the “primary goal of science is the formation of theories… Theories do not become laws even with additional evidence.”

The National Center for Science Education notes that the draft legislation would fly in the face of the state’s own current standards:

Montana’s present state science standards, adopted in 2016, are based on but diverge from the performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards. The only two theories described as such are the Big Bang theory and the theory of plate tectonics (both in Earth and Space Science for grades 9 to 12), but the standards are permeated by implicit references to scientific theories, none of which are characterized as speculative. There are abundant references to scientific models, mechanisms, and laws as well as theories.

In other words, if the bill became a law, those standards would have to be tossed out and replaced with… who knows what.

The irony is that the people who challenge science are usually people who believe mythology is the best replacement for it. Creationists don’t want evolution taught in schools but they think the Book of Genesis is a valid explanation for the creation of life. The Flat Earthers have nothing but conspiracy theories on their side. And anti-vaxxers are buoyed by debunked papers and a bunch of very loud, very confident, and very ignorant grifters.

Daniel Emrich, not surprisingly, is one of those right-wing anti-science conspiracy theorists. He believes the COVID vaccines are a crime against humanity, that elections were stolen because his side lost, and that Dinesh D’Souza is a voice of reason. His Facebook bio says he’s “christian and proud of it.” And after a Congress member’s teenage daughter died suddenly last October, he apparently responded by blaming (you guessed it) the COVID shots.

No one should be surprised that a religious zealot with no understanding of reality is eager to gut science education in the state. He refuses to educate himself and now he’s eager to make sure students remain at his level. And with a Republican super-majority in the Montana legislature, there’s no telling how far this draft bill will go.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.