Lebo: Using ‘Academic Freedom’ to Keep God in the Science Classroom
Some LGF readers have been asking, “Hey, why are you opposed to these ‘academic freedom’ bills? Do you hate academic freedom? What’s wrong with teaching kids all sides of the evolution controversy?”
Before continuing, this needs to be said: there is no “evolution controversy,” except the bogus one ginned up by dishonest organizations like the Discovery Institute and “Answers in Genesis.” The scientific theory of evolution has been analyzed, discussed, investigated, tested, and debated for 150 years, and in all that time not a single challenge has proven the theory wrong. On the contrary, evolution is now the basis of many branches of inquiry, resulting in scientific and medical breakthroughs that would have seemed like magic only a few decades ago. Darwin’s theory has proven itself in the very harshest of public arenas — the arena of science, in which, if you get something wrong, hundreds (if not thousands) of your peers are ready to pounce on your mistakes, falsify your data, ruin your career and advance their own. “Survival of the fittest theory,” if you will. It’s a peer-reviewed jungle out there.
Having said that, in June of 2008 Laurie Lebo wrote an excellent piece for the Washington Spectator that clearly delineates the motives and deceptive practices of the groups that are promoting these “academic freedom” bills now pending (or already passed) in many states: Using Academic Freedom to Keep God in the Science Classroom.
Last fall the Discovery Institute and Motive Marketing, the publicists for the Ben Stein movie, launched a joint-venture website that promotes “academic freedom” bills and provides suggested wording for legislators. With minor revisions, the wording of the state bills introduced thus far closely follows the website’s model legislation.
Stein, most famous for his role as the uninspiring teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, has been lending his Hollywood celebrity status to the effort. Accompanied by Discovery Institute members, Stein has held press conferences and hosted private screenings of Expelled for lawmakers in Florida and Missouri.
Casey Luskin, an organizer for the Academic Freedom Petition, declined to be interviewed, but he said in an e-mail that the Discovery Institute has been promoting the academic freedom argument since at least 2002.
Forrest said creationists have been using the phrase for far longer. The term academic freedom, in this context, is code for teaching creationism. It first appeared in the creationism debate in 1981 in Louisiana’s Balanced Treatment Act. The act was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision. “On the first page of that decision,” Forrest noted, “the Supreme Court said it did not buy the academic freedom argument.”
The decision reads: “The Act does not further its stated secular purpose of ‘protecting academic freedom.’ It does not enhance the freedom of teachers to teach what they choose and fails to further the goal of ‘teaching all of the evidence.’”
KILLING SCIENCE—The Discovery Institute’s John West told FoxNews.com that the bills do not even mention intelligent design. He said they merely encourage discussion, not outright teaching, of the concept. “We oppose intelligent design mandates,” West said.
West says that the Dicsovery Institute merely wants to see evolutionary theory taught more fully—what creationists say are its strengths and weaknesses. But as their past actions indicate, they want to pry open the door for sympathetic teachers to teach intelligent design and creationism.
While West and the Discovery Institute stress that religious instruction isn’t included in their long-term goals, the sponsors of the bills in the statehouses aren’t always as careful at hiding their agenda. In Louisiana, for example, the lead sponsor of the legislation, Senator Ben Nevers, has been working closely with the Louisiana Family Forum, an organization with a history of attacking the teaching of evolution in the public schools.
“The Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill,” Nevers told the Hammond Daily Star. “They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory.” Despite the calculated effort to avoid the term, “creationism” always finds its way back into the debate. Yet creationism, shut out of the public schools since 1987, is not what this new movement says it’s selling.
The people pushing these “academic freedom” bills do not simply want to teach pseudo-science to their children; you can be sure that they’re already doing that. The purpose of these bills is to teach disguised creationism to everyone’s children.