Tennessee legislature boldly sets the science clocks back 150 years

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March 22 2012 9:59 AM

Tennessee legislature boldly sets the science clocks back 150 years

The Tennessee legislature -- apparently jealous that the people running Louisiana are hogging all the laughing stock -- is possibly about to pass an antiscience bill designed specifically to make it easier for teachers to allow creationism in their classroom.

The bill passed the House last year, but then a similar bill was put on hold in the Senate. Unfortunately, it was put to the Senate floor earlier this week and passed. It will have to be reconciled with the House bill, but it's expected to pass. It'll have to then go to the Governor to sign it into law.

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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Basically, the bill will make sure teachers can discuss creationism in the classroom, as well as global warming denialism. The House version states,

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.

That whole "strengths and weaknesses" is for all intent and purpose a lie; we've seen it many times before. Of course science has strengths and weaknesses, but what these people are looking to do is be able to say any kind of antiscience rhetoric in the classroom and not get called on it. What the bill should call for is legislators to be tested on the strengths and weaknesses of their creationist beliefs that clearly contradict what's known about the real world. Or, better yet, how what they're trying to do violates the Constitution of the United States.

I would pay good money to sit and listen to that.

I also wonder how the Tennessee lawmakers would feel if, say, teachers used this potential law to teach about Islam, or astrology, or Wiccan beliefs. That would be interesting indeed.

If you want more, Josh Rosenau has a great summary, as does Cara Santa Maria at the Huffington Post, and, of course, the NCSE. It's not clear to me that the Governor will sign this bill; Josh's post has more on that. But even if he doesn't, all those creationist climate change deniers will simply try again in some different way.

If you live in Tennessee, you should let the Governor know how you feel, and right away. Otherwise...



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