GOP Tennessee Governor Haslam to Sign Anti-Evolution Bill
Meanwhile in Tennessee, Republican Governor Bill Haslam has announced that he’ll “probably” sign a right wing bill protecting teachers who tell their students that evolution and global warming are not real: Anti-Evolution ‘Monkey Bill’ Poised to Become Law in Tennessee.
Although the bill is written to seem benign, as it neither specifically authorizes the teaching of creationism nor permits teachers to do more than criticize scientific theories “in an objective matter,” the practical impact of this bill will be to intimidate all but the heartiest of school administrators against disciplining teachers who preach the most outlandish junk science in their classrooms. Because the bill provides little guidance as to what constitutes an “objective” criticism of a scientific theory, any principal who reigns in teachers who force creationism or Pastafarianism upon their students risks finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
In reality, of course, there are few, if any, “objectively” valid objections to the theory of evolution (or, for that matter, to global warming). Rather, as Travis Waldron explained when this bill passed a legislative committee nearly a year ago, “Scientists have reached a consensus that evolution is ‘one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science,’ and as such, it is ‘a core element in science education.’”
This is the modern Republican Party in the 21st century, folks — anti-science religious fanatics, continually trying to sneak their Dark Ages atavism into public schools and force it on everyone’s children. And in the Tea Party era, they’re actually succeeding, in the states that can least afford to be teaching ignorance.
And imagine my surprise that the deceptive anti-evolution “think tank” the Discovery Institute is behind this initiative, as they are with most of these bogus “academic freedom” laws: Tennessee’s Attack on the Teaching of Evolution.
Among its more dubious claims to fame, Tennessee was the site of the 1925 “Monkey Trial,” in which John Scopes was convicted of violating a state law against teaching that “man has descended from a lower order of animals.” Eighty-seven years later, the Tennessee Legislature is itching for an encore. It has sent to Gov. Bill Haslam a bill governing the teaching of “scientific subjects that may cause debate and disputation,” including evolution and global warming. The legislation says teachers cannot be prohibited from “helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”
The governor should heed the plea of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and veto the bill. And similar laws in nine other states should be repealed.
Unlike the Butler Act under which Scopes was prosecuted, the bill does not require that the creation story in Genesis be taught as science. In fact, it states that the legislation “shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.” The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which provides state lawmakers with a model for such “academic freedom” laws, says this is proof that the bill isn’t designed to further religion. Critics, the institute says, are “putting up a smoke screen to divert attention from their goal to censor dissenting scientific views.”