Since I professed that Intelligent Design creationism is zombie pseudoscience, but that creationism was far from dead, people were wondering what new slogan or tactic will emerge. It’s already here! It’s been lurking about for a few years now, and Glenn Branch and Eugenie Scott discuss the new tactic at some length.
The magic words are, of course, “academic freedom”.
Those words in the hands of creationists are used the way Republicans name bills: exactly contrary to the actual content. “Academic freedom” bills have been getting pushed into legislatures all across the country by — you guessed it — Christian evangelicals who see them as a tool to inject biblical creationism into the public school curriculum under the guise of fairness and high intellectual standards.
In Florida, for example, a representative of the Discovery Institute dithered when asked whether intelligent design constituted “scientific information” in the sense of the bill, saying, “In my personal opinion, I think it does. But the intent of this bill is not to settle that question,” and adding, unhelpfully, “The intent of this bill is … it protects the ‘teaching of scientific information.’” Similarly, during debate on the Senate floor, the bill’s sponsor was noticeably reluctant to address the question of whether it would license the teaching of creationism, preferring instead to simply recite its text.
Thus, despite the lofty language, the ulterior intent and likely effect of these bills are evident: undermining the teaching of evolution in public schools–a consequence only creationists regard as a blessing. Unfortunately, among their numbers are teachers. A recent national survey conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University reveals that one in eight U.S. high school biology teachers already presents creationism as a “valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species,” with about the same percentage emphasizing that “many reputable scientists” view creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution.
So be prepared, this is the new strategy: creationists will be openly superficial and nebulous in order to steal away the necessary rigor of our public school systems. And once science has been reduced to a floppy, useless pile of vacuous blather in their hands, they can insert any old nonsense they want…and the products of those schools, the next generation of parents and voters, will be too ignorant to oppose them.