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Education Science

Tennessee Bill Helps Teachers Challenge Evolution 735

Posted by Soulskill
from the dueling-with-zombie-darwin dept.
sciencehabit writes "In a 70-28 vote yesterday, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed HB 368 (PDF), a bill that encourages science teachers to explore controversial topics without fear of reprisal. Critics say the measure will enable K-12 teachers to present intelligent design and creationism as acceptable alternatives to evolution in the classroom. If the bill passes, Tennessee would join Louisiana as the second state to have specific 'protection' for the teaching of evolution in the classroom."
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Tennessee Bill Helps Teachers Challenge Evolution

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  • My school prayer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:07AM (#35756788)

    I pray that the day after this law passes, a biology teacher somewhere in the state walks into his classroom and spends the entire day showing how the fossil record contradicts the silly Genesis story in the Bible--knowing he's now protected by a law that says his principal and angry parents can't do jackshit to stop him.

    • by Silentknyght (1042778) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:14AM (#35756876)

      I pray that the day after this law passes, a biology teacher somewhere in the state walks into his classroom and spends the entire day showing how the fossil record contradicts the silly Genesis story in the Bible--knowing he's now protected by a law that says his principal and angry parents can't do jackshit to stop him.

      That's how I read this language: a teacher could, just as easily, discuss Darwinian Evolution or any other of the various scientific topics usually slandered by the Religious Right without any fear of reprisal. The bill doesn't seem to force the discussion, and so is not the issue. If any beef were to arise from it, I'd point my finger at the "science" teacher.

      • The way I read it, a biology teacher could discuss that whites are genetically superior to blacks, without fear of reprisal.

        Even for Tennessee, that is going a bit far.
    • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:24AM (#35757038) Journal

      spends the entire day showing how the fossil record contradicts the silly Genesis story in the Bible

      The fossil record does no such thing, and pseudo-scientists waste a lot of time tilting at windmills.

      The Genesis story is a lot of things, but scientific theory it is not. It is of no merit to try to disprove it by scientific method.

      Let it have its place in the discipline of Theology. I went to a religious school and this is where it was studied. This, or in a more general cultural historical discipline, is where it belongs.

      There are so many important things in the world which are being sidelined by astroturfed spats. Once bread and circuses were sufficient. Now the population is moderately educated, so we need bread, circuses and engineered pointless debate (see also: abortion, tea party, gun control).

      • by NickFortune (613926) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:00AM (#35757644) Homepage Journal

        The fossil record does no such thing, and pseudo-scientists waste a lot of time tilting at windmills.

        The Genesis story is a lot of things, but scientific theory it is not. It is of no merit to try to disprove it by scientific method.

        Well, that's true up to the point where some nutjob starts insisting that everything in the Bible is the literal truth, and that therefore Genesis is true, and evolution doesn't happen.

        At this point the nutjob is putting his beliefs forward as a scientific theory, be it ever so lacking in foundation, and a certain amount of windmill-tilting is then unfortunately required.

        And when the nutjobs of the world make a co-ordinated attempt to have their nutjobbery taught to children as being respectable science, then those windmills start taking on the characteristics of actual giants, and tilting at them becomes rather important.

        I will concede that the process does indeed waste a lot of time. However, in general it isn't the scientists who kick off the fight.

      • You seem to be confusing anthropology and theology.
        Theology is the study of the nature of God, or alternatively what God says about God.
        Religion studied in class is anthropology-- the study of man, or what man says about God.

        Studying theology seriously generally implies your belief that there is, in fact a God; otherwise you are wasting your time.

      • by spinkham (56603)

        Yes, the fossil record only contradicts the literal reading of a 6000 year old earth with special creation of each type of animal, literal world-wide flood, etc.

        You might be surprised to learn how many people believe the Genesis story is literally true. http://scienceblogs.com/strangerfruit/2007/10/genesis_held_to_be_literally_t.php [scienceblogs.com]

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Yeah. My high school biology teacher had to dance around the topic of evolution but by that time we were all pretty well informed and knew about the bullshit that prevented him from openly discussing the topic. I'd be quite happy if a teacher can present several origin stories and apply scientific method to the lot.
    • by jd2112 (1535857) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:29AM (#35757112)
      I for one would hope that there is at least one teacher in the state with guts enough to take advantage of the situation and discuss FlyingSpaghettiMonsterisim.
    • by imroy (755)
      That sounds good, but IIRC, recent polls show that more than half of U.S. science teachers would teach creationism.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) *

        If just one teacher in each school would use it to fight against the bible-thumpers, and their attempt to hijack science for their own ends, it would be worth it. Because that would be enough to show them that these kind of cynical laws, passed by politicians only interested in pandering to their religious fanatic voters, can just as easily be turned and used against your beloved religious beliefs.

        • by BergZ (1680594)
          Turning the tables on a law meant to push religion into politics can have some interesting consequences:
          [Republican convention in Denver 2008, former pastor of Grave Evangelical Free Church Arnold Conrad]
          Arnold Conrad: "There are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that [McCain’s] opponent wins, for a variety of reasons ... And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation because they’re going to think that
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        That sounds good, but IIRC, recent polls show that more than half of U.S. science teachers would teach creationism.

        That is a sad, sad statistic.

        So, greater than 50% of science teachers in the US don't actually believe in science?

  • I have the right to teach Evolution in Sunday School?
    • If it's a public school, you just might.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      Fuck evolution, go with Scientology, really piss them off.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      a. a Sunday school is be definition not a public school.
      b. that would depend on the church.
      c. Are you a Sunday school teacher.

      BTW I am and one of my lessons for the ages 12 to 14 was on the value of education including science, math, history, and literature.

  • Nice! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:10AM (#35756820)

    Now the students can write "God did it" on every question without the fear of getting a bad grade.

    • I just got a "You've already posted something in this discussion" so you can't have a +1 funny, but you should have got it.
  • by olsmeister (1488789) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:13AM (#35756864)
    Because apparently, we're devolving into a nation of idiots.
  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:15AM (#35756884) Journal

    Requoting a sentence :

    "...a bill that encourages science teachers to explore controversial topics without fear of reprisal."

    So the article went straight from that wonderfully enlightened bill and went for creationism? Not partner preference, abortion, unsafe health conditions, or stem cells?

    You could write 100 articles from that bill.

    • by Johnny5000 (451029) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:23AM (#35757014) Homepage Journal

      Well, the bill itself specified "[t]he teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to,
      biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human
      cloning"

      So it could apply to any of those things you talk about, but the bill itself is specifically aimed at the topics a certain segment of society finds especially distasteful.

    • The bill has a loaded agenda, there's no doubt about that from the examples it cites. But there are many other examples, such as the ones you've listed. This is a science class, right? It can't be a science class if it doesn't apply the methodology of science. But that leaves a pretty wide field. Anything relevant to science education is a legitimate topic.

      I'd argue that this sort of political manipulation would backfire in a big way. Studies of political interference, prejudice and bigotry would a
  • by Cutriss (262920) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:15AM (#35756888) Homepage
    ...and see how long it takes for this law gets amended.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:20AM (#35756966) Homepage Journal

    Hey there are teachers at universities that teach that the 9/11 attacks where a plot by the US government and they get defended on the grounds of Academic freedom.
    http://media.www.smithsophian.com/media/storage/paper587/news/2007/09/20/News/Umass.Professor.Supports.911.Conspiracy.Theory-2984244.shtml [smithsophian.com]
    Where do you draw the line? I agree that Creation science isn't but then I have heard teachers spout all sorts of tripe over the years. I know of one child that actually had a teacher that when she found out that she was a member of a certain religion start teaching a course about the history of the religion from a very negative view point and full of miss information. The school defended her teachers right to teach history how she saw fit and that was in high school.
    So do you want the government to tell teachers what they can and can not teach?

    • There's a higher standard for the hard sciences than for the soft sciences. Physics and Biology can be tested, Religion and 9/11 theories less so.

    • by Arctech (538041)
      I want teachers and those responsible for the curriculum to abide by the establishment clause, meaning they can't present religious indoctrination as education. The Dover trial boldly exposed intelligent design as thinly veiled unscientific Judeo-Christian propaganda, it is infuriating that they can still get away with this "teach the controversy" nonsense.
    • Hey there are teachers at universities that teach that the 9/11 attacks where a plot by the US government and they get defended on the grounds of Academic freedom.

      Try reading the article you linked again. The Geosciences professor is not teaching the 9/11 conspiracy theory, she is exercising her freedom to publicly speech her opinion.

      So do you want the government to tell teachers what they can and can not teach?

      Short answer, yes. Long answer, the government does not need to micro-manage public education dow

  • Just say:

    The bill also says that its "shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine."

    And apparently it's all OK.

    But yes, I look forward to a few teachers starting to teach the wackiest stuff they can think of. I'd pick old-school, myself. The four humors and all that.

  • Most Christians are pretty ignorant as to what the bible actually says, so let me offer what might be a different view than has been presented here before:

    It would be pretty stupid for any Christian to say that the Earth is a meager 6000 years old, yet they do it anyway. However, there is pretty clear text that says that to God, time is of no consequence. "A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day" and all that. Now, consider that in the "seven days" that he created the world, da
    • I just considered it. I like the greek myth stories more.
      http://www.desy.de/gna/interpedia/greek_myth/creation.html

      I like the Japanese stories of creation too; but I can't get past "Before the heavens and the earth came into existence, all was a chaos" without thinking of Monkey Magic.
  • I really want my child to learn about atheism. On Sunday we will sit and read Richard Dawkins books. Which is a bit hard going as I agree with him; but he is a bit too smug.
  • This whole debate has everyone asking the wrong questions.

    The problem is public education in the first place. Allow people to create schools however they want (without being crowded out by public education) and let the fittest survive.
    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:51AM (#35757468)

      That's been tried. The corporations started cheap schools that only educated people just enough to work in the corporation's factories. (At a wage where the people couldn't afford to send their children to a better school.)

      Countries that had public education then out-innovated the non-public education countries, and were better competitors in the global marketplace.

    • thank you mr. free market fundamentalist. the free market is wonderful stuff, but only in an environment where everyone is given the same starting position. if you load a kid up with a bunch of bad ideas, he's not going to be able to compete with the kid who was given effective ideas. which is fine, of course, if you don't care about damning some kid just by the chance of where he was born. but if you enforce a standard of educational requirements, then you can begin to say everyone has the equal OPPORTUNIT

  • Quite sad ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:48AM (#35757420) Homepage

    I find it quite sad to see so many jurisdictions enshrining an ignorance of basic science into law, and defending the right of people to be both incredibly wrong, and to have their heads up their asses at the expense of verifiable scientific facts and discourse.

    If your god intended you to be a drooling idiot, he wouldn't have given you the capacity to think.

    I don't have a problem with religion, but when it decides that stupidity is the best course, and that it's best to ignore what we actually know about the world around us, it's quite pathetic.

    I fail to see why religion needs to be compatible with basic science ... I realize there's a lot of different variations on Christianity, but even the Vatican has accepted basic science. It seems like the more you demand the right to deny evolution and the like, the more likely you are to be a wacky, radicalized person who insists that only your interpretation of the bible is correct -- and that anybody who disagrees with you is evil.

    The friggin' Scopes Trial [wikipedia.org] was in 1925 -- but it seems like some people are still convinced that there is a need to live in the dark ages and pretend we haven't learned anything ... though, TV and Wal Mart don't seem to be a problem.

    This is like not marking children wrong on anything factual because everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and maybe little Billy really felt that 2+2=5, and we don't want to hurt his feelings.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I fail to see why religion needs to be compatible with basic science

      To clarify this .... I fail to see why religion needs to be incompatible with basic science".

      I think the two can coexist just fine.

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Friday April 08, 2011 @09:48AM (#35757438)

    There are a few things that you need to understand about why this is an issue. Christianity collapses entirely without the Creation story. While under Judaism, it was just a parable to explain the creation of the world, Christianity gives this story teeth for the following reason: The basis for Jesus's sacrifice was that Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. From the Instant that happened, with the exception of a few Jews that followed the laws of Moses, 99.999% of all Humans all born on Earth before or since were damned to Hell. Thats the only reason the evolution issue is an issue at all. If this myth isn't true (and it isn't.) Christianity collapses and Jesus died for absolutely no reason than being a cult leader the Romans wanted to execute. (make no mistake, Christianity IS a doomsday cult.)

    A few things about the Judeo-Christian God Yahweh:

    - He started out as part of a War God along side two other gods, Ba'al, and Asherah. When their followers were eradicated Yahweh was given the title of 'Elohim'
    - Jehovah is Yahweh in German
    - He is a male God. Who advocates male supremacy and is VERY misogynistic
    - He is very mean, cruel, and most Humans have a morality superior to Yahweh, in his original form. Yahweh has been watered down a whole bunch.
    - Yahweh is often refered to as 'The Lord' due to Censorship in English copies of the Bible. It is considered a violation of the Ten commandments to call Yahweh, 'Yahweh'.

    The issue is that for reasons of social control. US Christians do not believe their civilization will survive without Christianity. Yahweh is a tribal god that his followers keep extending and expanding his powers. Yahweh is not real, he is only as powerful as his followers say he is. As such, without an all powerful Yahweh to bind everyone, and keep the masses in line, A whole lot of people who make a whole lot of money, and have a whole lot of power stand to lose their power if belief in Yahweh fades.

    Another thing is there are Humans in this world who believe the myth of Heaven and Hell. To those people, when the 'end' comes, they are supremely worried that Yahweh will let exactly zero Humans (or at least not them) into Heaven. The creation myth is a big part of the idea that Jesus died for the original sin of Man. The religion doesn't work if the Garden of Eden never happened.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Christianity collapses entirely without the Creation story.

      I don't think it does ... literal, unyielding Christianity might.

      The Catholics introduced the Jesuits almost 500 years ago ... part of their job is to handle the science, and be able to explain/integrate that into religious life.

      I've known a Jesuit who was a physicist and an astronomer. Brilliant guy, open, completely accepted science in all of its forms.

      I never had a really deep conversation with him on the matter, but his attitude was always "yes

      • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:18AM (#35757986)

        This is what alot of evangelicals consider "cherry picking" to try and make Yahweh "Inclusive". Yahweh is not supposed to be "inclusive" Remember? He's a tribal war god. His title isn't "Creator of the Universe ." it is "God of Israel." He started as a small time tribal war god that's job was to promote the spread and reproduction of a specific tribe 2600 or so years ago. He had lots of competition. He's been re-interpreted and re-invented. But at his core, he is still this regional tribal god that was worshiped by desert nomads.

        Those people didn't know anything about how the world they lived in worked. They just wanted to survive, and they thought that worshiping Yahweh ensured their survival.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:18AM (#35757988) Homepage

    Happy: Science teachers should most definitely explore controversial topics. All teachers should explore controversial topics. That is a fundamental part of teaching.
    Sad: Does this mean that prior to this law, a teacher could not discuss a controversial topic? That is frightening!

    I don't understand the criticism though:

    Critics say the measure will enable K-12 teachers to present intelligent design and creationism as acceptable alternatives to evolution in the classroom.

    How so? It seems like it would do the opposite by allowing good science without fear of political reprisal.

    ...protect teachers from discipline if they help 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..."biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The bill also says that its "shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine."

    • How so? It seems like it would do the opposite by allowing good science without fear of political reprisal.

      It's pretty simple: It also allows bad science without fear of political reprisal. You know "Teach the Controversy"?
      Right now, if a teacher preaches that god will smite little Timmy for the heresy of saying the world isn't flat, you can go to the principle and get him fired. For being a crazy and teaching your kid lies.

      With this bill, as long as the teacher sticks to the oh-so-thinly-veiled "Intelligent Design", the parents can't affect his job.
      And this is Tennessee, so evolution will probably defined

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