Antiscience bill passes Tennessee House vote

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April 8 2011 7:00 AM

Antiscience bill passes Tennessee House vote

A bill clearly intended to promote and protect antiscience passed in the Tennessee State House yesterday, by a vote of 70 - 23.

Let that sink in. 70 to 23.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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The bill is another in a long series of creationist (and broadened into other antiscience topics) wedge bills designed to weaken the teaching of real science in public schools. The summary makes that clear:

This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught, such as evolution and global warming.

On the surface this sounds like legit science; after all, science thrives on understanding the weaknesses in ideas so they can be improved. But if you read that last part, conservative antiscience rears its head: the two specific cases mentioned are evolution and global warming.

That doesn't sound like real science is the motivation behind this bill -- and reading quotes by its supporters confirms it. What this really means is that if a teacher wants to declare the Earth is 6000 years old (or make some other clearly wrong ideologically-based claim), that teacher cannot be stopped.

Similar antiscience bills (usually given the Orwellian title of "academic freedom bills") have been created in Oklahoma (though defeated, barely), Mississippi, and in Louisiana, where creationist and part-time exorcist Governor Bobby Jindal signed it into state law.

So this bill passed the House, but it still has to pass the Tennessee Senate. They have their own version up for vote targeted for April 20. If you live in Tennessee, I urge you to go to the NCSE website, read up on this, and then write your local representative.

Because if this bill passes into law, then...