Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Anti-Science Bill Advances in Tennessee Legislature

Today hearings are scheduled on a bill to force teachers and curriculum creators in Tennessee to teach superstitions in science classes.

Knoxville Rep. Bill Dunn was very careful in presenting HB 368 so it hides the anti-science goals, but the result is clear - science classes must present science itself as controversial and the bill promotes a deep lack of understanding of what "scientific theory" means. As for who should help create these low standards - not scientists, of course - but administrators. The bill only defines as "controversial" a select set of areas: "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." And, as noted below, Rep. Dunn's legislation is the creation of evangelical Christians.

Rep. Dunn's aim of injecting politics into school science classes is a dangerous act. And his proposed new state law is a part of a nationwide effort to use the schoolroom as a political tool to promote political agendas. These bogus ideas are labeled "Academic Freedom" bills, which sounds nice, but really point to a desire to eliminate critical study and reject the history of scientific investigation, and the legislation is drafted by evangelical organizations:

... 'academic freedom' bills that are being introduced by state lawmakers around the country instruct educators to teach students about “both sides” of controversial issues—most notably on evolution. The Seattle-based, pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute is behind efforts to introduce many of these bills and has proposed sample legislation for lawmakers to follow.

Since the Louisiana bill was passed (making it the only state to have actually passed an academic freedom bill into law), proposed bills have included global warming and human cloning on the list of “controversial topics,” as they encourage “thinking critically” about the “relationships between explanations and evidence.”

More recently, in Kentucky, a bill was introduced in the Legislature that would encourage teachers to discuss “the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories,” including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Other troubling aspects of this dumbed-down educational law includes the following confusions for teachers:

"Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects."

Whose expectations? Those of the uneducated and misinformed? The really loud folks who think science is a colossal hoax?

Schools must also insure " ...respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues."

Respect for the scientific method, peer review, and the actual scientific meaning of the concepts of "theory" and "experimentation" .... well, let's just push that aside. Since new data and observations are made in most scientific fields of study as a result of the work of scientists, then, yes, concepts and theories are often revised. But it's a huge leap in thinking to claim that science is mostly mistaken guesswork and inherently controversial.

SEE ALSO: Bill O'Reilly does not understand science either, but he does a TV show and YouTube channel to share his nonsense.


  1. Here's an idea:

    Instead of getting all sensationalist and defensive about the proposal (I don't care about it one way or the other; never felt threatened by the presentation of alternative theories, but that's just me), why not attempt to refute it scientifically?

    It'd be a much more enjoyable read than this hyperpolitical spin that simply seeks to ridicule the beliefs of others.

    Brian Paone
    Knoxville TN

  2. Thanks Brian -- though i wonder why is it your name links to some online advertising?

    I think I make it clear that there is no scientific goal or understanding of what science is in this bill. All the political spin is coming from Rep. Dunn and his sources - when it comes to education, the politics is injected by them.

    If you see scientific study as a ridicule of religious beliefs, that is your problem.

  3. Sensationalist? Defensive? What? If we believe in science, we must not believe in god? How about we keep personal beliefs in god or whatever faith - out of the legislative arena. Period. Let schools do what they do - teach science - and churches do what they do best - teach religion. And here's an idea: teach critical thinking and let folks decide for themselves. What I do feel defensive about is freedom of/from religion and separation of church and state. Thank you.

  4. JDinTN1:14 PM

    Mr. Galileo, perhaps you would reconsider your "theory" after a little tour of our basement.

    And here we are, almost 400 years later ...