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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 @10:07AM (#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 olsmeister (1488789) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:13AM (#35756864)
    Because apparently, we're devolving into a nation of idiots.
  • by Silentknyght (1042778) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:14AM (#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.

  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:15AM (#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 Cutriss (262920) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:15AM (#35756888) Homepage
    ...and see how long it takes for this law gets amended.
  • Bible school? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:15AM (#35756894)

    If I wanted my kids to learn about creationism or intelligent design wouldn't I take them to a church? Or teach them myself? If my kids are learning about creationism in school and NOT evolution, I should be able to choose, and be funded by the state, to send my kids to a school that teaches observable science. Church/School/State should always be separated imo.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:20AM (#35756954)

    not observable or repeatable

    In that case, it's just like your religion.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:20AM (#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?

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:24AM (#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 ToasterofDOOM (878240) <d.murphy.davis@gmail.com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:26AM (#35757056)
    WHY, pray tell, does there have to be a conflict? And, by the way, evolution of simple organisms is observable and repeatable.
  • by jd2112 (1535857) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:29AM (#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 thefolkmetal (970306) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:30AM (#35757130)
    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, day and night didn't even exist until the 4th day (correct me if I got the "day" wrong), which means that the way that we're measuring this time is wrong. So, the entirety of the creation process that is documented in the Bible is not something that Christians should be using to try and disprove Evolution, because it makes no mention whatsoever about how the inhabitants of the planet were created, and why would it be so wrong to believe that a creator would use the biological laws of the world he'd created to achieve said end?

    Just consider it.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:38AM (#35757256)

    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.

  • Re:Flame War (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:43AM (#35757342)

    The issue is that evolution isn't controversial. Hell, even the Catholic Church recognizes it. What you've got is a large number of ill-educated hicks that refuse to accept reality. Suggesting it's controversial is giving credence to all manner of silly beliefs which are demonstrably false. It's one thing to believe that God kicked off the progress, that at least isn't known to be false.

    Same goes for climate change, there's a lot of idiots out there that don't believe it, but in terms of the people who actually study it, there's very little actual argument going on about it being real. The real controversy at present is over what to do about it, precisely how bad will it be and how long do we have to do something about it.

  • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:47AM (#35757404)

    Which would put them on equal footing, wouldn't it?

    Well except for the volumes and volumes of data that show species changing over time from the fossil record. Religion just has 'a book that says so' for its evidence. So not exactly 'equal' footing.

    Lets also take into account that the biblical scholars say the world is just a few thousand years old. Except that the volume of evidence for evolution clearly shows that the world is *billions* of years old.

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

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:48AM (#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 khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:48AM (#35757426)

    No it doesn't. You can be religious and think ID is a bunch of hooey. This isn't an either-or proposition.

    Of course it isn't.

    But it IS "an either-or proposition" if you insist on a LITERAL interpretation of The Bible.

    You can be religious and understand/accept evolution and understand that "The Garden of Eden" was a parable.

    You CANNOT believe that The Garden of Eden was a physical location on Earth and understand/accept evolution.

    Not without some serious mental gymnastics about a trickster god.

  • Re:Bible school? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nimey (114278) on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:52AM (#35757474) Homepage Journal

    The truth^W^WScience threatens the parents' faith.

    Don't ask why their faith is so weak that it has to be protected by the government from conflicting ideas.

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @10:57AM (#35757576)

    That doesn't count. Ask any creationist.

    And that is exactly why "Intelligent Design" or "Creationism" is NOT a science and should NEVER be taught in a science class.

    Science requires that any hypothesis or theory be falsifiable. At least in theory. It may be impossible to perform the experiment to falsify it.

    With non-science, there is no way to falsify it.
    If the experiment shows A, then the creator wanted it to.
    If the experiment shows B, then the creator wanted it to.

    Since it is not science, it should not be taught (even as a "controversy") in a science class.

    Leave it in the social sciences / philosophy classes.

  • by NickFortune (613926) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:00AM (#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.

  • ugh!!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:17AM (#35757968)

    "I deal only in facts, that's why I'm a cocky fuckin' bastard." -- Bill Hicks

    The problem is that clamping your hands over your ears and screaming "Lalalalalala I can't hear you!" has become a viable strategy. There seems to be no selection process against it. If we're in the woods and I tell a conservative a mushroom is poisonous and they shouldn't eat it and they do, the problem resolves itself. In the modern day, I can tell them a fact that's every bit as true as the one about the mushroom such as deficits mattering but it doesn't just kill them, it kills both of us. What's wrong with this picture?

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:18AM (#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 @11:18AM (#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."

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:21AM (#35758062)

    After all, evolution is simply a theory, not a proven fact.

    Who mod'ed that up?

    It makes the same old mistake that we see every time this topic comes up.

    A scientific theory is NOT the same as a "theory".
    A scientific theory is NEVER "proven".
    A scientific theory can only be shown to be flawed.

    Evolution is a theory which has yet to be proven.

    You are 100% wrong.

  • by c6gunner (950153) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:25AM (#35758142)

    The guy you're responding to is wrong, but nowhere near as wrong as you. If you're stupid enough to say things like "evolution is a theory which has yet to be proven", you're probably not worth wasting time on, but what the hell:

    First of all, evolution and intelligent design aren't mutually exclusive. It's quite possible that some type of "creator" - whether it be a guy with a beard, or a black monolith - created life on earth. However, that in no way contradicts the fact that all life on earth is related, and that both the geological and genetic record prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that all present-day species are descended from common ancestors. As long as your idea of "intelligent design" doesn't posit a magic-man who's constantly tweaking things, there's nothing contradictory between intelligent design and evolution.

    Where intelligent design fails is a whole different issue. For starters, it posits no testable hypothesis. It offers no evidence. It attempts to put an end to further discussion and discovery, rather than opening new avenues of exploration. The phrase "god dun it" is not an answer - it's an appeal to ignorance. The same 'answer' has been used for tens of thousands of years to explain anything that we as a species couldn't understand. Why do we have lightning? God dun it. Why does the earth shake? God dun it. Why is there a flood? God dun it. In EVERY SINGLE PAST CASE, it was scientific scrutiny and the curiosity of man which eventually gave us a real answer, while the religious troglodytes continued to pound their holy books and point at their invisible dude in the sky. In every single case, the religious 'answer' was wrong. What possible combination of neural misfiring could convince you that, in this case, your answer happens to be right? And why would you EVER be satisfied with an answer that doesn't lead you to new questions?

  • Re:Bible school? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday April 08, 2011 @11:34AM (#35758306) Homepage

    The trouble is that those who believe in creationism greatly fear their kids hearing the other side of the story, because they might start believing in evolution.

    Try to put yourself in the shoes of a fundamentalist Christian parent:
    1. My son/daughter believes in creationism now, they've accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and have been saved, so they're going to Heaven when they die.
    2. I have a few friends whose children heard of this evolution stuff from some fancy-pants schoolteacher, and no longer believes in creationism or even Jesus, and is thus a sinner doomed to Hell. My other friend's kids were fine, and still don't believe in evolution, but a few did, so that could be my kid.
    3. Thus I should do everything in my power to prevent my kid from hearing about evolution, because the salvation of my child's soul, which to a True Believer is more important than their life, depends on it.

    If you believe in that sort of Christianity, but don't believe that your child's faith is strong enough that they might get so easily tempted away, then this is a real fear. This is especially true if you also believe that the theory of evolution was created by Satan in order to tempt the faithful away from God. And if you can't afford a private school, and the kid in question is under the legal dropout age, then from your perspective the law is requiring your little saved child to be tempted by Satan.

    I don't believe any of this, but if you try to get into that mindset where these ideas are accepted as the most fundamental truths of existence, it makes perfect sense.

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