Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Tennessee and Evolution – Again

Two readers from Tennessee emailed me this story about a state senator there launching a rather odd crusade to get creationism into public schools.

Sen. Raymond Finney proposes to use the legislative process to get an answer to the question of whether the universe was created by a “Supreme Being.”

Under Senate Resolution 17, introduced by the Maryville Republican, the answer would come from state Education Commissioner Lana Seivers “in report form” no later than Jan. 15, 2008.

Finney, a retired physician, said Monday that his objective is to formally prod the Department of Education into a dialogue about the teaching of evolution in school science classes without also teaching the alternative of “creationism,” or “intelligent design.”

A very strange way of trying to start such a discussion. Like most creationists, he uses the label “evolution” for virtually all of modern science and thinks that it has something to do with the origin of the universe. The education commissioner’s answer seems rather easy to me: “I don’t know, nor does it matter for the purposes of public school science classrooms.” Public school science classrooms do not speculate on such questions either way, nor should they.

It’s not surprising that Finney is confused about these issues given the ignorance he expresses on the subject of evolution:

Finney said there is no doubt in his own mind that everything in the universe, including human beings, was created by a Supreme Being.

“There has never been any proof offered that Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct,” he said.

Yet another medical doctor who knows little about science and less about evolution. And he apparently delights in playing idiotic legislative games:

As the resolution is written, if Seivers does answer no to the first question – stating that the universe was not created by a Supreme Being – she would be offered “the General Assembly’s admiration for being able to decide conclusively a question that has long perplexed and occupied the attention of scientists, philosophers, theologians, educators and others.”

But if she answers yes, or states that the answer to the creation of the universe is uncertain, then there is a follow-up question that must also be answered: Why is creationism not being taught in Tennessee schools?

Well the answer to that is obvious: because it’s unconstitutional. And it doesn’t matter whether Finney thinks it’s true or not. It is nice, however, to see yet another legislator who uses “creationism” and “intelligent design” interchangeably.


  1. #1 Will E.
    February 28, 2007

    That’s why I like good ol’ fundamentalists: their complete and utter ignorance does not allow them to hide their true intentions, nor are they afraid to parade said ignorance in front of everyone–so we’ll always know what kind of idiots we’re dealing with.

  2. #2 Chuck
    February 28, 2007

    Why is it that so many educated physicians indulge in this nonsense? There seems to be some correlation between a medical school education and theism: and sometimes the theism, later in life, trumps the science.

  3. #3 NonyNony
    February 28, 2007


    I suspect that its for the same reason that it shows up in engineers with great frequency.

  4. #4 J-Dog
    February 28, 2007

    Thanks to Mr_Christopher at ATBC, you can let “Senator” Finney know what you think about his idiocy by commenting at his website. I recommend going directly to the end of the survey – unless you ARE from TN – and get to the open-ended area and say “Howdy Moron!”.


    ps: I love the “finney listens” in the web address!

  5. #5 Michael Ralston
    February 28, 2007

    To clarify, it shows up because while they’re highly-educated and know a lot of things, they are not required to actually understand science.

    Practicing physicians don’t need to understand science much if at all – they simply use what others have found out.

    The same goes for most engineers.

    None of this says physicians and engineers don’t know science … many do. But it’s not guaranteed, and many of them who don’t know science still want to brandish credentials.

  6. #6 ZacharySmith
    February 28, 2007

    To add to Michael Ralston’s comment, you can get a degree in a scientific discipline (physics, chemistry, biochem) and still not know science. Oh sure, you’ll learn the body of facts, but as to how the scientific method actually works, that’s a different story.

    Witness guys like Behe and, my personal favorite Well-Educated Idiot, Duane Gish (remember him?).

    Hell, I learned more about how science works from reading the Skeptical Inquirer than I did as a Chemistry undergrad.

  7. #7 nm
    February 28, 2007

    What’s even sillier about Finney’s questioning is that in Tennessee, the curriculum is approved by the State Board of Education, not by the Department of Education. So that even if the Education Commissioner were an ardent creationist, her answer to why it isn’t being taught would have to be “not only is it unconstitutional, but it also has nothing to do with me.” I do hope that the governor directs her to ignore the whole thing.

  8. #8 Poly
    February 28, 2007


    If you are a resident of the Eighth Senatorial District of Tennessee (Blount County and Sevier County), please use this Website….

    In other words, that website is specifically for people from the Senator’s district. I don’t think you want to encourage irresponsible behavior by having people who aren’t constituents use the blog or flood the site.

    Sen. Finney does have an official email adddress which would probably be more appropriate for the general public to use:


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