Tennessee's Anti-evolution Bill HB 368 Advances

Views: 41

Comment by Sassan K. on April 5, 2011 at 2:44am

What an embarrassment to the state of Tennessee and to our country as a whole.

Comment by Reggie on April 5, 2011 at 6:53am
Evolution is not scientifically controversial! GAAAAHHHH! These people are idiots!
Comment by Robert Karp on April 5, 2011 at 10:40am
What''s the anti-evolution part of the bill?
Comment by Morgan Matthew on April 5, 2011 at 11:52am
Featured.
Comment by Ryan E. Hoffman on April 5, 2011 at 11:57am
Watched this. Very upsetting to see people this stupid running government on any level.
Comment by Joli on April 5, 2011 at 12:15pm
This is Crap!
Comment by Greg Gorey on April 5, 2011 at 12:46pm

Patrick,

 

The NCSE is watching this case already and if it advances futher, they and the ACLU are going to sue the shit out of them.

Comment by Ryan E. Hoffman on April 5, 2011 at 1:55pm
That's good news, Greg. Hope it doesn't have to come to that, but you never know.
Comment by Greg Gorey on April 5, 2011 at 2:23pm
I actually learned about this from the NCSE website. :)
Comment by Ron V on April 5, 2011 at 10:36pm

For TN citizens, please contact your reps.

Here's what I wrote to my TN reps:

 

I am writing concerning HB 368 and SB 893.    
 

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, is amended by adding the following as a new, appropriately designated section:
(a) The general assembly finds that:
(1) An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens;
(2) The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy; and
(3) Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.
(b) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.
- 2 - 00242666
(c) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
(d) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
(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.
SECTION 2. By no later than the start of the 2011-2012 school term, the department of education shall notify all directors of schools of the provisions of this act. Each director shall notify all employees within the director's school system of the provisions of this act.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.
 

 

I am concerned about the true motives behind, and implications of, these bills.  
 

If science teachers are "unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on" biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, then, in my opinion, they are probably not fit to teach science.  This legislation does not address that fundamental issue.
 

And what are the limits, if any, referred to in 3 d?  These bills appear to be modeled after legislation drafted by the Discovery Institute which has long promoted the introduction of ID and creationism in the science classroom.  Is "Intelligent Design" (ID) to be permitted in public school science classrooms?  Is "creationism" to be permitted in public school science classrooms?  These are philosophical and religious issues, not science.  As a professional familiar with the scientific method and evolutionary biology, as well as "Intelligent Design," I believe I am qualified to speak to this matter (by contrast, I imagine those proposing this bill have a cursory, if any, understanding of science, Intelligent Design, evolution, and/or natural selection)(refer to http://asheducationbook.hematologylibrary.org/cgi/reprint/2009/1/3 for an article directly related to my specialty and evolutionary biology).

If, as I suspect, these bills allow "Intelligent Design" to be taught in public schools as science, I (and many others within the scientific community) believe doing so will serve to blurr the distinction between science and pseudo-science in young students' minds.  Intelligent Design is not science and should not be taught as such (refer to Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District or Lexus/WestLaw for the opinion, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method, http://www.experiment-resources.com/testability.html, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/cosmo.html).  Intelligent Design can, and probably should, be taught in courses on philosophy or courses on science and religion, but it should not be taught as if it were science - it is by no means accepted by any scientifically advanced nation or any scientific organization I know of as "science" (refer to AAAS statement http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml for their position).  And, for those teachers who are unsure of how to teach biological evolution, there are many resources available (refer to http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/images_Doser/Publications/evol_dialogue_study_guide.pdf as one of many).
 

Unlike Intelligent Design, global warming is within the realm of the scientific method and it seems to me it should not be that difficult to teach children the evidence for, or lack of evidence for, global warming as well as criticism of global warming from a scientific perspective.  There are excellent papers addressing global warming and the potential problems with the causes of, and the future of, global warming (refer to http://www.skeptic.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/v14n01resources/climate_of_belief.pdf as one such article).  With respect to human cloning, the science and the issues related to cloning are fairly well defined and should be fairly easy to present to students as well.
 

The science topics listed in, "but not limited to," these bills should be easily handled by any competent science teacher.  This legislation purports to protect teachers' "academic freedom" when discussing (but not limited to) evolution, but these bills' would invite pseudo-science, and who knows what else, into the science classroom, likely by the least competent science teachers.
 

"To help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens" we need to hire competent teachers who understand science, not allow them to teach pseudo-science or philosophy as if it were science.  Please expose these bills for what they really are and vote against them.
 

Thanks for your time.
 

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