Tennessee anti-evolution bill passes House

Posted on March 21, 2011

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The anti-science folks are at it again, single-handedly trying to bring our education system to its knees a bit more than figuratively–perhaps quite literally–in prayer.  It’s not solely evolutionary science this time, but they’re throwing in global warming, abiogenesis (the science addressing the possible chemical origins of life), and even human cloning to boot!  I don’t really understand the last bit about human cloning.  Scientifically, cloning a human should be no more difficult in practice than cloning sheep, so I don’t see how there could be a “controversy” about this, since hopefully teachers are sticking to the science and not letting their opinions about whether or not it would be ethical to do so dominate in-class discussion on this topic.  By adding human cloning to the mix, the true agenda seems to surface; it’s not the science they find offensive, it is the implications of their truth that is feared.  Evolution and global warming may be true, and human cloning may be possible, but let’s not entertain such ideas, lest we become barbarians in the unflinching  face of truth.

Here is the bill, with my commentary in red.

HOUSE BILL 368

By Dunn

AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, relative to teaching scientific subjects in elementary schools.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, is amended by adding the following as a new, appropriately designated section:

(a) The general assembly finds that:

(1) An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens;

Agreed!

(2) The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy; and

(3) Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.

So?  They’re only “controversial” to the scientifically illiterate, or in a political sense.  As long as science teachers stick to teaching science in science class, what could possibly cause controversy?

(b) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.

My bold.  This is the setup, the seemingly innocent claim that people have differing opinions and that they matter and should be heard and considered.  Too bad opinions don’t matter in science, only evidence.  I don’t care if it is your opinion that evolution is false, or that you were raised to believe the Earth is ten thousand years old; if you’re making the claim, you’re responsible for providing the scientific evidence.  Good luck.  If you find any, you’d be the first.  In science there is a method through which ideas are given respect–the scientific method–and if your ideas fail the test, they rightfully deserve no respect.

(c) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

By all means, address scientific controversies.  Please make sure, however, the controversy is within and among scientists and not merely in the minds of anti-science, politically charged, religious ignoramuses.

(d) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

Unless, of course, that critique consists of postulating alternate unscientific hypotheses.  Remember, showing problems or difficulties with a scientific theory is not in any way the same as providing evidence for an alternative.  Providing evidence against theory A is not somehow providing evidence for theory B.

(e) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

That is, unless we decide we want to call our religiously motivated system of beliefs scientific, then the whole thing becomes so miasmic as to effectively obfuscate the meaning of science to encompass the supernatural and other claims and causes that cannot be falsified.

SECTION 2. By no later than the start of the 2011-2012 school term, the department of education shall notify all directors of schools of the provisions of this act. Each director shall notify all employees within the director’s school system of the provisions of this act.

SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.

As always, the anti-evolution crowd tries to justify watering down our education system by claiming that they just want to “teach the controversy.”  Science is not politics, and sometimes people are just plain wrong about the nature of reality.  Science doesn’t proceed by a “fair and balanced” hearing of all possible claims.  It proceeds by evidence.

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