Antiscience bill passes Tennessee House vote

By Phil Plait | April 8, 2011 7:00 am

A bill clearly intended to promote and protect antiscience passed in the Tennessee State House yesterday, by a vote of 70 – 23.

Let that sink in. 70 to 23.

The bill is another in a long series of creationist (and broadened into other antiscience topics) wedge bills designed to weaken the teaching of real science in public schools. The summary makes that clear:

This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting 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, such as evolution and global warming.

On the surface this sounds like legit science; after all, science thrives on understanding the weaknesses in ideas so they can be improved. But if you read that last part, conservative antiscience rears its head: the two specific cases mentioned are evolution and global warming.

That doesn’t sound like real science is the motivation behind this bill — and reading quotes by its supporters confirms it. What this really means is that if a teacher wants to declare the Earth is 6000 years old (or make some other clearly wrong ideologically-based claim), that teacher cannot be stopped.

Similar antiscience bills (usually given the Orwellian title of "academic freedom bills") have been created in Oklahoma (though defeated, barely), Mississippi, and in Louisiana, where creationist and part-time exorcist Governor Bobby Jindal signed it into state law.

So this bill passed the House, but it still has to pass the Tennessee Senate. They have their own version up for vote targeted for April 20. If you live in Tennessee, I urge you to go to the NCSE website, read up on this, and then write your local representative.

Because if this bill passes into law, then…


Comments (77)

  1. Wzrd1

    But, you don’t understand. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH!
    After all, Big Brother needs a job.

  2. The stupid, it burns….

    Sorry to “borrow” that pic, but it felt appropriate…

  3. Cindy

    I’ll contact my cousin who lives in Tennessee. While he and his wife have decided not to have kids, this does impact all the kids who live in Tennessee.

    Will make college admission officers’ jobs easier in the future. Hmm, went to public school in Tennessee, Texas, Kansas… ? Rejection!

  4. Perhaps this is a good thing. Maybe there are some teachers in the mentioned states that will point out the many glaring holes in “intelligent design”, and won’t be able to be stopped because of these laws.

    All we can do is PRAY.

    Wait, no, I mean the only thing we can’t do is pray.

  5. Beau

    While this bill is questionable in its intent, at least it does keep school authorities from telling teachers to avoid the conversation of “controversial” scientific theories… like here in the other doomed state, Texas. We’re told by admin to provide a very watered down, incredibly simple view of evolution to avoid upsetting parents with different ideas. If this bill were passed in Texas, I could tell my administration to shove off.

    Really, it puts the ball in the teachers court (who some are admittedly just as bad as anyone else). Those teachers that actually KNOW science and are passionate about it have a little bit more liberty to truly TEACH science without fear of being censored by administration. The freedom to actually teach these concepts is a step in the right direction.

  6. Yaos

    Too bad the bill is unconstitutional. Too bad the supreme court has yet to see the constitution.

    After reading what Beau said I reread the text of the bill. Now it’s illegal for school boards to modify books, like “evolution is only a theory” stickers that Kansas did. I guess being anti-science means not understanding the text of your anti-science bill.

  7. They had a clip from one of the Republican House members this morning on our local NPR station in Nashville. (as best I remember): “People who believe evolution is a fact are sorely mistaken. For one species to evolve into another species, that’s never been proven.”

    Cue SIGH from the whole ecology and evolution group here at Vandy…

  8. AndrewR

    The bill as I read it means that a pro-science teacher also cannot be disciplined for teaching science which we might all agree is a good thing. Sort of like giving all science teachers tenure, immediately upon hire. The trick in this is that once you have such a law, your hiring practices will dictate the outcome: hire string theorists and all problems look like string theory; hire biblical literalists and all science problems sound like “because God made it that way”.

    So how have universities solved this problem in science?

  9. Lawrence

    Being a former Tennessean, this hits pretty close to home. Of course, these people have been in the schools for a while now. I had a freakin’ biology teacher in 7th Grade that told us that AIDS was sent by God to kill all homosexuals – she was a certifiable nutcase, and she had more than a few other interesting pet-theories about the world in general as well.

    I wish these people would get over their own stupidity, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

  10. Stargazer

    Isn’t it amazing that during this apparently never ending recession, the important thing is to undermine our own future by actively destroying education. Not by honest mistakes… but deliberately. On purpose.

  11. Joe Alvord

    Bill Bryson’s wonderful book “A Walk In The Woods” about hiking the Appalachian Trail recounts how he actually hitchhiked past Tennessee because he was so upset with their anti-evolution meddling in the schools that he refused to walk in that state. This is nothing new for Tennessee.

  12. Mapnut

    Hopefully Beau has a good point. The law would have to be construed as protecting a teacher who teaches that evolution is good science – it does say “strengths and weaknesses” – while the first amendment still prohibits teaching religious theories.

  13. If you’re from out of state, why not let the Tennessee tourist board know what you think?

  14. JT

    Happy day! This bill will allow all the pastafarian Tennessee school teachers to teach the gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in their science classes!

  15. Peptron

    This is what makes me think that those people are ultra-short sighted. From what I understand, they do that to protect Christianity by making one unable to escape religion. The thing though is that Christianity is losing popularity and Islam is gaining popularity. With the law they have just passed, they are strongly reinforcing Islam and effectively making it inescapable, which I think may not be their intention, unless they are muslim spies. Actually, if they are indeed muslim spies, suddently such decisions would make a lot more sense.

  16. Earl Truss

    @Stargazer … And don’t forget the importance of building baseball stadiums and football stadiums and basketball courts and hockey rinks and …. (I live in Minneapolis where news of the latest education funding cuts or public parks funding cuts are always followed by the latest news on the progress of the bill to build a new stadium for the Vikings using public money.)

  17. Sandor

    Continuing proof the ignorance is bliss, until you meet it in person. Then it’s just painful.

  18. I wish these people would get over their own stupidity, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.

    Sadly, Lawrence, I think the wave of stupidity has a long way to go before it crests.

    It used to be I feared for this country because I was young and cynical. Now…sighhhhhhhh.

  19. Rift

    #3 Cindy-


    Not one anti-science bill has ever taken effect in Kansas. Not one.

    Every time the state school board has passed something stupid, the very next election all the nuts are voted out and the lunacy is reversed.

    No expensive trial like Dover. No ‘still going to happen even the nut has been voted out’ like in Texas.

    Kansas should be held as a shining example as what goes right. Not vilified ten years after we kicked that stupid anti-evolution bill OUT.

    Dr. Plaitt has inlaws in Kansas, he can tell you. And I have a niece in high school in Kansas.

    Rejecting someone just because of where they went to school at is, well, discrimination.


  20. OmegaBaby

    Playing devil’s advocate here (and I haven’t read the entire bill), but from that reading, I don’t see anywhere where it implies that teachers are allowed to discuss intelligent design. They can do so only if intelligent design is currently “covered in the course being taught”. And I don’t see how it can be construed to say that principals can’t prohibit teachers from outright lying about evolution or global warming. They can only discuss actual strengths and weaknesses, not made up ones.

  21. Timmy

    I am seeing it differently. Let me summarize the summary:
    This bill prohibits the state board of education… from prohibiting any teacher… from helping students understand… evolution and global warming.

    It sounds like it could stop the State Board of education from forcing an anti-science curricula.

    Then again, if I re-summarize:
    This bill prohibits students understand…ing scientific theories …such as evolution and global warming.

  22. Carefully re-read this passage from the bill (emphasis mine):

    review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught

    This only covers those parts of science which as part of the course being taught.

    In other words, since evolution is part of the curriculum, you need to be able to discuss the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of the current theory of evolution. However, since “Intelligent Design” is not part of the curriculum, you can’t cover the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of ID. No discussions about turtles all the way down. No discussions about lack of any evidence. No discussions about pirates and global warming. (Oh, wait. That one you can discuss, as “global warming” is explicitly mentioned in the bill.)

  23. MadScientist

    “What this really means is that if a teacher wants to declare the Earth is 6000 years old (or make some other clearly wrong ideologically-based claim), that teacher cannot be stopped.”

    I disagree. The ‘young earth’ and warming denialism are *not* science, so preventing someone from spouting young earth ‘theories’ etc is legit. The morons just hope that people will not understand the law correctly and will take it as a free pass for creationists and global warming denialists. Now if those folks had genuine scientific concerns about the age of the earth or global warming, then they’re allowed to bring up those scientific ideas – but the funny thing is that in general teachers are not discouraged from teaching genuine science anyway. In fact, in places where biblical literalists have some clout, teachers are discouraged from doing a good job. I agree that the objectives of this particular bill are to bolster religious opposition to teaching science, but the courts will interpret the words quite differently from what the authors may have imagined.

  24. Ray

    @ Yaos,

    How is the bill unconstitutional?

  25. OmegaBaby:

    Playing devil’s advocate here … I don’t see anywhere where it implies that teachers are allowed to discuss intelligent design.

    Precisely. (See my previous post.) You can discuss the “weaknesses” of Evolution all day long, but you can’t point out anything wrong with ID.

    And I don’t see how it can be construed to say that principals can’t prohibit teachers from outright lying about evolution or global warming. They can only discuss actual strengths and weaknesses, not made up ones.

    And how do you decide which ones are just “made up”, without first discussing their strengths and weaknesses? What’s the difference between theory X, long ago discredited and abandoned by the scientific community, and theory Y, which I just made up while watching my cereal “evolve” as it absorbed some milk?

  26. Rorgg

    So now physics teachers are allowed to discuss freely the wonderful Theory of Intelligent Falling.

  27. dcsohl

    Here is the full text of the bill (PDF). I’m curious to know how Phil interprets subsection 1(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.

    Overall it doesn’t look that bad to me. Sure, it still heavily implies that there are problems and “controversies” over evolution and global warming (when in reality the only controversies are from people who don’t want to believe them because they find it degrading to have simian ancestors, or because they’d have to start driving a Prius)… but as others above have said, I think a fair bit of good could come of this.

    As always, of course, it’s really going to be about how the school districts and courts interpret it. Aside from section 1(a)(2) (which states the General Assembly finds there to be controversy around some scientific subjects like human cloning, the origins of life, evolution and global warming), this would be an excellent bill verbaitm in Massachusetts (where most folk would interpret it reasonably)… in Tennessee, I don’t know.

  28. Joe V

    So when a kid asks “How do we know the Earth is only 6000 years old?”, how can a nutty teacher respond to that without bringing religion into it?

  29. Number 6

    This is a good time to remember or to learn for the first time a couple of quotes from H. L. Mencken…..I believe they describe why scientists and laypersons with a scientific perspective will sometimes be hated and many times not believed:

    “The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”


    “The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”

  30. Grand Lunar

    @Earl Truss

    All too true.

    While education falls, and critical thinking wanes, the entertainment for the masses enjoys prosperity.

    And what’s worse, too few people care.

  31. Gary Ansorge

    This anti-science debacle reminds me of C.M. Kornbuths Marching Morons. Just at the moment we are capable of near magical technology, the least intellectually capable among us hark back to the “good old days”, when few knew anything of substance, when ignorance was the norm.

    Perhaps we should just let the morons think it IS all magic,,,and we’re the magicians that provide their toys.

    Gary 7

  32. DCCNam

    Apparently Tennessee is determined to become part of the third world. At this rate the only jobs their grads will be qualified for is fast food, coal mining, truck farm harvest, and evangelical preacherhood, all of which require about the same level of education.

  33. DrBB

    Okay okay okay. Very bad juju, no question. But stuff like this is when I know it’s time to take a deep breath, step back, and remind myself that no matter how cynical I get… I CAN’T KEEP UP!*

    *Thanks to the sublime Lily Tomlin for putting it so succinctly.

  34. Mircea

    Global warming? What Global warming? We’re fine , don’t worry! 😀

  35. Brown

    The bill (in one version I found on line, anyway) says: “(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.” It would appear that playing the religion card is forbidden.

    Yet this is a card that creationists cannot help but play. If you hit them HARD on the science, and especially if you question their intelligence and integrity when it comes to teaching scientific subjects, then they almost always bawl about religious bigotry and persecution.

    So if a “teacher” instructs that the Earth is but a few thousand years old, that instruction would not be protected by the bill, because the bill “only protects the teaching of scientific information.” This provision of the bill, inserted to be a shield against attacks on its constitutionality, could actually be a potent sword for science education.

  36. Jay

    This is not an anti-science bill. It specifically says that teachers cannot be prevented from reviewing theories in an objective, scientific manner.

    Teachers should review the theories they teach in an objective, scientific manner!

  37. réalta fuar

    While the intent of this bill was undoubtedly anti-science, it’s actual implementation, as many have noted here, is very likely NOT to be anti-science and it may even turn out to be pro-science (yes, that often misused word, irony, can be applied here). As many Americans know, teachers in the American South (and elsewhere) have forever been breaking the current laws and teaching all kinds of anti-science nonsense. This law will give the GOOD teachers protection in doing what they do. The BAD teachers will just continue doing what they do, but now there are at least additional guidelines as to what might happen to them if they too blatantly teach their prejudices. So, NO, Tennessee is no more or less doomed than it was before this bill passed their House.

  38. I almost forgot, when it comes to evolution, we have this link:

  39. khms

    I don’t know if it can be done, but it seems this law paves the way to a variant of the Dover trial which actually finds that there is nothing scientific about denying evolution or global warming.

    Of course, even in the best case, one would still need to go through the court case, presumably including various appeals, which isn’t exactly a happy thought.

  40. jess tauber

    Liberal brains have larger areas for dealing with uncertainty and variety, but conservatives have larger areas that express fear and loathing. For real!

    So brain science will be next in line for suppression.

  41. Shatner's Basoon

    LMAO @ The US of A

  42. NSFWJonathan

    Go*d*m*it. Go*d*m*it. Go*d*m*it.

    I live and work in Nashville, TN and have my entire life. I’m an avid science enthusiast and huge fan of the skeptical movement (finally finishing up the Demon Haunted World), and this news makes me want to vomit – literally.

    What really gets-my-goat is that I have family members that are this stupid. Sh!t. We’re not all idiots down here, guys and gals, i swear…


  43. Doesn’t this essentially allow a teacher to teach anything at all? Isn’t that a huge conflict of interest? Doesn’t someone have to govern what someone is teaching? I mean, I guess the only check would be students failing standardized testing, but then – nothing could be done about it even if someone in an administrative position sought to better their students scores. I guess then the only way around it would be to fire the teacher for not properly preparing students. Still, it seems like since teachers have to be educated themselves, the majority should be educated enough to teach what is proper as opposed to things that are just completely false.

    Of course we like to assume our politicians are educated as well, but if they support something like this, then I guess education alone isn’t enough to cleanse the stupid from the heads of everyone.

  44. Darth Robo

    I disagree over the way the bill is worded will actually be more of a problem for creationism – it won’t. For who monitors exactly what “strengths and weaknesses” are presented? Sure, good teachers who know what they’re talking about can teach a good class. But creationist teachers can present whatever they like (while avoiding the “G” word) and claim that the law supports them, and it would actually require parents to take them to court before that would stop. This would require sharp-eyed parents who are already aware of the issues and are able to teach their child enough to know the signs of fundie apologetics, and then have not only the funds but the will to be able to follow it through. Whereas before the bill parents could simply complain to the principal and point out that the teaching of creationist anti-evolution apologetics is illegal (which it still is, this bill not withstanding). We already know that despite the law, there are numerous schools in the US which already get away with watering down science education and this bill will only help exacerbate the problem.

  45. mike burkhart

    You find this shocking? Tennessee was the site of the Scopes trail of the 20s where a teacher was convicted of the ”crime” of teaching Evolution.This shows something that is shocking a survey showed only 23% of Americans accept Evolution.Off topic what dose anyone think about about the Goverment shutdown its going to hurt Science reserch.I have an idea for the site how about puting a monthly star chart on the Bad Astronomy site Phil.

  46. Jake Behan

    “Since then scientists have said that maybe we shouldn’t have given up that aerosol can because that aerosol can was actually absorbing the Earth’s rays and keeping us from global warming.”

    ….. earths rays?

  47. Ed

    I may be off by a number or 2, because I was doing this manually and switching tabs back and forth, but the breakout looks like roughly like this:

    Voting in favor:
    R- 57
    D – 13

    Voting against:
    R – 2
    D – 21

    No vote (no reason given):
    R – 3
    D -4

    I am a registered Republican (though I may go in the closet soon), so I didn’t post this to criticize one party or the other. I have posted on this subject before though, I don’t blame the politicians per se, they are a reflection of their constituents. It’s not like this is something new, we’ve been battling this for decades and these types keep getting elected. We need to reach people somehow, I don’t know how though.

  48. B Comment

    So, democracy in some states in the U.S. is about voting on what is fact and what is not, basically. If there are enough votes the proposed fact is actual fact, by law. Well, start voting that’s it’s a fact there’s no more war in the world and ‘we’ won, and that ‘we’ have never been in war with -name a convenient continent-. Vote for the fact that everybody finally has enough to eat, that there is no poverty anymore. Vote for the fact that there is a cure for every disease very soon. You know it works! On second thought, this sounds a lot like 1984. Or North Korea. Or Cambodia under Khmer Rouge.

    One must be insane to think for just a tiny moment that voting on what is fact and what is not actually changes the world, changes reality. I’m getting so tired with religious freaks, anti-vaxx conspiracy thinkers, CC deniers and such. We have a world were even the smallest group of people finds difficulties managing anything, look around you, #fail #fail #fail. But yet there are worldwide undetected conspiracies going on to tackle ‘god’ whatever that is, to poison kids, and to make pollution more expensive. Why? Answer to all cases: for no significant reason really. But man, ‘they’ have been busy for decades, centuries now and ‘they’ will succeed if we don’t stop them! By voting what is fact and what’s not.

    Some people need a reality check. Turn that pulp TV off, read good books, study something that’s real, use your common sense, grow up. This playground logic involving santa clauses and boogie men is such a waste of time and resources.

  49. Draa

    at Ed 12:27 pm.
    Well said, Ed. I am an ex-Republican and I can’t understand how they keep getting elected. At the national level anyway. I also worry where this is headed and how far my old party is willing to go. Sooner or later, the extremists will destroy what it once was. Hopefully before too much damage has been done.

  50. The Chemist

    The Decline and Fall of the USA – Chapter XX

    This is another “nail in the coffin” – very disturbing but unfortunate reality. Remember what Lysenko did to the life sciences in the Soviet Union? Oh, then there is the disparaged “Jewish physics” that the Nazi’s suppressed in Germany – lucky for western democracies in the 1940’s, probably delayed development an Axis power’s nuclear weapon. Recall the more recent disaster of restrictions on stem cell related research activities in the USA?

    Ah – then there are the recent attacks on funding research and monitoring programs in the earth sciences that may lead to mitigation of losses by earthquakes. National security issue here – that upcoming megathrust earthquake that WILL occur in the Pacific Northwest before 2400. Guess the “chosen people” will not be affected, they will have been raptured to paradise…

  51. hsstudent

    Only two words describe the nonsense being fed to future generations of Americans: ABSOLUTELY SICKENING.

  52. Cindy said: “I’ll contact my cousin who lives in Tennessee. While he and his wife have decided not to have kids, this does impact all the kids who live in Tennessee.”

    And here we get to the heart of the problem with secular, Enlightenment types: they aren’t reproducing themselves or their memes aggressively enough! This is true everywhere in the world, and it’s not difficult to see that if current trends continue we are headed into a global Dark Age.

    If you want a world of educated, scientifically literate people, you need to practice the Darwinism that you preach and seek to *dominate* the global memetic/genetic pool. Maybe get creative and use your science and technology to outcompete the religious ignorants with their 9 children and cradle-to-grave church/mosque indoctrination? This is such an obvious point, but scientists seem to have a strange blind spot to the fact that we are animals engaged in a struggle at every level, and the immense power of culture, religion and simple fecundity aren’t defeated by rational arguments alone. You need to fight the Darwinian struggle, and if that means using non-Christian methods, then more power to you!

  53. @ dcsohl:

    …or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

    THAT is the heart of the bill, the one the fundies don’t want you to think about.

    If they can’t teach their crap fake science in school, they are going to try and get real science – evolution – kicked out too, because it “discriminates” against biblical literalism.

  54. Terry

    Tennessee is making me sad… My *Catholic school* didn’t ‘teach the controversy’.

  55. MartinM

    In other words, since evolution is part of the curriculum, you need to be able to discuss the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of the current theory of evolution. However, since “Intelligent Design” is not part of the curriculum, you can’t cover the “strengths” and “weaknesses” of ID

    Ah, but ID is literally just a collection of bad arguments against evolution. There’s no actual content there. There really isn’t any part of ID that couldn’t be taught as a supposed ‘weakness’ of evolution.

  56. «bønez_brigade»

    It is highly recommended that one watch the pre-vote commentary from yesterday, in order to hear the anti-evolution agenda come out, and also to hear a fake Einstein quote (pertaining to atheism/Christianity) used by one of the bill’s supports.
    Here’s a link to the video, starting at the HB368 material:
    The fake quote starts around the 3:06:20 mark.

    TN is a completely red state (house, senate, governor), so don’t count on the bill getting stopped.

  57. Jeff

    I find comfort in the wording ‘scientific theories’ knowing that there is nothing scientific about creationism or ‘intelligent design’. However, I’m sure someone will twist that meaning and sue the schools when the principal stops them from teaching creationism.
    I recommend ‘Atoms and Eden’ to you to read. It is a compilation of interviews with scientists, religious persons, and atheists about religion and science… good comments and thought provoking…

  58. Dr. Cuddles

    Its all over, the United States is dead set on running headlong back to the stone age.

  59. Daniel J. Andrews

    I’m halfway through Dr. Ken Miller’s Only a Theory in which he dismantles ID from a scientific point of view as well as a philosophical point of view, showing how bankrupt it is in both spheres.

  60. Conversely, it means no teacher (etc.) may prevent a student from “review[ing] in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of creationism in his/her class.

    Assuming this passes, I’ll be waiting for the moment a bright kid does exactly that and turns this bill on its head. And just wait for the scandal of a child refusing to listen to that hokum because guess what – it’s legal.

  61. Dr. Hovind

    There’s a video on you tube of a geologist from Vanderbilt reading the House the riot act. And one of the Represetnatives says, “I see through you. You want to make a false equivocation [he didn’t say that, but its what he meant] between an exact science like Atomic Theory and evolution which is only a theory; you think I’m an Idiot.”

  62. Dr. Hovind

    I watched the house debate. He actually claims that Einstein claimed that a full knowledge of physics would turn anyone towards Christianity. Einstein–Christianity.

    The level of ignorance is stupefying.

  63. I’ve typed up letters for my senator and representative in Nashville and will be sending them by email and regular post. Considering calling them as well.

  64. TheBlackCat

    What a lot of people in this thread seem to be missing is that courts often take into account the stated intent of the bill as well as the exact wording. So what are the supposedly scientific weaknesses of evolution? ID arguments, according to those who passed the bill. Many judges will take this into account when judging whether an action is in line with the law. So although the text of the bill does not explicitly support teaching ID by our definition of what a scientific weakness of evolution would be, what really matters is what those who passed the law think, and they are clearly intending ID to be taught.

  65. ND

    When a person becomes this fanatical about their religion, that person will lie and cheat to promote the religion that says not to lie and cheat.

  66. PeteC

    Maybe not this particular bill, but I’m sure I’ve seen versions of this that would be really fun for a science teacher.

    Once required to “teach the controversy”, then in theory one would be protected to do it properly… a detailed analysis of evidence for evolution…. and detailed evidence for intelligent design or a creator. Complete with practicals and experiments. One half the class duplicates well known experiments, the other half alternately prays to Allah, Buddha, Yarweh, Jesus, Jupiter, Mithras and the FSM (unless, of course, the law determines an official, govermentally-mandated state religion…). We’ll see which one produces results. Followed by a detailed analysis of all the contradictions and flaws in the “reference text” used by one theory. Allowing a science teacher several sessions of detailing flaws in the Bible – material which will appear in the exams.

    Explaining to some of these legislators that one doesn’t believe in teaching religion in science lessons, but since their laws require it then, as it is a *science* lesson and not a religious studies class, it will be taught from a scientific viewpoint and basis, would be delicious. I know, I know, it can’t happen – but it’s a lovely thought.

  67. Bill in SF

    As one of the token religious people who drops by here, I’m sorry for what those idiots in Tennessee are trying to do to everybody… Fortunately for me, I don’t live in Tennessee, and unfortunately, my teaching style with high school kids resembles Ben Stein’s “blah blah blah blah, anybody? Buehler?”

    But think of all the good this bill can do in the hands of a good teacher – it doesn’t specify what kind of science classes it’s talking about, so sex education classes that used to be “abstinence-only” propaganda can now “teach the controversy”.

    And on the subject of evolution, the fundamental question is “What’s the world like, and how did it get to be that way?” The null hypothesis is “It’s always been like this”, and some of the alternative hypotheses include “Evolution over billions of years” and “Evolution that all happened one week in 4004BC” and “A FSM and some Pirates are messing with it.” How do you tell if the world’s changing? What evidence is there, are there experiments we can do, where would you look for things that would be different if the different theories are correct?

  68. Slyph

    I am appalled. All scientists in the U.S. and especially in Tennessee should be writing and calling their representatives. Don’t really know how much can be accomplished, but the effort should be made. Religious fanaticism will be the death of not only this country; but sadly I fear, our world. :(

  69. Nigel Depledge

    Ken B (25) said:

    You can discuss the “weaknesses” of Evolution all day long, . . .

    Actually, this shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes.

    To whit:
    [Teacher] People have been attacking evolutionary theory ever since it was first published in 1859, attempting to find holes or flaws in the theory. Every angle of attack has been shown to be illogical or at odds with the evidence. Now, on to how evolution actually works . . . [/Teacher]

  70. Anchor

    So, if this legislation is allowed to stand and do what its authors, adherents and supporters so hopefully intend, we should expect almost no world-class scientific minds to be cultivated (literally) out of the Great State of Tennessee…and they can boom and brag about how much ‘smarter’ they were than the scientists and other people of rational and reasonable habit who brought any economic prosperity to that state that currently exists, as it sinks irretrievably into a stinking cess-pit of knee-jerk religious righteousness and ignorance…

    …whereupon they will inevitably one day soon thereafter (once the money flow runs dry) howl magnificently in superior outrage against the temerity of other states, institutions and wealthy corporate interests in snubbing them for reasons they do not wish to understand….

    Welcome to the Civil War Version 2. Available in stores everywhere.

    …And these people (AGAIN) will have the audacity to express moral autonomy and claim the ‘liberty’ of choosing how their kids are educated in matters of science: to wit, they find science education as a dirrect assault on their precious religious convictions, and so must be summarilly shut out.

    It’s very interesting how the very same rationale of absolutism and god-like entitlement propelled so many people of the southern states to reject the idea of legislation against slavery nearly 150 years ago, enough for them to go to the extreme of the seccessionist warpath…simply because they were Totally Aware and Absolutely Convinced that they are were in the Infinite Right.

    Doesn’t anybody notice?…these people actually talk and act as if they ARE God.

    THAT’s what ANY religion is all about: obtaining political power and economic influence.

  71. Nicole

    I live near Nashville, TN and was listening to coverage of this on my local NPR station. One of the dissenters was quoted, and my heart swelled with hope: “Reason!” I thought.

    No. Their reason for not approving of the bill? It wasn’t specific enough, and allowed, for example, a Wiccan teacher to say what she wished.

    So anyone who thinks the wording is somehow going to prohibit actual religious teaching in the classroom… even the legislators apparently don’t feel that way, since they’re worried the religion being taught won’t be the “right” one.

    I love this state in a lot of ways but sometimes I desperately want out.

  72. mike burkhart

    Glad the goverment shutdown did not happen. I think a court will throw this law out so lets just relax and file a lawsuit . I thik a monthly star chart will be good for this blog I know there are many star chart websites ,but I think a monthly one would add something to this site , we would not have to go to those other sites and also Phill could add info about upcomeing things to look for in the sky and where to look.

  73. R Craig

    My comment was marked as spam. I wonder why? I had forgotten to add my url. So I clicked on the name and tried adding my URL and Save, but was given a message that my message was suddenly flagged as spam. Can you tell me why?

  74. nice2835

    Well, SCIENCE IS DOOMED. THE WORLD IS DOOMED… oh wait.. its TENNESSEE! lol, no one comes from there


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