Tennessee legislature boldly sets the science clocks back 150 years

By Phil Plait | March 22, 2012 9:59 am

The Tennessee legislature — apparently jealous that the people running Louisiana are hogging all the laughing stock — is possibly about to pass an antiscience bill designed specifically to make it easier for teachers to allow creationism in their classroom.

The bill passed the House last year, but then a similar bill was put on hold in the Senate. Unfortunately, it was put to the Senate floor earlier this week and passed. It will have to be reconciled with the House bill, but it’s expected to pass. It’ll have to then go to the Governor to sign it into law.

Basically, the bill will make sure teachers can discuss creationism in the classroom, as well as global warming denialism. The House version states,

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.

That whole "strengths and weaknesses" is for all intent and purpose a lie; we’ve seen it many times before. Of course science has strengths and weaknesses, but what these people are looking to do is be able to say any kind of antiscience rhetoric in the classroom and not get called on it. What the bill should call for is legislators to be tested on the strengths and weaknesses of their creationist beliefs that clearly contradict what’s known about the real world. Or, better yet, how what they’re trying to do violates the Constitution of the United States.

I would pay good money to sit and listen to that.

I also wonder how the Tennessee lawmakers would feel if, say, teachers used this potential law to teach about Islam, or astrology, or Wiccan beliefs. That would be interesting indeed.

If you want more, Josh Rosenau has a great summary, as does Cara Santa Maria at the Huffington Post, and, of course, the NCSE. It’s not clear to me that the Governor will sign this bill; Josh’s post has more on that. But even if he doesn’t, all those creationist climate change deniers will simply try again in some different way.

If you live in Tennessee, you should let the Governor know how you feel, and right away. Otherwise…


Related Posts:

Antiscience bill passes Tennessee House vote
Update: Tennessee postpones education-wrecking bill
Louisiana fights back against creationist legislators
Jindal dooms Louisiana
Heroes of Dover

Comments (119)

  1. Gravee

    “I also wonder how the Tennessee lawmakers would feel if, say, teachers used this potential law to teach about Islam, or astrology, or Wiccan beliefs. That would be interesting indeed.”

    Now you’re talking.

  2. I may be a bit slow, but I’m a little confused as to what this bill would actually accomplish. The First Amendment Establishment clause is still in effect, and under the letter of this law any teacher who is presenting a skewed or ideological version of “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” would not be meeting the “objective manner” criterion and would be exempt from its protection. Of course, getting someone willing to ENFORCE the letter of the law instead of what’s clearly the spirit of the thing is another issue entirely, but as written it seems to me that this bill doesn’t actually DO anything.

  3. Chris

    They can finally teach how the Flying Spaghetti Monster created us all!

  4. Just like the “keep prayer in the schools” folks, the creationists… oops, I mean Intelligent Design folks fully support teaching ID in the schools until it’s not the exact version of ID/Creationism that they believe in. Teach that the 2 “alternatives” are Evolution or a Wiccan creation myth or conduct a Wiccan prayer during class time and they’ll start screaming about how the government shouldn’t muck around with religion. (And they’ll be right, but for the wrong reasons as they’ll simply want the government to switch to promoting THEIR religion.)

  5. @Jason Ramboz,

    I think the danger here is that a school could hire a science teacher who sits down with the kids and says “Today we’ll learn how life formed on Earth. Now, some people say it’s due to Evolution, but we all know this is wrong. Life really formed on Earth 6,000 years ago when God created it. Open your textbook Bibles to page 3 and let’s read verse 20 together.”

    Currently, if a teacher started teaching that, he could be fired in the public school for teaching religion. With this law, he could claim to just be teaching the flaws in Evolution and get a free pass to keep “teaching” (using the loosest definition of that word possible) kids.

  6. Peptron

    When I read that bill, all I can think of is:

    Newton didn’t know what caused gravity. Therefore, nanorobots.

  7. AMercer

    I am guessing if the creationists ever win and get creationism pushed in the classroom in a few years they will be scrambling to get it out of the classroom. You see, what will happen is there will be plenty of science teachers who say “ok, you want me to treat this like science then we will look at it scientifically” and then start to present the idea and the lack of evidence and how subjects like the bible are so flawed that they cannot be relied upon as evidence. The creationists will try to say that is a foul but then the science teachers will say that “hey, you said we could discuss it. You opened the door for this.” Sure, some will try amend the laws to say that creationism can only be presented in a positive light but that would surely fall afoul of the establishment clause. In the end the creationists will want the laws changed to keep teachers from discussing creationism in the classroom because the teachers will do a good job of showing how ridiculous the idea is and religion will start looking silly to students.

  8. truthspeaker

    Jason, what this law will do is provide protection for Tennessee school teachers who are already teaching creationism in school. Sure, it will eventually be overturned in court, but that will be years from now, after the legislators who voted for it have already moved up in their political careers. If the court challenge ends up costing the state money, then future legislators can claim the state can’t balance its budget, and therefore should cut government spending.

  9. @TechyDad,

    I certainly understand that that’s the point (and I think it’s reprehensible), but I don’t see where, from a legal standpoint, this bill would actually accomplish that when put to the test. As I understand it (and I freely admit to not being anything close to an expert), there’s still a huge amount of case law to show that Creationism/ID is a religious doctrine and that teaching it in a public school is a violation of the First Amendment. A State law can’t legally override that, to the best of my understanding.

    Additionally, if a teacher tries to do what you described, I would expect any half-decent jurist to point out that if they only present a one-sided critique, without also presenting the well-documented counter-arguments, they’re violating the “objective manner” terms of this law. I suppose they could argue that they don’t find the counter-arguments persuasive enough to bother with, but that still amounts to the same thing: presenting a view of the evidence based on personal belief. I guess someone could also argue that they’re not aware of the counter-arguments, in which case I’d say that they’re not qualified to be teaching the subject in the first place.

    I think the dangers here may be less in the extreme cases than in the grey areas. Ironically enough, “objective” can be a very subjective term. What if a teacher teaches criticisms of Creationism/ID, but does so in a shoddy manner? Again I’d make the case that they’re a bad teacher, but the damage will still be done. Also, even if this law or specific applications of it were eventually overturned in courts, the process could take years, leaving hundreds of children done a great disservice by their educators.

    I guess my point is that, in the most binding sense, this law doesn’t actually do what the legislators intend for it to do, and I would expect the courts to (eventually) uphold that. But I suppose there’s still a lot of damage to be done in the meantime.

  10. SocksRocker

    Honestly, as a creationist, I do like this idea. I don’t want to teach my kids one thing at home and then have their science teachers tell them I’m totally wrong at school because they’ll get fired if they say otherwise. It only leads to confusion and frustration.

    I have no problems whatsoever with them being taught the big bang, or the Wiccan creation concept, or whatever else alongside creationism (go Flying Spaghetti Monster!), in fact, I encourage it. I don’t know that creationism is true, but then again… you don’t *know* that the big bang is true either. Neither of us were there at the inception of the universe, so whatever is presented on this subject is a belief, whether you term it “science” or “religion”. Present all arguments, and let the students choose to believe what they will.

    One can only hope that the teachers that are in these positions are open-minded enough not to push their own agenda, but at least the gates are open for those admirable few to do so.

  11. Chris

    We had a test in science today, and the answer to every question was ‘God did it’.
    – Lisa Simpson

  12. Miss Cleo in the classroom ftw!!!

  13. RJ

    Science class can now be replaced by this phrase:
    “There are many unknown things in the universe, trust us, It’s f*cking magic!”

    Now move along to metaphysical indoctrination class or you’ll all go to hell.

  14. CB

    If there was any prayer (get it?) of these teachers “objectively” teaching the REAL weaknesses of current scientific theories then this would just be common sense and no law would need to be passed. Also, there would be no need to single out evolution or climate science.

    No, this is going to all be “evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics! Where’s the missing link?!” and “climatologists ignore the sun and the medieval warm period!” or hell, just plain “Evolution contradicts Genesis and you all believe in Jesus and the Bible don’t you?”

    And then when this is inevitably struck down after a lawsuit from a family who actually wanted their child to learn real science, the legislators will blame it all on the “activist liberal courts” and further solidify their support among the anti-science, emboldening them to just do it again.

  15. Kushana

    I don’t think this bill will be as bad as predicted. First of all, in order to introduce creationism under this bill (as a critique of evolution), you get to subject it to the same objective criticism that evolution is, which is not what ID folks want. They want to win because they can allegedly poke holes in evolution. So a reasonable school district prepares materials showing what the objective comparison of evolution and ID looks like (Evolution 1, ID 0).

    Second, it only provides a defense for objective examinations. A rudimentary lawsuit would show that a positive treatment of ID or a hole-poking treatment of climate change is neither objective nor scientific, and therefore not covered by the bill.

  16. It is my very strong belief that any law maker who attempts to pass any law that injects religion into anything should actually be tried, convicted and imprisoned while losing all pay and benefits.

    The reason is simple. These laws have time and again been found un-Constitutional and they know it. Instead of doing the job we tax-payers are paying them to do they are wasting MILLIONS of tax-payer dollars in court costs as the law goes up the chain to eventually be struck down by the US Supreme Court. And these are the same guys who claim to be “fiscal conservatives”. Yeah… they’re fiscally conservative whenever they don’t like what the money is being spent on but when it’s their turn to spend money becomes unlimited somehow.

    In any case, this is a very clear dereliction of duty and they shouldn’t be able to continue doing it with absolutely no consequences other than maybe being voted out of office. They should be perp-walked out of office.

  17. Chris

    @ Jason
    I think what could happen is many of the parents pressuring the teachers to teach creationism, because they think evolution is some abhorrent theory that is being pushed on their kids. The other thing is that not all science teachers are all that smart. No offense to the good science teachers out there, but many haven’t majored in biology, chemistry or physics in college, so they simply don’t have the education they should. So as they are looking for class materials, they may look for materials which support their preconceptions. If they think there is controversy in evolution or global warming, they’ll find it.

  18. Too many of you folks are assuming that science teachers don’t want to teach ID.

  19. Peptron

    @Nobilis Reed & others:
    Am I the only one that when I hear ID, I think extraterrestrials creating humans in labs? To me, ID is Rael’s turf.

  20. Dan_Veteran

    I do not see the problem with a teacher saying, “There is this theory about the great spaghetti monster and these are the flaws with that theory”, as long as the teacher treats each topic with an equal level of scrutiny. A student that is well informed about all sides of a debate will be better able to operate in society. It is bad when they are exposed to just one side of any debate. Children are not as stupid or guillable as we think they are.

  21. truthspeaker

    Nobilis Reed is right.

    Another thing some commenters seem to be forgetting is that for a law to be ruled unconstitutional, someone in the affected area has to be willing to sue, risking social ostracization and death threats, not to mention the time and money required to engage in a lawsuit.

  22. Scott

    @Jason,

    I hate to say this, but have you read the first amendment? It does not say that they cannot have prayer, or religion, in schools. It says that the state cannot make a state recognized religion, or promote one over another.

    What everyone is assuming is that the science teachers are going to be the ones teaching ID. I don’t think that will be the case, well mabe on global warming. But anything dealing with religion, I think schools will ask some local churches to send a representative there to actually do the teachng on that subject. I just think it is going to be difficult as the schools cannot discriminate religions, so they are going to have to do the creationism theories for every religion.

    I don’t think it should be promoted to be taught in schools. But I don’t think it should be illegal to remove it either. Why stifle the learning of a child. I am glad I know a little about a lot of stuff. It makes it so I can have an intelligent conversation with other people. I have made it a point to learn about catholicism, judiasm, wiccan (which I am btw), islam, and more. I think we all should. I don’t think it is a problem to say, this is how the (insert religion) views creation. As long as the person teaching doesn’t say, “the right way to view creationism is to take the (insert view here)”

  23. This_Guy

    The bill states “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 ”

    note the word SCIENTIFIC.

    Could have sworn that the DOVER case classified ID as RELIGION, NOT SCIENCE. Does that not make this a moot point?

  24. Steve

    I would love to be a teacher if this passes! The kids would be going home to mommy and daddy with so many questions about ‘the good book’, and maybe, just maybe, there would be a backlash to remove ID from the curriculum. And I would be doing it with no sarcasm, no condescension, and no laughter, merely ‘intelligence’ on my part!

    BTW, I am a christian who follows the teachings of the NT, not the OT, if you’re wondering.

  25. Pete

    the cdesign proponentists strike again!

  26. Steve – Many Christians tell me that they follow the New Testament, not the Old. I really don’t understand that. Where in the Bible does it say “Old Testament is null and void”?

    Also, wasn’t Moses in the Old Testament? Does that make the Ten Commandments void as well? Or does the Bible also say someplace that we can pick and choose which parts of God’s divine word can be discarded? I’m seriously wondering about all those things.

  27. Lawrence

    I am really glad I moved out of Tennessee – I grew up in the school system there, and although it wasn’t too bad, I did have one “Science Teacher” who tried to convince us that AIDS was sent by God to kill all of the homosexuals….that was a fun year.

  28. Beau

    Welcome to the club Tennessee. Us Texans welcome you with open arms.

  29. Beau

    @22 CafeenMan

    It’s kind of a confusing issue if you’re not familiar with it. As a Christian youth pastor, the best way to explain it is that when Christ came he “fulfilled” all the laws of the Old Testament. So that for those who believe in Him, they aren’t condemned for being unable to meet all those laws. Additionally, the parts regarding sacrifices and such have been fulfilled, which is why there are no animal sacrifices in Christian churches.

    There’s difference on opinion as to what this means for other laws though (like tattoos, etc.) depending on denomination. I tend to lean on the side of if it harms you or others, bad, if not then it’s been taken care of by Christ (but I understand different interpretations).

    I know a skeptics blog isn’t the best place to talk about theological issues, so I’ll end there.

    Also, just so people know I am a Christian, but that doesn’t mean I reject scientific reason. (I accept evolution, for example). I am also an amateur astronomer and planetarium educator.

  30. Name

    CafeenMan,

    Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    It does not say anything about “null and void.” In fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to the apparently recorded words of Jesus, Christians are supposed to follow the Torah/OT to the letter.

  31. Richard Wolford, PhD

    Beau, please cite the specific Bible chapter/verse that says this, otherwise I’ll just assume you’re pulling it out of your rear.

  32. JT

    More basic science education is needed. Forget specific theories – if people understood the relationship between a theory, a model and a prediction, then non of this would matter. Nothing in the bible makes any measurable predictions that can be measured.

  33. Chris A.

    @AMercer (#7):
    “…there will be plenty of science teachers who say “ok, you want me to treat this like science then we will look at it scientifically” and then start to present the idea and the lack of evidence and how subjects like the bible are so flawed that they cannot be relied upon as evidence.”

    Would it break the BA Blogiverse’s collective irony meter if I added “From your lips to God’s ear?” :)

  34. CB

    @CafeenMan

    Where in the Bible does it say “Old Testament is null and void”?

    Kinda, yeah. There’s a couple places where Jesus basically says the old law no longer applies.

  35. Lee from NC

    @Dan_Veteran

    “Children are not as stupid or guillable as we think they are.” I’m sorry, but they kinda are. That is the point of teaching them. They don’t have the critical thinking tools to separate crap from fact.

  36. Blargh

    @Dan_Veteran

    I do not see the problem with a teacher saying, “There is this theory about the great spaghetti monster and these are the flaws with that theory”, as long as the teacher treats each topic with an equal level of scrutiny.

    Sorry, no. As much as I believe in the teachings of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in a science class that presentation would be inexcusable. Out of evolution, intelligent design and pastafarianism, only one is an actual scientific theory.

    It would, however, be an excellent point to bring up the difference between a scientific theory and the common usage of the word “theory”…

  37. truthspeaker

    In some parts of the New Testament Jesus implies that the Mosaic law no longer applies, but in others he says that it still applies in its entirety. As usual, it contradicts itself (being the work of multiple authors), and can be used to mean whatever you want it to mean.

  38. Beau

    @ Truthspeaker

    It doesn’t contradict itself, but rather the Law both applies and doesn’t apply. It applies, in the fact that the Law brings judgment, and death as a result. It no longer applies for believers in Christ, because Christ fulfilled the Law and those who are in Him are no longer under judgment.

  39. dcurt

    I firmly believe that we need to keep religion out of public schools…just as much as I believe the federal gov’t needs to stay out of them as well. Pretty difficult to ignore the downward trend resulting from the DoE and Teacher’s Unions.

  40. ZZMike

    They can probably look forward to a unit on the flat Earth

    CafeenMan: “There’s a couple places where Jesus basically says the old law no longer applies.”

    Not really. He does say in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.”

    And no, the Old Testament is still very much a part of the Bible.

    But then, the Bible does not teach about science. Those who think it does, misread it.

    However, you have to admit that teaching creationism is a lot simpler: “God did it. The Bible says so. Final exam tomorrow”.

  41. Adrian Lopez

    If I were “the state board of education”, a public school “governing authority,” a “director of schools,” a “school system administrator,” or a school “principal or administrator” and I had a policy in place prohibiting the teaching of creationism / intelligent design, my response to this law would be:

    No changes in policy required.

    Let’s see the creationists try to argue successfully in court that whatever “weaknesses” they think disprove evolution are real scientific weaknesses and not just an excuse to push creationism.

  42. truthspeaker

    Beau – I meant in general the New Testament contradicts itself about various things. Judas both hung himself and threw himself off a cliff. Jesus was born during the reign of Herod but after he died. That kind of thing.

  43. OK, I was just about to close this post until I read the last two words of “dcurtSays: “Teacher’s Unions.”

    Curt, the only assurance I had that some principal du jour wouldn’t seek to have my evolutionist butt thrown out of my high school biology classroom at the behest of a posse of creationist parents was because I was a member of a teacher association who had bargained for a working condition known as “tenure.” Without those horrible teacher’s unions, actual science teachers, the kind with empirically-driven ethics firmly in place, in places like Tennessee wouldn’t have a ice cubes chance in a Bunsen burner. In fact, when I was attacked one year by an anonymous group of parents regarding a particular science lab I taught, my only recourse was to utilize an attorney provided by my state teacher association because my site principal and district superintendent didn’t want to touch it.

    If Curt gets what he seems to want, the dismantling of teacher unions, all teachers will be ideologues and they will come in only one flavor, and it will likely not be his.

  44. truthspeaker

    Curt also blames the Deparment of Education for causing a decline in public education, so I wouldn’t put much stock in anything he says.

  45. Chris

    @25 Beau
    …that when Christ came he “fulfilled” all the laws of the Old Testament. So that for those who believe in Him, they aren’t condemned for being unable to meet all those laws.

    So why do the Christian churches pick on the homosexuals for being unable to meet those few verses?

  46. TheBlackCat

    The very fact that they single out these two issues proves that this is motivated by politcs and religion rather than science.

  47. Dan

    Read the darn article, its a prohibition of a prohibition to critique. In other words it an effort to allow skeptical criticism of “sciences” that some people don’t agree with. It isn’t a removal of science but the encouragement to understand it on a deeper level and to let the children know that if they don’t agree that there are alternatives.

    And by the way evolution is still a theory and unproven at that. It has no solid support and is riddled with intentional frauds for the justification of government money. People read read read! Don’t be sheep and swallow what you are told!!!

  48. @Dan:

    “And by the way evolution is still a theory and unproven at that. It has no solid support and is riddled with intentional frauds for the justification of government money. People read read read!”

    [citation needed]

  49. Adrian Lopez

    It isn’t a removal of science but the encouragement to understand it on a deeper level and to let the children know that if they don’t agree that there are alternatives.

    What would those alternatives be?

    And by the way evolution is still a theory and unproven at that.

    It’s as much a theory as gravity is a theory. There is plenty of evidence for both.

    It has no solid support and is riddled with intentional frauds for the justification of government money.

    Yes, it does, and no, it isn’t.

    “People read read read! Don’t be sheep and swallow what you are told!!!”

    Good advice. You should follow it yourself.

  50. Chris the Canadian

    My observation on this topic is that Creationists, and let’s call them for what they really are, want to teach creation in science class. We are making a lot of assumptions. the biggest being that a teacher who wishes to teach creationism in school will do so in a non-biased manner. Really? If they really wanted to teach both creationism and evolution side by side and actually analyse and critique the evidence for both, creationism would die a fast and nasty death because there is little real evidence, outside of the bible, to support any of it.

    Therefore, creationism cannot be taught without bias. It takes a book written thousands of years ago by a bunch of wise men and self proclaimed prophets, that had large sections of it removed to suit the chauvanist eastern and western churches views of how society should live , and claims it to be real and true. For once and for all, there should be a national debate of epic proportions to put scientific knowledge and evolution up against creation. Bring the biggest minds and mouths on both sides and have them present the evidence. Have scholars who have both scientific AND theological backrounds judge it. You could sell Pay Per View rights for the debate and millions would pay to see it and let’s put this garbage to rest once and for all.

    Won’t happen for 2 reasons. 1, the Religious right know they can’t win it AND they don’t believe in television, it’s a creation of the devil and 2, scientists would have a tough time trying to explain things like Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which also aren’t proven to exist but are treated as though they are real material things…. just sayin …

  51. Chris

    #51 Chris the Canadian
    the Religious right know they can’t win it AND they don’t believe in television, it’s a creation of the devil

    They don’t believe in television? They have entire television channels dedicated to them! What’s the word, televangelists!

  52. dcurt

    @44 Bill

    If they want to be part of a union, then they should be privately employed. Even FDR got that much. “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”
    At least a private business has the option to shut their doors when the demands are too high. For public employees, where do we draw the line?

    My point is that politics need to stay out of school…as well as religion. Both do nothing but muddy the waters and make it more difficult, and much more costly, to teach our children what really matters……..the basics. (Math, science, writing, etc.)

  53. Bobby LaVesh

    I fully think that Creationism is wrong- and that evolution has enough evidence now that there shouldn’t be any controversy over it.

    In this day and age, I think it is absurd that we even have to discuss topics like this.

    However:

    objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught, such as evolution and global warming.

    I see nothing wrong with this as long as it truly is in an objective look. Science is not about declaring absolutes or saying that no “currently understood fact” is beyond being revoked in the future as we understand more.

    If this is used to try and provide undue doubt where it doesn’t really exist in such theories- that would not be “objective” and would be introducing religion, or other bias.

    As the law is written it does not legally allow teachers to preach creationism. Some will probably try and throw that in there- but they would still be equally breaking the law as they are now.

    I think it is important- that they look at holes that people used to see in the theory before- and how over time we’ve been able to fill them. Kids should know about tiktaalik, archaeopterix, etc (sorry if I butchered spelling on those). How IDers once said the eye couldn’t evolve- but we see the intermediate stages on various organisms.

    As long as it IS objective it’s OK- objective does not mean however- present a biased view favouring a religious alternative. That is NOT objective.

  54. @AMercer,

    If they insist that you could only teach Creationism in a positive light, then the solution is simple. Teach a Creationism that is completely at odds with Christianity. I’d recommend the Norse creation myth where mankind is “born” from a giant’s armpit sweat.

    (Seriously. See: http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/IsisShrine/Norsemyth.html )

  55. @Scott,

    I have no problem with kids learning about different languages. My wife, kids, and I are Jewish and when my son complained about learning about Christian holidays I told him it is important to learn about different religions. You might not follow them, but it gives you an understanding of what other people believe.

    The problem occurs when those religions are taught in science class. Religion doesn’t belong in science class. You could teach it in a comparative religions class or a philosophy class or even a history class, but not in a science class. About the only way that this bill could be good would be if science teachers say: “Now here are some common ‘problems’ people cite about Evolution. We’ll go through them one by one and show how this ‘problems’ really aren’t problems at all.”

    Of course, this won’t happen. Instead, it will open the door for religious teachers to teach about how the world was created 6,000 years ago by a god who likes tricking everyone by making the world look like it is billions of years old.

  56. Bobby LaVesh

    @46 That is a rather generalistic statement.

    I’m not a Christian- but I feel I have to defend them a little here. It is true- there are a lot of very biggotted churches out there that will pick on certain verses disproportionately and use them to alienate certain demographics that they don’t like.

    Others, such as my wife’s, take the view that no-one is perfect and everyone sins. They have people very “open” there in prominent positions that are not discriminated against. Pastor there even accepts science and insert drum roll believes in things like global warming, evolution, big bang, etc.

    Not all churches are nutters like the famous Bob Jones Church or Westboro Baptist Church- they’re not all biggotted and “out-to-get” those that don’t believe like they do.

    They’re not all anti-science or fundamentalist. There are even some of them that look in horror at science being abused by the fundamentalists in the same way that we do.

  57. Tim

    I would try to do something about this, but there is nothing I can do. I wrote my state rep last year about this law, and while I don’t remember his response, I remember that it was so patently idiotic as to make my jaw drop.

    All I can say is…DOOM.

  58. truthspeaker

    56. Bobby LaVesh Says:
    March 22nd, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    @46 That is a rather generalistic statement.

    I’m not a Christian- but I feel I have to defend them a little here. It is true- there are a lot of very biggotted churches out there that will pick on certain verses disproportionately and use them to alienate certain demographics that they don’t like.

    Others, such as my wife’s, take the view that no-one is perfect and everyone sins.

    You do realize that vile belief is at the heart of much of Christianity’s evil, right?

  59. VinceRN

    Debate the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories. Creationism is not a scientific theory, so shouldn’t be included in this. Intelligent Design might be considered a scientific theory, though it has no scientific strengths to debate. Debating it’s weaknesses seems OK to me.

    Of course that’s probably not what they are thinking.

  60. H2OPoloPunk

    @SocksRocker

    Then homeschool your children. It worked for Tim Tebow. I don’t want my child or peers taught your ignorant nonsense.

  61. I think there’s a bit of unfairness going on when it is said that they are allowing creationism in the class. While technically true, the true douchebaggery of the whole thing is that they’re only allowing CHRISTIAN creationism, and likely a very specific sect of that.

    The truth will almost certainly be that Hindu creationism is not going to be given the same type of debate and Christian creationism in the classroom setting.

    The issue simply isn’t about allowing creationism in the class, it’s about giving Christian mythology the same standing as science. I’ve often felt the debate should be framed that way. There’s a *LOT* of creationism in the world, and very little of it is likely to be allowed under this bill. There is one specific brand of creationism they want to dig up. Their own arguments about open discussion and debate can be turned on them by suggesting that alongside the Garden of Eden would be taught hte merits of the Hindu turtle and the raven of the American first nations.

    I don’t think they’re called on this enough… it’s not just that they’re ramming religion into the classroom, but that it’s a specific religion and they are discriminating against the freedom of religion of everyone else.

  62. Keith Bowden

    As long as they don’t mess with “Take the Invisible Pink Unicorn to Lunch Day”, I’m all for discussing hokey religions and ancient weapons. They’re no match for the power of the dark side, obviously…

    Maybe they thought this thing would have a better chance of getting through because they attached HIRGO denialism to it? Living in Tennessee – the six most miserable years of my life…

  63. Ken Nixon

    Am I misunderstanding this?

    “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.”

    The way I’m reading it, is that it’s stopping those with authority from stopping teachers from helping the students understand, etc. evolution, etc.

  64. Capheind

    As some have already pointed out, neither creationism, nor her tramped out sister “Intelligent Design”, meet the criterion of objective research. I say let the bill pass, then continue to get these quacks fired on the grounds that teaching creationist claptrap doesn’t meet the criterion setup by the law. In fact Champion this law, as, provided people are willing to fight to setup the precedents, this could be the first law to demand that all such nonsensical criticism be banished unless it meets proper academic muster.

  65. Keith Bowden

    A big problem with teaching in Tennessee is that the schools are allowed to fill in a missing teacher’s post with any teacher for a school year if they haven’t been able to fill the position. What they do is instead of filling all posts they have teachers hop from year to year to different classes, so you have history teachers heading English, shop teachers filling in for science, etc., with a constantly rotating cast of essentially unqualified personnel. (That’s what I went through for my miserable high school years there.) So in many cases you have teachers who don’t know their subject and would be as helpless as the teachers in Springfield if Lisa Simpson were to steal the teacher’s guides in Tennessee…

    And then there’s the whole “one course fits all” style of teaching rather than customizing the course to students’ aptitudes.

  66. Dan at 48 wrote:

    And by the way evolution is still a theory and unproven at that. It has no solid support and is riddled with intentional frauds for the justification of government money.

    You know what else is “still a theory”? Gravity! You have a fundamental misunderstanding of what defines a theory. Inherently, theories can never be proven… they are a body of evidence, and when a bit contradicting evidence is discovered, the theory is altered to reflect the new evidence. Google “theory definition”, read a little bit, and you will probably be enlightened as to how fundamental wrong you are.

    Re; frauds??? I can think of 1 a hundred years ago, but “riddled with”. Citations are needed, or you are a liar!

  67. Electro

    Why is teaching religion to children even necessary?
    More to the point, why is it not illegal?

    Hmm…mebbe its just a means to power?….Nah, couldn’t be.

  68. Brian Too

    When I give up on hope of science class being reserved for, you know, science, then I revert to subversion. In that case I’d sorta like to see “”…use(d) this potential law to teach about Islam, or astrology, or Wiccan beliefs.”

    If you cannot fight (as in educate) them, then use their own tools against ‘em.

    Of course I know this ultimately won’t work. There’s a political context here and any attempt to subvert the education act, despite it being complied with 100% to the letter of the law, will probably be met with a ruthless crackdown. Which itself would probably be unlawful, but since the lawmakers are a key part of the problem, there’s little hope for corrective action.

    No, the best hope is probably to continue mocking these sorts of efforts, out of any reach of these misguided souls. And they will continue to protray we outsiders as “elites” or whatever the word-du-jour is.

  69. Grand Lunar

    Scientifically challenged lawmakers will be the doom of the United States if stuff like this keeps happening.

    Seems we’re on the path toward the Dark Ages.

    Even more so is that we already have seen cultures that have embraced their ignorance in science, and how they’ve stagnated in developement.

    We’re on this path.
    But the lawmakers either don’t see it, or just don’t care.
    All they care about is getting THEIR world view being made into the lay of the land, be it the viewpoint of creationism, allowing guns on college campus, or climate change denial.

    Somethng must change. How to enact such change is the biggest challenge rational minded people face.

  70. Pete

    Well, at least all this creationism claptrap will be gone when the Fundamentalists repeal the first amendment and the Catholics take over.

  71. The Mutt

    I’m so glad I’m from Memphis and not Tennessee.

  72. I feel the need to point out that in Heinlein’s universe Nehemiah Scudder was elected in 2012. Santorum is a pretty good parallel to Scudder. Just sayin’.

  73. Benji

    I think creationism is just as viable and probable as evolution. I can look all around the world and see micro-evolution, but where is the hard data on macro-evolution. I mean that is where the term missing link came from. I have no problem with anyone teaching evolution as a theory, or creationism as a theory. That is what both are until one of two things happens, a. someone actually finds the “missing Link” and can somehow prove we made the leap from primate to human, or b. we die and find out if God really exists.

    Science is full of theories, theories which constantly change. Once scientists thought the world was flat. They once taught that it would be impossible to travel faster than the speed of sound, or that man would ever fly.

    Just teach these things as theories, and don’t pick and choose the theory you like.

  74. Daniel J. Andrews

    Grand Lunar @70 said

    All they care about is getting THEIR world view being made into the lay of the land, be it the viewpoint of creationism, allowing guns on college campus, or climate change denial.

    People are focusing on the creation aspect–which is good–but it is far broader than that as Grand Lunar and others have pointed out. There is a great deal of science that contradicts the belief system of far-right extremists. They want control over anything that may contradict their political, religious and other ideological beliefs.

    Imagine if they’d been able to get into the schools and point out “weaknesses” in tobacco and cancer research, second-hand smoke dangers, ozone depletion and CFCs, asbestos and cancer, acid rain, HIV and AIDS. Would they have been able to impede our ability to address these problems? How many more deaths would have resulted if teachers would have presented the false balance in science class?

    What science will they take issue with in the future? Ecology? Limnology (study of fresh water systems), Oceanography? Forty years ago who would have predicted that climatology and the very basic fundamentals of the physics and chemistry of CO2 would become disputed. Are we going to see increased attacks on geology, astronomy, and cosmology now that they’ve been emboldened by success if they get this onto the books? Will attacks (accusations, threats, numerous FOI requests, callings before congress, lawsuits, smears) on scientists in other disciplines spread and increase because of previous success? I feel for Dr. Charles Monnett whose only crime was writing down the four drowned polar bears he saw while conducting marine mammal surveys.

    One reason we’re seeing climate-change denialism making it into schools is because they’re teaming up with creationists and using their strategies. No need to reinvent the playbook–use what has worked before, tweak it for new means. If this is successful (and even if it isn’t, he sighs pessimistically) expect to see many more groups with a need to cast doubt on other subjects joining the fray. It will become a coordinated wide-spread attack on many of the basics of science and how science is actually done.

    We are going to need to reach across any hostile rhetoric divides and work with the more moderate religious groups who are angry at the hijacking of their religion and who respect science and how it is done. This includes Muslims because as their numbers grow we’ll be seeing some of them team up with creationists to not just get things taught in school but actively attempt to block classes that teach things they disagree with.

    Some European countries are seeing that now–they didn’t have much problem with Protestant creationists compared to the U.S., probably because their “war rhetoric” was toned way down, but a new wave of creationists are upping the vitriol and things are now starting to head the way they have in the states and in some cases, it seems much worse.

    Protestant creationists are making common cause with Muslims so it seems to me the least we could do is make common cause with religious people who are more moderate, who respect science and its place in society, instead of alienating them by saying religious people are guilty of child abuse and are stupid. Even if that doesn’t increase recruitment for the Ken Hams of the world, the alienated will be less likely to speak out against them and join with us to drive the rabid back onto the fringe where they belong instead of center political stage.

    sigh.

  75. Markus

    @Benji

    The problem(aside from not being founded on evidence), fundamentally, is this; If you want to teach “creationism” theory, what do you teach? Evolution is a working theory of how things got from one place to another. Creationisms theory is “POOF: Everything”. It would make for pretty light reading in science class.

    You have to teach religion if you want to teach creationism because there’s not actually any *science* to teach, which is why it shouldn’t be taught as science in the science classroom.

  76. TheBlackCat

    @ Benji:

    I think creationism is just as viable and probable as evolution.

    Show me where anyone has ever seen any god create anything, anywhere, something that couldn’t have happened through other means. It also goes against everything we know about biology

    I can look all around the world and see micro-evolution, but where is the hard data on macro-evolution.

    It depends on your definition of macroevolution. If you mean the scientific version, which means evolution above the species level, then it has been observed numerous times both in the laboratory and the wild. If you mean the creationist version of macroevolution, which means “changes above the level that have been observed”, then of by definition it has not been observed.

    However, there is still tons of hard data on it, from fossils, genetics, morphology, cladistics, molecular biology, and so on. These analyses are very detailed, based on quantitative measurements and mathematical analysis, and more importantly very consistent. The evolutionary pictures painted by totally unrelated methods show overwhelmingly the same evolutionary relationships between wildly different groups of organisms.

    If creationism were right, there is no reason the family trees generated from body shape, DNA, and fossils should match up, but they do.

    I mean that is where the term missing link came from.

    No, the term “missing link” came from the popular press, it has next to zero scientific merit.

    I have no problem with anyone teaching evolution as a theory, or creationism as a theory.

    Scientific theory is not the same thing as guess or conjecture, it is the highest rank any scientific principle can obtain, it is saying that we are as confident in it as we can possibly be. Evolution is probably the best-supported (in terms of evidence) scientific principle ever. Creationism is not scientific at all, has absolutely zero evidence backing it up, and cannot tell us anything useful about the world.

    That is what both are until one of two things happens, a. someone actually finds the “missing Link” and can somehow prove we made the leap from primate to human, or b. we die and find out if God really exist

    Uh, there is no “leap”, humans ARE primates. And we have an extremely detailed picture of the evolution from our last common ancestor with chimpanzees. Of course finding another fossil in some hole will not help, since the creationist will just say “well now there are two holes that need to be filled” (I’ve seen them do it). There is no level of detail that will convince a creationist.

    Let me ask you: where, exactly, in our lineage are you claiming this missing link is? Out of all the dozens of different species of ancestor between us and our last common ancestor with chimpanzees, between which two is this one specific missing link that would convince you? What sort of properties would it need to have to be convincing to you?

    Science is full of theories, theories which constantly change. Once scientists thought the world was flat.

    Actually, no, they didn’t. It has been known since ancient Greece, over a millenium before the invention of modern science, that the world is round, in fact the Greeks even had very accurate measurements of the shape of the world. The only people who objected (and still do) did it on religious grounds.

    They once taught that it would be impossible to travel faster than the speed of sound, or that man would ever fly.

    No, there was never a scientific consensus on either of those. Some people thought it might be impossible, but many others thought it was possible. This is radically different than evolution, which has had essentially unanimous agreement amongst scientists for about a century now. Arguing against evolution is like arguing against atoms (which I have seen creationists do, incidentally).

    Just teach these things as theories, and don’t pick and choose the theory you like.

    Alright, so what is the scientific theory of creationism? It has to be something that 1. makes new, specific, testable, falsifiable predictions about what we should see, 2, It needs to make predictions that are different from other alternatives, 3. these predictions need to actually be confirmed, 4. this has to happen over and over again despite strenuous efforts to disprove it.

    Evolution has made countless specific, testable predictions that could have been wrong but were overwhelmingly shown to be right, including many empirical ones. I can think of hundreds just off the top of my head. That is why scientists trust it so much. Creationism makes few testable predictions, and those it has made have almost universally been proven wrong.

    We teach science in science classes, not religion. Until creationism can actually qualify as a science it does not belong in science classes.

  77. Lars Bruchmann

    @TheBlackCat: Thanks for taking the time to dissect Benji’s misinformed comment. It saved me the time and research, you put everything very succinctly and understandably.

  78. Stathis Dimopoulos

    The original monkey trial or Scopes Trial took place in this state in 1925 (I recently saw the movie with Jack Lemmon and I remember these facts). Actually the Scopes Trial is known as “The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes “. It seems that Darwin-hate and TN go hand in hand for years.

  79. Stathis Dimopoulos

    @Benji:
    1. All living organisms, from the smallest single cell organism to the blue whales , have the SAME OPERATING SYSTEM if you like a “modern term”. It means there is no distinction between micro or macro evolution. Everywhere the same processes apply but in different timescale . Each generation in a microbe is 20 mins and in humans is 20 years. Can you see the difference?
    Back in the 50’s when the use of penicillin became widespread it could destroy almost any microbe. But the microbes EVOLVED and became resistant to penicillin. Do you know that you have living fossils inside you? Your appendix is an intestine no longer in use and your tailbone is the leftover of the tail your ancestors lost million years ago. Have you seen a whale skeleton? Have you seen the legs the whale’s earth-walking ancestor once had?

    Have you ever seen DNA testing on TV or in reality? Do you know that DNA testing is possible due to evolution? You cannot test the minuscule quantities of DNA found on a crime scene. You have to “multiply” the DNA molecules. But this process takes place in very high temperature for normal proteins, and there are using proteins from microorganisms that EVOLVED to live near seafloor thermal vents . These organisms “Thermus aquaticus” thrive in temperatures the water is near boiling at sea level (80 deg C). Almost all proteins that perform the same function break down at 55 deg C.

    And here the operating system analogy comes into : DNA testing is possible because we evolved from the same single cell organism.

  80. Brennan

    I noticed that the bill does not mention private schools. Great. So this means that, while I can teach creationism in a public school and not get fired, I can’t teach evolution in a private catholic school without fear of losing my job.

  81. Blargh

    @ VinceRN

    Intelligent Design might be considered a scientific theory, though it has no scientific strengths to debate.

    nope.avi

    Intelligent Design has been given some of the trappings of science, but isn’t science – it doesn’t follow the scientific method. Tacking on a few sciencey-sounding words to something is not enough to make it science.
    And it’s most definitely not a scientific theory, which is a term with a specific meaning (TheBlackCat explains it better than I do).

  82. ND

    Benji,

    “I think creationism is just as viable and probable as evolution. ”

    Which creation story did you have in mind? There are so many out there.

  83. Dawn

    Again, they are assuming that all teachers are Christian. I’m not any religion and if this bill were to pass and I was required to discuss creationism then I would discuss it from all possible points of view from Christian to Wiccan and everything in between. Religion does not belong in the public school system. If a parent wants their child to have a religious based education then they should send them to a private school.

  84. VinceRN

    @Blargh, yeah, I know that. Was a joke.

    @Dawn, doesn’t seem to say you’d be required to, just that you couldn’t be prevented from doing so. I think.

  85. Benji (#76) says:

    That is what both are until one of two things happens, a. someone actually finds the “missing Link” and can somehow prove we made the leap from primate to human, or b. we die and find out if God really exists.

    That quote demonstrates you do not understand evolution.

    There is no “missing link”… humans didn’t make a leap from primate to human. Humans are still primates. Even if we have not (and we never will have) found every individual species between some arbitrary point on the tree of life and modern humans, the evidence in the fossil record and DNA is unequivocally clear on this matter.

    I have no problem with anyone teaching evolution as a theory, or creationism as a theory.

    Here, you are demonstrating that you don’t understand what a theory is. Creationism is not a theory. It is a conjecture. A theory has supporting evidence. A theory is testable. The ToE has these things. Creationism does not… and not for lack of people trying to produce such evidence.

    Creationism is not a scientific equal to the ToE by any measure, any more than Santa Claus is a scientific explanation regarding the origin of gifts at the winter solstice.

    I have no problem teaching creationism in schools, but it belongs in a mythology or comparative religions class, not in a science class.

  86. Robin

    VinceRN and others have summed it up: ID and Creationism aren’t science. If you want to discuss those topics, discuss them in a theology or philosophy course. It’s no comfort assuming that these efforts at polluting science with religion or attempting to discredit science with religion and arm waving because there will be students that will emerge from the affected classes with completely fubared notions of science, setting us back a few steps just as we’re trying to move forward a few steps with improving education in STEM fields.

  87. CB

    @ Evolving Squid

    Well there was a “missing link”, then we found it. Then creationists said “Well now there are two missing links!” but ignoring that’s the wrong way to look at it, we’ve found those too. We’ve found many intermediates between humans and the common ape ancestor, we’ve found many intermediates between many other species. And each time they look at the ‘missing’ sections and say they won’t believe until we’ve found those too (what they really mean is they’ll never believe and will move goalposts as often as necessary).

  88. Buzz Parsec

    @ Evolving Squid

    +1 on the Santa Claus analogy.

  89. vel

    I try not to call names much but these Christians are idiots. They have decided to condemn their children to be just as idiotic as they are. I’m sure that saying “the bible said it was true” will be adequate “justification” for such purveyors of ignorance.

    and this crap, when we hear repeatedly we need more well educated people to take the jobs that are out there. Tennessee is sure determined to go backwards. Perhaps we can fence it off and put everyone who doesn’t want to use science, have equal rights for *everyone* , etc, in there.

  90. Buzz Parsec

    Brennan @83,

    I was raised a catholic, and the Catholic Church does officially accept evolution (with a little behind-the-scenes deck-stacking and card-forcing), and (though I attended public schools, so this is just hearsay), others here in the past have stated that they do teach evolution in parochial schools.

    Unlike most of the South, Louisiana has lots of Catholics, but I don’t know if the Louisiana diocese has a different doctrine on evolution than the Vatican does. It wouldn’t be without precedent; the KKK was and is viciously anti-catholic everywhere except Louisiana, where it is pro-catholic. What’s a little cognitive dissonance amongst narrow-minded bigots?

  91. There is a frustrating shortage of hominid fossils between about 14 million years ago and 4 million years ago, which is right around the time humans diverged from their closest ape relatives.

    Therefore, God did it.

  92. @ Buzz Parsec:

    While it’s true the official Catholic doctrine has no objection to evolution, I’ve personally known at least one Catholic person who nevertheless objected to evolution. (The Catholic canon doesn’t REQUIRE individual Catholics to accept evolution, it just doesn’t tell them they CAN’T.)

  93. Childermass

    Oklahoma even more doomed:

    If HB 1551 is not stopped in the senate education committee, it will be overwhelming passed on the floor and signed by the governor. Everyone in Oklahoma reading this is encouraged to send some polite emails to the members of the education committee which can be found in the following URL:

    http://www.oklascience.org/

    Do your part to piss off Sally and Steve Kern…

  94. VinceRN

    @93 Buzz – Yep, I went to Catholic boarding school in 5th and 6th grade in the mid 70s (I was expelled at that point…). They did teach evolution, and that evolution was God’s plan. Not ID really, they never really said God was actively guiding it, just that he had set it up.

  95. PeteC

    @TheBlackCat – An excellent answer. I just wish that Benji and/or his ilk would stick around long enough to read it and try to understand. Instead they play their drive-by-arguing game of charging in, yelling and running off before anyone gets a chance to call them out on it. The chance of any one of them actually reading it and attempting to debate you is zero.

    I know you know this – I just wish it would happen. The debates would be funny, in a slightly nasty kind of way.

  96. tim Rowledge

    There is a great deal of science that contradicts the belief system of far-right extremists

    The very concept of science – right down to the idea of empiricism – contradicts every important part of every religion, pretty much by definition.

  97. PeteC

    @99 Tim

    Yeah, it’s true that they approach the entire view of the world from opposite directions.

    Science starts with “I don’t know – let’s try to find out” with the assumption that we *can* find out, or at least get a little closer to the truth as we study it. It’s a journey from ignorance to discover truth.

    Religion starts with the assumption “We have The One Perfect Truth already, and it is written down in this One True Book” which just happens to resemble a bunch of collected oral traditions and fireside tales of a group of desert nomads, and the One Perfect Truth is Complete, True and Perfect and anything that questions it *must*, by the very nature of questioning it be evil; anything you see, hear, touch, smell, taste or measure that contradicts the One Truth must be a deceit or a lie or an error. It’s a battle to defend truth from corruption and error.

  98. flip

    Benji and others prove that even without legislation like this, or the introduction of creationism into schools in general, there will always be a generation of people who misunderstand the science and believe in often-touted tropes that have been debunked a billion times over.

  99. Zhivago

    In Science everything must be object of understanding, analysis, critique and review. So why be against this bill?

  100. Nigel Depledge

    @ TechyDad (5) and Jason (9) –
    It’s not about teaching creationism in the classroom. Bills like this one allow a teacher to teach their classes that evolution is a “flawed, unsupported” theory – using any of the hopelessly pathetic creationist critiques of evolutionary biology – so that any kids in the class who are already creationist will grow up to be noisy anti-reality creationists with votes.

  101. Nigel Depledge

    SocksRocker (10) said:

    I have no problems whatsoever with them being taught the big bang, or the Wiccan creation concept, or whatever else alongside creationism (go Flying Spaghetti Monster!), in fact, I encourage it. I don’t know that creationism is true, but then again… you don’t *know* that the big bang is true either.

    But what we do know is that:
    1. Creationism is false.
    2. Yes, even your favourite flavour of creationism.
    3. Big bang theory (BBT), although known to be incomplete, is the only explanation we have that accords with the preponderance of evidence (cosmic microwave background, universal isotope ratios, expansion of the universe etc.).
    4. Therefore, we do know – for sure – that BBT is the closest approximation to the truth that we have so far discovered.

    Neither of us were there at the inception of the universe,

    This objection is puerile. Events that occurred in the past leave evidence that we can examine in the present.

    so whatever is presented on this subject is a belief, whether you term it “science” or “religion”.

    Nonsense.

    Evidence survives that is accessible to reasoned argument. No belief is required to accept BBT.

    OTOH, the various strands of creationism actively contradict certain aspects of reality as we find it.

    Present all arguments, and let the students choose to believe what they will.

    Why waste their time teaching them about the garbage that is creationism? What value does it add when they are in a science class?

    One can only hope that the teachers that are in these positions are open-minded enough not to push their own agenda, but at least the gates are open for those admirable few to do so.

    Not really. As has been pointed out, teaching ID / creationism as if it had some scientific validity would still be unconstitutional. What this bill does is more insidious – it allows teachers with a creationist agenda to teach any of the false criticisms of evolution as if they had genuine validity.

  102. Nigel Depledge

    Dan (48) said:

    Read the darn article, its a prohibition of a prohibition to critique.

    So what is its purpose, then?

    Where does there exist a prohibition to make a scientific criticism of a scientific theory in science classes?

    If you are correct – and not simply being hopelessly naive – then there is no need for this law even to exist, is there?

    In other words it an effort to allow skeptical criticism of “sciences” that some people don’t agree with.

    What sceptical criticism of sciences – appropriate to high-school level – do people not agree with?

    If you refer to the anti-evolution “arguments” proposed by (for example) ID proponents such as Mike Behe and BIll dembski, these were shown to be hogwash ten years ago. They are not sceptical, but instead are carefully formulated to serve a theocratic agenda.

    It isn’t a removal of science but the encouragement to understand it on a deeper level and to let the children know that if they don’t agree that there are alternatives.

    What the hell does that mean? What “alternatives” exist to humanity’s best understanding of how the universe functions?

    This is not a matter of choice. The evidence – combined with logical reasoning – drives the conclusion. If you don’t like the conclusion, tough luck. The universe is what it is, and no amount of wishful thinking will change it.

    And by the way evolution is still a theory and unproven at that.

    This clearly shows that you have not the slightest idea what you are talking about.

    It has no solid support and is riddled with intentional frauds for the justification of government money.

    So, what evidence would you ask for to accept ( for example) common descent (i.e. that all life on Earth is related)?

    If you’re interested in discussing it, I can specifically state what kind of evidence might be a genuine challenge to evolutionary theory. However, that evolution – change over time – has occurred among biological entities is an indistputable fact.

    People read read read! Don’t be sheep and swallow what you are told!!!

    Says the sheep who has swallowed what he has been told.

    Have you ever read On the Origin of Species? No, I didn’t think so.

    See if you can guess how much government grant money Charles Darwin was paid. (Here’s a hint : zilch).

  103. Nigel Depledge

    Chris the Canadian (51) said:

    creationism would die a fast and nasty death because there is little real evidence, outside of the bible, to support any of it.

    Wrong. There is no evidence at all to support creationism. The bible, being a human document (well, collection of documents really) is not evidence.

  104. Nigel Depledge

    Chris the Canadian (51) said:

    2, scientists would have a tough time trying to explain things like Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which also aren’t proven to exist but are treated as though they are real material things

    Fortunately, neither Dark Matter nor Dark Energy is likely to arise in a debate over biological evolution, since they have nothing to do with it.

  105. Nigel Depledge

    Bobby LaVesh (57) said:

    There are even some of them that look in horror at science being abused by the fundamentalists in the same way that we do.

    And the problem is that all too few of these people and organisations speak out against the fundamentalists’ lies.

  106. Nigel Depledge

    Ken Nixon (64) said:

    The way I’m reading it, is that it’s stopping those with authority from stopping teachers from helping the students understand, etc. evolution, etc.

    Yes, that is what it is meant to look like.

    But think – are there any schools where science teachers are prohibited from discussing the scientific strengths and weaknesses of a scientific theory in science classes?

    Frankly, I’d be surprised if there were.

    So, what is the purpose of this bill?

    To protect the artificial and deeply flawed critiques of evolution etc. that creationists come up with getting aired in a science class as if they had genuine scientific merit.

  107. Nigel Depledge

    Benji (76) said:

    I think creationism is just as viable and probable as evolution.

    OK, where’s the evidence that your particular favoured sky-wizard exists?

    I can look all around the world and see micro-evolution,

    What exactly do you mean by “micro-evolution”?

    but where is the hard data on macro-evolution.

    DNA.
    Protein structure.
    The fossil record.
    Comparative anatomy.
    Comparative biochemistry.
    Cladistics.
    Actual observations of speciation events.
    The action of the Hox gene family.
    Etc.

    Also, could you please expound – in detail – the proposed mechanism whereby minor changes are prevented from accumulating into major changes.

    I mean that is where the term missing link came from.

    What do you think “missing link” means?

    And how old do you think the term is?

    And do you not consider that new discoveries might just possibly have been made since then?

    I have no problem with anyone teaching evolution as a theory

    It is not only a theory. It is also a fact.

    , or creationism as a theory.

    Go on, then. What exactly is the “scientific theory” of creationism?

    What predictions does it make?

    What evidence might we look for that could contradict it?

    That is what both are until one of two things happens, a. someone actually finds the “missing Link” and can somehow prove we made the leap from primate to human

    I have news for you. Humans are primates.

    , or b. we die and find out if God really exists.

    And what use is that? How can anyone alive ever know?

    Science is full of theories, theories which constantly change.

    Have you ever considered how theories change? They change to asymptotically get our understanding closer to what the universe is telling us is true.

    Some theories – such as BBT or General Relativity (GR) – have known gaps, and researchers and theorists are actively seeking to find new evidence or new theories to account for these gaps, and modify the theory to make it in better accord with reality. However, these new theories must make a better job of explaining the universe than the old theories that they replace.

    Other theories – such as the germ theory of disease, gravity and evolution – are so firmly supported by a huge array of evidence that they are, except in the fine detail, accepted as true. No-one seriously expects any substantial change to these theories, even though new discoveries are forever honing the fine details.

    Once scientists thought the world was flat.

    Not really. By the time the term “scientist” existed, all educated people knew the world was spherical. Even the Ancient Greeks knew that the world is not flat (Google “Eratosthenes”).

    They once taught that it would be impossible to travel faster than the speed of sound, or that man would ever fly.

    So what?

    New discoveries proved those predictions wrong. In fact, it was scientists and engineers who did this.

    Just teach these things as theories, and don’t pick and choose the theory you like.

    Or, what you could do instead is to teach only science in science classes, yeah?

  108. Nigel Depledge

    @ The Black Cat (79) –

    Aw, man, you beat me to it!

  109. Nigel Depledge

    Zhivago (102) said:

    In Science everything must be object of understanding, analysis, critique and review. So why be against this bill?

    Are you being disingenuous or are you really that naive?

    For several reasons, the bill is insidious. And if you accept it purely at face value, it is completely pointless.

    1. Many science teachers already support the discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. AFAICT, no school or principal has ever tried to prohibit such discussions. Ergo, no legislation is needed to “protect” such discussion.
    2. Where there are areas of doubt and uncertainty in science, the most appropriate forum for discussions of that science is not high-school science classes, but the primary literature and academic conferences. In many cases, such discussions require a deep understanding of the state of the field as it currently exists. Bear in mind that much high-school science has – to some extent – been simplified to make it easier to grasp. Thus, the students and teachers will not have the requisite background knowledge to have a fruitful discussion. A good example of such simplification is the process of photosynthesis.
    3. The bill singles out climatology and evolution. Why do you suppose that is? Is it, perhaps, because these are areas of especial importance to high-school students? That is unlikely. The only common ground these two fields have is that there is a substantial movement in the US to deny the validity of these areas of science. Given (1) above, this is unlikely to be a coincidence.
    4. Both evolution and climatology have been subjected to extensive, coordinated campaigns of misinformation by those who would deny the validity of the science or gainsay its conclusions. Of all science, these two areas in particular are the target of a great many wrong, ill-thought-out, illogical and outright mendacious criticisms. Thus we see the real intent of the bill – to protect the ability of teachers to bring up these false criticisms in the classroom as if they had some scientific worth. In so doing, teachers following the denialist agenda would set back or cripple the nascent critical-thinking abilities of their students.

  110. Peter B

    SocksRocker @ #10 said: “I don’t know that creationism is true, but then again… you don’t *know* that the big bang is true either. Neither of us were there at the inception of the universe, so whatever is presented on this subject is a belief, whether you term it “science” or “religion”.”

    The logical consequence of the “you weren’t there” argument is that police can never claim to have solved a crime unless they were present at the commission of the crime. I don’t think many police would agree with that idea.

    In other words, not being present at an event doesn’t stop us from having a very good idea what happened at the event.

    “Present all arguments, and let the students choose to believe what they will.”

    I sort of suspect that isn’t the purpose of school. For example, I’d be very annoyed if the teachers at my kids’ school let the children choose to believe that it was okay to bully one particular kid in class. If teachers are going to “present all arguments, and let the students choose to believe what they will” then at the very least I expect them to also teach the children *how* to select from among a range of choices.

  111. Darth Robo

    — “students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory. Students should be encouraged to debate, to improve their critical thinking skills and to improve their communications skills.”

    Bo Watson, co sponsor of the new anti-evolution bill trying to justify himself.

    So uh, KIDS IN SCHOOLS with their VAST SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE should “CHALLENGE” current scientific consensus on evolutionary biology. They should be encouraged to spend time DEBATING the scientific validity of the science they are being taught in public school science classes, as surely filling up precious learning time with such will help them learn about science which they may ultimately end up rejecting anyway, though whether the reasons for that rejection be on solid scientific grounding could also be put up for *debate*.

    So when a student is asked on a biology test what is currently the best explanation for biodiversity on Earth, should they be penalized for not putting evolution down as the correct answer? Or should we allow alternative views to be expressed in the name of “ACADEMIC FREEDOM”, as every other school subject also caters for school students to decide what the correct answers are?

    Oh, wait a sec – that doesn’t happen.

    So why is evolution singled out as a theory with potential “substantial weaknesses”, despite it being the most well-supported theory in science, even more so than gravity? Won’t anyone take Intelligent Falling seriously as an alternative to materialistic theories of gravitation?

    If Intelligent Design/Creationism is not being promoted here, then what exactly ARE these “scientific weaknesses” of evolution they intend to “teach”? It would certainly make for VERY interesting reading if anyone were to put forth any such critiques that are not ultimately rooted in fundamentalist Creationism.

    But somehow I think it would make me bored to death. (shrug)

    The language of the bill is modified from an original proposal written by the Discovery Institute, a religious theocratic think tank based in Seattle whose goal is to replace the US Constitution with Biblical law, as noted in the Wedge Document. The bill is also supported by the Family Action Council of Tennessee, whose “BELIEF is that healthy families and communities come about when basic values from the Bible are embraced and upheld.” They also link to the American Family Association, a fundamentalist Christian organization which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Other links include to Answers In Genesis, and the ironically named Institute of Creation Research, anti-science creationist groups that claim the Earth is merely 6,000 years old (in line with their view of the Bible) contrary to what reality tells us.***

    However I wouldn’t worry too much about it, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

    ***Family Action Council of Tennessee does not necessarily approve of or endorse the content of these sites. (Uhuh)

    Of course should any of the proposed “critiques” of evolution (whatever they are) happen to be consistent with the VAST AMOUNT of religious apologetics pretending to be scrutiny of a “scientific” nature, it COULD end up leading to another evolution/Creationism court case, similar to the one in Dover seven years ago whereby the Creationists LOST, and costing the local school board the tiny sum of a frickin’ MILLION dollars.

    So far despite losing EVERY SINGLE court case since 1925 (in Tennessee) apparently hasn’t put some people off…

  112. Nigel Depledge

    @ Darth Robo (114) –

    Actually, Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution so the creationists kinda won that one. IIUC, his conviction acted as the spark that led to the repeal of a ludicrous and obviously unconstitutional law (that being the prohibition of the teaching of evolution in Tennessee).

  113. Darth Robo

    Yup, that’s why I said ‘since’.

    ;)

  114. Nigel Depledge

    @ Darth Robo –
    D’oh!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »