Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gov. Haslam Allows Anti-Science Bill to Become Law

Gov. Haslam took the stand of not taking a stand on science education in Tennessee and has allowed a new law to go into effect which devalues science, education and apparently, the role of Tennessee's governor in the state's politics.

Here's his press release on the new law:

"NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on HB 368/SB 893:

“I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have been raised by the bill. I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.

“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will allow it to become law without my signature.”

So he won't defend science, he won't demand the legislature be more accurate, he won't fight for the highest levels of educational achievement. He just gave up on all of it.

Just over one year ago, Lt. Gov Ron Ramsey, clearly told Tennesseans that he's running the state and that he was "focused like a laser on the economy and education". True to his word, this one new law alone will stand as proof that our state is behind economically and educationally. (As for the science which allowed for the creation of "lasers", the Lt. Governor is silent.)

"There are things that are possible, and maybe that’s what’s alarming you,” he told his critics during one subcommittee meeting. “There are things that are probable. It is possible that Elvis Presley is alive. It’s not very probable.”  

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey blames criticism of the legislature on the news media, which he says focuses on the weird and controversial."

That's the same ''blame the media" nonsense Gov. Haslam continues to use to avoid the consequences of his actions and in-actions.  

It is inevitable now that some Tennessee school system will have to fight in court over this law - an expensive battle which is likely to find the law at fault. It's happened quite recently -

"A useful reference work would be a 2005 decision by a federal judge in Pennsylvania striking down a school board policy requiring that students be made aware of "gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design." In that case, Judge John E. Jones concluded that intelligent design and teaching about "gaps" and "problems" in evolutionary theory are "creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism."

Religious motives aside, the Tennessee bill reflects the view that there is a significant scientific controversy about the basic accuracy of Darwinian theory. There isn't. But what of the "dissenting scientific views" the Discovery Institute cites? It is true that a tiny minority of scientists embrace some version of creationism or intelligent design (an even smaller cohort than the minority of scientists who question human contribution to global warming). There's nothing wrong with a biology teacher acknowledging that fact as long as she makes it clear that evolutionary theory is the linchpin of the biological sciences, including medicine. It isn't censoring a point of view to inform students that it is subscribed to by a tiny fringe.

Like such measures in other states, the Tennessee bill contains beguiling language about the importance of helping students to develop critical thinking skills. That is a vital part of education, especially in the more interactive atmosphere of a high school (though it is often opposed by religious conservatives who decry "relativism" in the classroom). But even in high school, and especially in science class, teachers have an obligation to the truth. The truth in this case, discomfiting as it may be to some Tennesseans, is that evolution is not "just a theory."


  1. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  2. It's revealing how defensive evolutionists are to critical thinking. Is the faith in their theory so shaky that it can't withstand scrutiny?

  3. It's revealing this law did not originate from teachers, schools, or scientists. It's the product of religious organizations and their political allies.

  4. Lesie5:22 PM

    Science offers us constant scrutiny in the form of new facts and ideas. In religion, consider how much we have learned about the Dead Sea Scrolls and then from their translation, the ancient civilizations. Personally, I find it shocking that faith based entities choose to ignore these documents. Could it be because they seem to offer contradictions to the Bible? Yet, surely the Scrolls are worthy of consideration in a faith based life, Christian or not.

    And yes, science does allow for contradictions constantly - ergo, the evolution of scientific study.

  5. Anonymous8:40 AM

    This current issue stems from the failure of schools to teach critical thinking skills for decades - otherwise, we wouldn't have these morons in the legislature.
    Intelligent design can work harmoniously with evolution. (Read to the end before you get up-in-arms.) Let's say a new mutation occurs that isn't what the Creator had in mind. (Of course, an omnipotent Creator could make sure that never happened.) But let's say it happened. Fine. Sudden volcanic eruption, mutated individual terminated before reproducing.

    The issue is, this is not a testable hypothesis. We have no tools that would allow us to reach into the past and find such animals removed from the gene pool through extraordinary or even ordinary methods because God directed it to be so. Not saying it didn't happen. Just not part of the discipline of science.

    If you take a math test, and you turn in for your answer the most beautiful drawing ever of Rene Descartes, you should still fail. But not as much as the legislature and governor of Tennessee.

  6. It just makes me sad. I have a niece and nephew coming through the public schools in Tennessee, and I want better than this nonsense for them.