Tennessee set to roll back quality of science education (Update: Law enacted)

Activists cry foul as Tenn. science education bill hits governor’s desk

Activists were waging a last-minute battle Thursday to scuttle a bill that they say would gut science education in Tennessee by allowing public schools to cast doubt on widely-accepted scientific principles, including biological evolution and climate change.

“What it does is bring the political controversy into the classroom, where there is no scientific controversy,” said Larisa DeSantis, who teaches in the Department of Earth and Environment at Vanderbilt University. “It’s scary, as a parent and as an educator.”

DeSantis spoke to msnbc.com from the office building of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam just before delivering a petition signed by more than 4,000 citizens calling on him to veto HB368. The bill easily passed the state Legislature and now awaits the governor’s signature to become law. Haslam has indicated he would probaby sign the legislation.

Source: MSNBC and @NCSE on Twitter

Hedy Weinberg is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. Hedy Weinberg: Gov. Bill Haslam should veto ‘Monkey Bill’ » Knoxville News Sentinel.

Tennessee is dangerously close to enacting a law that would gut science education in public schools. The “Monkey Bill” sailed through the Legislature and is now on Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk awaiting his review. The bill is adapted from a template offered by the conservative, Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design. As a force for moderation, Haslam should veto this legislation.

To pass such a bill is to make Tennessee a laughing stock of the world, just as Kansas was with an education bill that appeared anti-evolution.

Also, they could be aiming for heaps of legal trouble down the road.

Why do this? Just to look good for some constituents? That’s tremendously selfish and short sighted. Shame on you Tennessee.


UPDATE: (10-Apr-2012) This bill has been enacted though the Governor did not sign it (or veto it). Yeah, why look responsible for something so stupid. Bit cowardly, I’d say.

Probably contributing to Haslam’s unwillingness to sign the bill were the protests from state and national civil liberties, educational, and scientific groups, the editorials against the bill from the state’s major newspapers, and the petition effort organized by Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University, which garnered thousands of signatures calling for a veto of HB 368.

  2 comments for “Tennessee set to roll back quality of science education (Update: Law enacted)

  1. labman57
    April 7, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    There will be a day when Western civilization will look back and regard the Religious Right’s opposition to “evolution by natural selection” as absurd as the Church’s denial of the existence of atoms, or the vacuum, or the sun as the center of the solar system in past centuries.

    Evolution is a verifiable fact. It is the mechanism through which it occurs — natural selection — that comprises the theory.

    People who do not understand how science works seem to think that a “theory” is somehow lacking in power and validity. Scientific theories are our best explanation for an event or phenomenon based on the available evidence, i.e., a theory tells us HOW it happens. Theories have generally been subjected to rigorous testing and represent the consensus of the scientific community, whereas a hypothesis is a possible explanation for a specific observation and has not necessarily been extensively tested.

    Calling something a theory does not cheapen or weaken it. On the contrary, the term “theory” gives it legitimacy as something that is scientifically testable and that has been rigorously examined either mathematically or empirically to the point that the available evidence overwhelming supports it.

    Quantum mechanics, special and general relativity, molecular kinetics — all THEORIES!

    Theories are based on the best empirical EVIDENCE available, not PROOF. There is an incredible wealth of evidence — both geological and biochemical — to support evolution by natural selection.

    Creationism and ID are faith-based concepts. Their “evidence” consists of the allegories provided in the Bible, nothing more.

    I actually have no problem with the idea of discussing the merits of Creationism or ID in the public school classroom. It would make a fine topic for discussion or debate in a social studies course on Religions in Society. But this topic has no business in a biology classroom, since science is based on verifiable evidence along with empirically and mathematically testable hypotheses, whereas religious beliefs are by definition faith-based.

  2. April 10, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    I’m the co-organizer of a panel on pseudoarchaeology at the Society for American Archaeology meetings.

    Meeting next week.

    In Tennessee.

    This should be fun/depressing.

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