The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Help to Turn Back the Assault on Science Education in Tennessee!

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 4, 2012

Finally getting back to completing my series of recent posts about evolution and creationism (see here and here for the previous ones), I wanted to pass along an update about a situation in Tennessee.  It seems that, in its infinite wisdom, the Tennessee legislature has decided to pass  its own version of the Louisiana “Academic Freedom” Law, which is little more than a touchy-feely way of saying that they want to protect teachers who want to teach creationism in public school science classes. The National Center for Science Education has an update on the bill…

Continued opposition to Tennessee’s “monkey bill”

Tennessee’s House Bill 368 was sent to Governor Bill Haslam on March 29, 2012 — and columnists in newspapers across the state are continuing to press the case against the bill. Nicknamed the “monkey bill” by former Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh, HB 368 would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that arouse “debate and disputation” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” Haslam now has till April 9, 2012, to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it.

The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal (March 29, 2012) editorially lamented, “At a time when Tennessee is becoming a national center for technological and alternative fuel research and development, it is odd — to say the least — that our state Legislature would push scientific debate back more than 85 years,” adding, “Science and teacher associations across the state and nation oppose this legislation, yet our Legislature is determined to impose its will on the classrooms of Tennessee, showing a general disrespect for scientific academia in favor of running its religious views up a flagpole.”

Writing in The Tennessean (March 29, 2012), Leslie Brunetta — a science writer and cancer survivor — argued that antievolution bills such as Tennessee’s “are bad for my health and the health of each of the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year,” for while evolutionary theory helps to guide cancer research, the “challengers of evolution theory” provide no actual research program. She concludes, “If you’re looking for a cure for your cancer, don’t look to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I give thanks to Darwin and the researchers who have stood on his shoulders.”

And writing in the Knoxville News Sentinel (March 30, 2012), columnist Pam Strickland commented, “Tennessee has already tried this teaching creationism once before, The story is known worldwide as the Scopes Monkey Trial and is told through the play and movie ‘Inherit the Wind.'” She added, “if Haslam or his staff is reading, they need to know that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of Bioscience Teachers and the National Earth Science Teachers Association are all against HB 368.”

So that’s the bad news: the Tennessee legislature has passed the bill.  But there is good news: it seems that the governor of Tennessee is having serious reservations about signing the bill into law, seemingly because he sees it as ripe for a lawsuit which the state will inevitably lose while spending millions upon millions of dollars in court costs attempting to defend.  And, especially in a time when taxpayer dollars are so tight, it doesn’t make much fiscal sense to try defending a law which is highly likely to go down in flames.

That’s where you and I come in: we need to help encourage Gov. Haslam to veto this bad legislation!  To do so, please consider signing onto the following petition, and then spread the word to all of your friends – especially the ones who live in Tennessee!

Urge Tennessee Governor Haslam to support sound science and veto HB 368

As parents, educators, and concerned citizens, we call on you to veto HB 368, which encourages teachers to present scientific topics such as evolution and global warming as “controversial.” This bill is deeply misleading and will only serve to confuse students about well-established scientific concepts. Our children need the best education possible in order to excel in college, compete in a 21st-century job market, and cope with the future challenges of climate change. Governor Haslam, we strongly urge you to support sound science and veto HB 368. …

Click here to read the entire petition

3 Responses to “Help to Turn Back the Assault on Science Education in Tennessee!”

  1. Rebecca H. said

    Thank you for the reminder — while I cannot bring myself to have anything to do with a moveon.org petition, I did send a direct email to the Governor’s office urging him to veto this hideous bill.

  2. labman57 said

    There will be a day when Western civilization will look back and regard the Religious Right’s opposition to “evolution by natural selection” as absurd as the Church’s denial of the existence of atoms, or the vacuum, or the sun as the center of the solar system in past centuries.

    Evolution is a verifiable fact. It is the mechanism through which it occurs — natural selection — that comprises the theory.

    People who do not understand how science works seem to think that a “theory” is somehow lacking in power and validity. Scientific theories are our best explanation for an event or phenomenon based on the available evidence, i.e., a theory tells us HOW it happens. Theories have generally been subjected to rigorous testing and represent the consensus of the scientific community, whereas a hypothesis is a possible explanation for a specific observation and has not necessarily been extensively tested.

    Calling something a theory does not cheapen or weaken it. On the contrary, the term “theory” gives it legitimacy as something that is scientifically testable and that has been rigorously examined either mathematically or empirically to the point that the available evidence overwhelming supports it.

    Quantum mechanics, special and general relativity, molecular kinetics — all THEORIES!

    Theories are based on the best empirical EVIDENCE available, not PROOF. There is an incredible wealth of evidence — both geological and biochemical — to support evolution by natural selection.

    Creationism and ID are faith-based concepts. Their “evidence” consists of the allegories provided in the Bible, nothing more.

    I actually have no problem with the idea of discussing the merits of Creationism or ID in the public school classroom. It would make a fine topic for discussion or debate in a social studies course on Religions in Society. But this topic has no business in a biology classroom, since science is based on verifiable evidence along with empirically and mathematically testable hypotheses, whereas religious beliefs are by definition faith-based.

  3. [...] Help to Turn Back the Assault on Science Education in Tennessee! [...]

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