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The Tennessee General Assembly overwhelming passed Bill 368 yesterday (April 7), stating:

Teachers, Principals and School Personnel – As introduced, protects a teacher from discipline for teaching scientific subjects in an objective manner.

At first blush, it sounds reasonable. Is it?

From ScienceInsider:

In addition to AAAS {American Association for the Advancement of Science}, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have expressed their opposition to the bill.

“There has been a widespread pattern of discrimination against educators who would challenge evolution in the classroom,” Casey Luskin, a policy analyst for the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute, in Seattle, Washington, told ScienceInsider. “Schools censor from students the evidence against evolution. This protects the rights of teachers to teach in an objective way.” The Discovery Institute supports the bill and others like it in other states.

You can read the Bill here. Here’s an excerpt:

(2) The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to,
biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human
cloning, can cause controversy; and

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

(b) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school
governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public
elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create
an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages
students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical
thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about
controversial issues.

Are these policies makers confusing science with ideas founded in religious faith?

Dr. Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer of AAAS, wrote a letter to Tennessee Representatives DeBarry and Naifeh of the House Education Subcommittee that articulates the potential harm to science education if this Bill becomes state law: {my emphasis shown in bold}

Dear Representatives DeBerry and Naifeh:

On behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, I am writing to provide input on the scientific questions raised by HB 368. There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution. Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.

The core principles concerning both evolution and global warming have been subjected to substantial scientific scrutiny. They have been tested and retested for decades, and their scientific merits have been consistently reinforced. Assertions to the contrary are incompatible with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.
The science of evolution underpins all of modern biology and is supported by tens of thousands of scientific studies in fields that include cosmology, geology, paleontology, genetics and other biological specialties. The concept of evolution informs scientific research in a broad range of fields, including both agriculture and medicine, which significantly affect our everyday lives.

Scientific observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence. Indeed, our understanding of the greenhouse effect goes back more than a century.

HB 368 states that students should be taught to think critically, but such thinking is already inherent in the way science is taught. To truly benefit the students of Tennessee, teachers must present the best peer-reviewed research; only in this way will students gain the strong understanding of science necessary to compete for high-skill jobs in an increasingly high-tech world economy.

We encourage you to continue to support a rigorous scientific education curriculum in Tennessee schocls by rejecting HB 368. Founded in 1848, AAAS has a longstanding interest and expertise in science education. We stand ready to assist you.

Comments

  1. #1 trog69
    April 10, 2011

    While the bill itself is not surprising, the overwhelming support for it by these representatives is very discouraging.

    Fundamentalism might be on it’s way to extinction, but by God!, it’s taking the rest of us with it.

  2. #2 leebowman
    April 11, 2011

    As always, I call ‘em as I see ‘em. This bill, as many others like it, is to allow open discourse within science classes where in the past, ‘political’ based restraints have been placed. Though global warming and other environmental topics are mentioned as unsettled issues that will be open for a more nuanced and open discussion than before, obviously the targeted ones are creationism and intelligent design. In reality, however, ID will likely be on the table, but NOT creationism, as the latter is religion based, and not allowable under Constitutional Law.

    Furthermore, and contra to other predictions, I predict that it will do nothing to allow religion into the classroom, due to restraints already in place. But from widespread resistance form the scientific community, in particular from regulatory and politically based organizations ( AAAS, NAS,NCSE, ACLU) , and of the plethora of largely repetitious hysteria spewed in the popular press and on blogs, it would appear otherwise. Whether a return to flat-earthism, astrology and other pseudo-scientific disciplines, or of the Genesis account being taught along with all other religions, there seems to be a general consensus that science will take a turn for the worst.

    But it’s fine to object. The objections have some merit, in my opinion, where plainly bogus science topics are brought up as exclusionary from science study. But will this occur? In my experience, there is always somebody in a classroom who likes to rock the boat, and my in fact foist nonsensical questions, actually diversions from legitimate subject matter, and thus constitute disruptions. I might even conjecture that subsequent to this Bill’s final passage, there may be a few here and there who are ‘put-up’ to this, as a means to discredit the bill, and get it repealed. Any volunteers?

    What then will then constitute valid topical perusals? The question of course is where to draw the line. The extent to which ID would be discussed would be the relevancy of various design inferences, statistical probabilities, and arguments for and against their efficacy as non-naturally occurring. By constitutional law and recent court case however, NO religious dogmatic contentions could be mentioned. No “If ID, then God.” That said, there is absolutely no reason to exclude a teleological inference, merely because if valid it might have implications.

    To conclude, the correlation of design inferences with dogmatic (promulgated) religious views is nonsense. While there may be implications that ID points to a religious acceptance, it could NEVER be considered for study in a science class, due to the aforementioned constraints, that if violated would surely lead to administration action to quell, and baring that, legal action. This ultimately begs the question:

    Where’s the beef? Or to put it more succinctly, just what IS the beef?

  3. #3 dean
    April 11, 2011

    “In reality, however, ID will likely be on the table, but NOT creationism, as the latter is religion based, and not allowable under Constitutional Law.”

    There is no difference between ID and creationism. How did you miss that?

  4. #4 leebowman
    April 11, 2011

    “There is no difference between ID and creationism. How did you miss that?”

    Politically speaking, agreed. But let’s discuss what each purports to constitute by definition. First ‘Creationism’ by Dictionary.com

    1/ the doctrine that matter and all things were created, substantially as they now exist, by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed.

    2/ ( sometimes initial capital letter ) the doctrine that the true story of the creation of the universe is as it is recounted in the Bible, especially in the first chapter of Genesis

    3/ the doctrine that god immediately creates out of nothing a new human soul for each individual born.

    And the American Heritage definition:

    The position that the account of the creation of the universe given at the beginning of the Bible is literally true.

    Now Intelligent Design as defined by DI at intelligentdesign.org:

    1/ Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature.

    2/ The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

    And my narrower definition of ID, which is based on empirically based evidence:

    An alternate or adjunct hypothesis of the current NDE theory, based on IC, NEC (non-evolvable complexity), synergies and symmetries, to facilitate speciation events.

    IC and NEC refer to evolvability by unguided means.

    Speciation refers to radical body plan revisions, and not to allopatric, sympatric, parapatric, peripatric, hybridization or polyploidization.

    So yes, by Barbara Forrest’s definition, by Judge Jones (Kitzmiller v Dover, 2005), and by your definition they are the same. But based on more germane (correct) definitions, they are not.

  5. #5 dean
    April 11, 2011

    “But based on more germane (correct) definitions, they are not.”

    Not even close to true – you flatter yourself too much.
    There is no scientific evidence to support ID. We know its originators effectively erase “creationism” and “creator” from their documents and replaced them with ‘intelligent design terminology. There is no substance to the notion of design complexity – there isn’t even a good definition of it. All we have is a PR move to sneak creationism – bad theology – into the classroom. Meaningless word games don’t change that.

  6. #6 leebowman
    April 11, 2011

    “We know its originators effectively erase “creationism” and “creator” from their documents and replaced them with ‘intelligent design terminology.”

    Some do, but in principle, you are referring to Creationists who co-opt ID as what they feel to be a more acceptable descriptor of their theology, and in particular, to the publisher of ‘Panda’s and People’ subsequent to the McLean v Arkansas ruling that ‘creation science’ could not be granted equal time with ‘evolution science’.

    ID does not claim to be ‘creation science’, but rather the investigative perusal of design inferences. The mere fact that the Dover school board chose that publication to impose upon the District science curriculum is a reflection of their action, not of the Discovery Institute. But it’s a moot issue, since unlike Creationist precepts, ID is not scripturally based, but predicated purely upon the empirically based, and scientifically motivated study of statistically verifiable (or falsifiable) design inferences.

    Am I getting through to you yet?

  7. #7 Piltdown man
    April 15, 2011

    Evolution is NOT science! It is science fiction!

    Now, let’s hope states start introducing bills in similar nature that tells students they do not have to listen to the globa warming/wealth redistribution scam.

    Oh. by the way, that sure is an ugly picture of PZ Myers you got there. I guess that’s what you look like when you FORNICATE TOO MANY POLLS!

  8. #8 Rincdum Dincdum Dilly Lee
    April 15, 2011

    If i am not mistaken this picture looks alot like some of the protestors in Wisconsin. I think he is an SEIU leader. Maybe he is the leader of the liberals.

  9. #9 dean
    April 18, 2011

    “ID does not claim to be ‘creation science’, but rather the investigative perusal of design inferences.”

    a) You repeatedly deny that there is no difference between the two: it’s not obvious whether you believe that to be the case even though it isn’t, or that you are merely repeating the party line on the matter
    b) “but predicated purely upon the empirically based, and scientifically motivated study of statistically verifiable (or falsifiable) design inferences.”
    No, it isn’t: there is not a bit of science that comes from ID, nor is the notion of complexity well defined mathematically or scientifically.
    c) “Am I getting through to you yet?”
    Yes – you have no business being in a science classroom.

  10. #10 MacTurk
    April 19, 2011

    I find it interesting that the people who passed this bill are perfectly okay with the idea of wasting Tennessee taxpayers’ money.

    They must know that this bill will be challenged in the Tennessee court system, where it should be declared unconstitutional. If it is not, then the decision will be appealed to the Federal court system, where it will definitely be declared unconstitutional. To those who stil think differently, try reading the Dover court judgement.

    The only people who will benefit from this will be the legal firms. This is just another stupid, money-wasting attempt to insert religion into science classes, where it has no business.

    leebowman(no 6), there is no such thing as ‘evolution science'(inverted commas yours). There is the Theory of Evolution, which underpins Biology, which is a science. In the same way, there is the Theory of Plate Tectonics, which underpins Geology, which is a science.

    To quote your silly self, “Am I getting through to you yet?”

  11. #11 Pierce R. Butler
    April 19, 2011

    Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.

    (Ahem!) Dr. Leshner, from the point of view of the Tennessee Teabaggers, that’s a feature, not a bug.

  12. #12 Captain patriot
    April 27, 2011

    “The only people who will benefit from this will be the legal firms. This is just another stupid, money-wasting attempt to insert religion into science classes, where it has no business. ”

    Socialism also has no business in class, but yet, there it is.

    Many secualr oppressives do not realize that the Holy Bible was actually used as a textbook before the United states was formed. many schoolchildren learned to read by using the Bible in classrooms. The mistake that was made was the court allowing the American Communist Lovers Union to take God out of the schools. Instead we should have taken liberals out of the schools. We would be much better off.

  13. #13 oCala rEaL eSTate
    April 29, 2011

    I’m not commenting on the bill…but young minds should be allowed to see the opposing view to the “theory” of evolution which, by the way has yet to be substantiated by fossil records as Darwin initially hoped said it would. The opposing view is the thought that in a universe who’s entrophy laws would naturally result in mass disorder there is unimaginable order in every corner of our realm from the microscopic to the macroscopic. Where there is order or organization there is by default an organizer-that’s logical at least to me. I

  14. #14 supratall
    May 1, 2011

    The only people who will benefit from this will be the legal firms. This is just another stupid, money-wasting attempt to insert religion into science classes, where it has no business.

  15. #15 MacTurk
    May 3, 2011

    Captain patriot(no 12) wrote “Socialism also has no business in class, but yet, there it is”.

    First, what does this stupid statement have to do with anything I wrote? Or the issue being discussed?

    Second, any evidence for this fatuity?

    oCala rEaL eSTate(no 13)wrote “I’m not commenting on the bill…but young minds should be allowed to see the opposing view to the “theory” of evolution…”.

    Which opposing view? The Old Norse creation myth? The Median? The Babylonian? The Graeco-Roman? The Celtic? Which other “My favourite sky god’s shit became the universe” fairy tale would you like to teach in “science class”?

    Oh sorry, obviously there is only ONE opposing view in your 2-dimensional universe. Stupid xter.

    Hint; Science involves testable, and tested, EVIDENCE. Otherwise, it is NOT science. This is why your silly fairy story for credulous and frightened idiots has no place in any real SCIENCE CLASS. Keep it in Church/mosque/Synagogue/Temple/Gurdwara and/or Literature class.

    My children, and their minds, will be kept well away from the baleful influence of idiots like you. Thankfully, I live in Europe.

    And if you are not commenting on the bill, then you are complicit in what seems to be the on-going death of the American mind.

  16. #16 gerona48
    March 21, 2012

    @captain patriot #12: First, the Bible was used as a text book because there were very few other books at that time. Are you seriously saying that education should revert to the methods used in the 16th and 17th centuries? Second, I am completely confused by your statement, “Socialism also has no business in class, but yet, there it is.” It is a non-sequitor and, while arguable, I don’t understand what it is doing in this discussion. Hmmm…..taking God out of the schools….the last I knew, this country was founded to protect the beliefs of all, not just those following European Christian orthodoxy.

  17. #17 Jen L
    March 29, 2012

    Let’s just imagine for a moment that the Jewish and Christian God is real, and that he created the earth and everything in it. If this is true, then wouldn’t the study of this truth be science?

    By saying that you want to keep a logical, fact-finding study including Intelligent Design/creation out of schools, are you denying the possibility of a God? Because it seems to me that you are either saying you have proven that there is no God or that you do not care about the truth if it involves him. Which of these positions do you hold?

  18. #18 Ken
    March 29, 2012

    As a resident of Tn I rise in frustration as I read the artical and the reactions. I resent having one thin dime of my tax dollars being wasted on this infinite attempt to overthrow science in an attempt to replace it with the bible. yes, federal court has found, on the evidence , that ID is in fact creationsism and thinly disguised at that. Why the dishonest fact fudging on the part of TN legislators? money. religion is big business here in TN. We’re affected by the attitudes of the church ladies every day in every way. But with a large influx of new residents things are slowly changing for the better. but that means that all those collection plate deposits are going to be reducing and the church ladies are in a panic. Lots of that money goes into campaign contributions and there you have the answer. Less money to the churches, less power to the church ladies. Fewer contributions to the legislators who are voting for the status quo. It’s corruption on a vast level. But the WWW has been allowing information to leak into TN and the good people of TN are becomming more educated about the natural and actual world and how it actually works. The bibilists will cling to the habit of presenting non facts as facts and facts as non facts. Up is down to these brain launderers. They have no intention of doing anything else and will continue to limit information to the citizens of TN so they can be more easily manipulated, as is the habit here. But here’s a fact I don’t think they can twist. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. the light we can see from the furthest stars we can see now takes nearly 14 billion years to reach Earth. Since the bible shows that people 2000 years ago thought that the age of the Earth and everything else is about 6000 years BP, it’s clear that the bible is wrong. Gensis is wrong. A myth. Fantasy. A power move at the time to control the people by combining religions so as to reconcentrate power for the Roman Empire and allow for continued imperial conquest of the entire world one way or another including endless war against all who oppose the insanity. So, no religion based in the Vatican or it’s descendents will ever willingly give up it’s power or agree with science if it disagrees with the accounts of the bible. it’s all about power and wealth and those with it aren’t going to give it up. They’ll continue to lie and cheat and kill those that seek and insist on the knowledge that science brings. the religious accept the bounty science has provided and that we all use gratefully, but science can’t tell the true age of the Earth? What a pant load. Ken

  19. #19 toothful
    March 31, 2012

    hey y’all,

    those of you opposed to this bill which supports academic freedom and the right of our children to be taught HOW to think and not WHAT to think, and which allows them to reach their OWN intelligent conclusions by viewing all evidences of various subjects both pro and con, here’s a question for you.

    please explain SETI science apart from ID science.

    low probability + specific objective pattern = intelligence ->(yielding) information X(by) design

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