Fossilized Thinking in South Carolina

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
May 15 2014 11:00 AM

Fossilized Thinking in South Carolina

South Carolina mammoth
Oh, South Carolina. Tusk, tusk.

Photo by Paisan Homhuan/Filip Bjorkman/ Phil Plait

Oh, reality. How you are abused over and again, yet always seem to come out on top.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

In South Carolina, an 8-year-old girl named Olivia McConnell found out that her home state was one of the few without an official state fossil. She did some research, then wrote her state representatives making the case for them to adopt the Columbian Wooly Mammoth for the honor.


Easy peasy, right? And what legislator can resist being implored by a smart little girl who just wants to do something cool for her state?

I believe the name you’re looking for is Republican state Sen. Kevin Bryant. He is not exactly the biggest fan of science. He’s a creationist (and also, shockingly, a climate change denier amongst other regrettable stances) and despite the clear and obvious path on this was unhappy with having a fossil older than the Earth itself made official. So he tried to wedge religion into the bill by quoting the Bible, which gummed up the whole process. His amendment was tossed out (on a technicality, not because it was grossly inappropriate), but then he added words to the bill saying the mammoth was created on the sixth day along with the beasts of the field. Another creationist, Sen. Mike Fair, then wanted to add his own spin on the bill, stalling it further.

That’s where things sat back in March. Well, this week, things finally resolved. Perhaps someone took those two men aside and told them that all this foolishness they were doing to hold up a bill suggested by an 8-year-old might make them look, y’know, foolish.

Whatever miracle occurred, they backed down. The bill was rewritten to simply say, “The Columbian Mammoth is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina,” and will be sent to the governor for her signature.

I don’t think I can sum this up any better than Rachel Maddow could. Watch.

I’ll note that bills declaring official state whatevers don’t have the force of law behind them, so putting religious language in them isn’t strictly unconstitutional. But it can be very, very embarrassing for your state.

Tip o’ the tusk to Wonkette for the Maddow clip.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.