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Tennessee Passes Bill That Allows "Teaching the Controversy" of Evolution 1108

Posted by samzenpus
from the inherit-the-wind-II dept.
Layzej writes "The Tennessee Senate has passed a bill that allows teachers to 'teach the controversy' on evolution, global warming and other scientific subjects. Critics have called it a 'monkey bill' that promotes creationism in classrooms. In a statement sent to legislators, eight members of the National Academy of Science said that, in practice, the bill will likely lead to 'scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution.' and that 'By undermining the teaching of evolution in Tennessee's public schools, HB368 and SB893 would miseducate students, harm the state's national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy.'"
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Tennessee Passes Bill That Allows "Teaching the Controversy" of Evolution

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  • No controversy (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:00PM (#39430179)

    There is no controversy on evolution, at least not among the people that matter.

  • by Raul654 (453029) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:00PM (#39430197) Homepage

    "Surely even the staunchest of Creationists must acknowledge the so called "short-term" evolution that gives us the ability to manipulate plants or breed wolves into dogs. " - the standard creationist reply to this would be that they accept "micro evolution" (natural selection and adaption) but that they don't accept "macro evolution" (the ability for one species to evolve into another). Scientifically, there's no meaningful distinction between the two - it's only a difference of degree, not kind.

    Most creationists do not accept the existence of beneficial mutations. (They argue that adaption only brings out attributes that already have some preexisting genetic basis, and that no new beneficial alleles can be created)

  • The Bill (Score:4, Informative)

    by UninformedCoward (1738488) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:04PM (#39430273)

    In case you want to read the bill []. I think 1D is the main issue.

  • by JaneTheIgnorantSlut (1265300) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:04PM (#39430275)
    Don't you mean "sun is the center of our solar system"?
  • by wasabii (693236) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:06PM (#39430315)

    Evolution is still a theory. And a fact. The terms aren't exclusive.

  • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:08PM (#39430357) Homepage Journal
    For instance, in Texas in history we need to teach the controversy of the Alamo. Have the kids research and debate if the heros of the Alamo were in fact primarily concerned with keeping slaver in the nation of texas, a basic right that would have taken away if Mexico's liberal no slavery policy were allowed to prevail.

    There are many examples of this. In world history rather than focusing on wars, we could include the faith based authoritarian regimes and ask if faith has been used to create the oppress more than used to help the oppressed. Again, not take sides. Just have student read about the controversy in order to develop students better at problem solving.

    We could do the same thing in literature, reading books that teach the controversy of religion, democracy, and capitalism.

    My problem with teaching the controversy is that if I ask a christian why we have public school prayer when the bible prohibits it, they don't want to take about that controversy. So why are we taking about evolution when there is really nothing in the bible, or at the Christian testament, that prevents it from validity. Of course if they really wanted to pursue a controversy, they would be working on disavowing the trinity [], something that no good protest, only the modern Catholics who follow the Council of Niceae, should believe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:08PM (#39430363)

    On the contrary, science has always touted the fact that everything it discovers as theory.

    Discoveries are not theories. Theories are models which attempt to explain discoveries. Evolution is one such model which attempts to explain the discovered speciation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:08PM (#39430365)

    As a mathematics/science teacher in this fine state, I don't have a huge problem with this. I just made my students write a paper on Russell's Teapot, so I feel like I balanced it out.

    But seriously, anybody that thinks these two pieces of paper mean anything...they don't. They say they allow for these things, doesn't mean we have to. And we won't.

  • by Laser Lou (230648) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:10PM (#39430385)

    Oh, and FWIW, Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming *doesn't* qualify, unless of course some brave soul would like to make a clear falsifiable hypothesis statement for it :)

    Rising temperatures are not falsifiable? Hmm..

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:15PM (#39430465)
    Grandparent is misusing the word "theory" in exactly the same way the creationists do. Hint: is isn't synonymous with "notion" or "hypothesis".
  • by chill (34294) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:31PM (#39430733) Journal

    Wikipedia puts it well. A physical law is a summary observation of strictly empirical matters, whereas a theory is a model that accounts for the observation, explains it, relates it to other observations, and makes testable predictions based upon it. Simply stated, while a law notes that something happens, a theory explains why and how something happens.

    Also keep in mind Newton's "Law" of Gravitation is only a good approximation of low-mass behavior. When you say "Law of Nature" people assume graven in stone, unchanging and absolute. But that isn't what it means.

  • Re:Why so scared? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:42PM (#39430973) Homepage Journal
    If you (or anyone, for that matter) have a valid hypothesis worth study, then by all means bring it up! Any real scientist worth their salt would jump at the opportunity to explore a heretofore unknown theory.

    However, if your entire scientific platform boils down to "God did it, now stop asking questions," well, you might as well join Santorum on his dinosaur and ride off into the sunset.

    And by sunset, I mean 'big-ass volcano.'
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:44PM (#39431023)
    So the lesson plan would be this:
    1. Cover evolution, the evidence for it, well known examples, etc.
    2. Cover creationism, present no evidence (there is none), do not bother discussing science because creationism is not science.
    3. Let the children decide for themselves

    Did I forget something?

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @02:46PM (#39431067)

    >>>Evolution is no longer a theory.

    Last time I looked it up, textbooks still said "Theory of Evolution" not "Law of Evolution". In fact I've had many professors over the years argue even Newton's Law of Gravity should be renamed a Theory, since the misnamed "law" has been debunked by later discoveries over the centuries.

    In science ALL things are theories, because we will never have a complete understanding and the theories are eventually proven wrong (or at least flawed). Maybe if we evolve into the Q we'll finally understand it all, but that's definitely not the case now.

    We have theories of how the world works.
    Not absolutes. Not laws.

  • Re:To be fair (Score:3, Informative)

    by WastedMeat (1103369) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:04PM (#39431381)

    (Didn't mean to post as AC)

    Arguing with someone who chooses to disregard science is not a skill indicative of scientific aptitude. You can apply all of the logic and evidence with the best imaginable skill, but it still doesn't work when the teacher dismisses all of the evidence as a ruse by Satan, and finds no logical fault in an omnipotent and heavy-handed God whose existence is impossible to verify. You can't argue science with these people until after you convince them that they are crazy.

    My entire family is crazy. I was raised as a southern baptist, and seriously indoctrinated. I can still remember when I was twelve and I was overwhelmed in guilt every single time the idea that this was all bullshit even entered into the back of my mind. At that time, such thoughts never came forward for serious evaluation. The only thing bearable was just to go along with it, never questioning anything, not even to yourself, under penalty of extreme psychological discomfort. Any debates over the issue were accompanied by unbearable guilt for even tolerating an internal acknowledgment that the other person might have a point.

    There's no healthy arguing with people like that. I am not quite sure how I got over that and turned out to be physicist.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:06PM (#39431411) Journal

    Except of course Jefferson himself (one of the authors of the Bill of Rights) made it very clear what the authors' intentions were, and it was very much a "wall of separation" (his words).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:25PM (#39431755)

    When I was going to college in Michigan, a friend of my girlfriend's came back to the dormitory in tears because her Biology professor A) began teaching evolutionary theory, and B) basically told her to shut the hell up when the girl started talking about bible stories. So, she was in tears, and the whole thing was somewhat amusing.

    I got back to my dorm room, and told one of my roommates, a mechanical engineering major, about the crying girl. "Can you believe that?" I asked him. "In this day and age?"

    "I know!" he said. "I mean, the Earth is only six thousand years old, everyone knows that! Her teacher must be nuts."

    I stared blankly. He wasn't joking; he was being totally sincere. I got really, really drunk that night.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:32PM (#39431881)

    That says a lot about the level of science that the teacher comprehends. Jesus and evolution have no conflict, at all.

    The Vatican even recently said that there is no conflict between the science of evolution and christianity, and rejects intelligent design.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:42PM (#39432029)

    I think you should go look up the definition of "scientific law". Nowhere does it claim to be an absolute truth, in fact that's not even remotely what it means. If your professors seriously argued changing Newton's Laws to theories, they don't understand the terminology either.

    In fact, a law is not even really on the same continuum as a theory - a theory is an explanation for a phenomenon, and a law is just a statement of results *in specific circumstances*. A scientific law can be disproved, sure, but it makes no sense to be "demoted"...

    That misunderstanding is one of the primary weapons of the anti-science creationists who try to introduce doubt where none really exists by claiming that "evolution is just a theory". In science not *all things* are theories, but certainly all *explanations* are theories (in various levels of certainty).

    The National Academy of Science has a nice statement summarizing this:

    Why isn't evolution called a law?
    Laws are generalizations that describe phenomena, whereas theories explain phenomena. For example, the laws of thermodynamics describe what will happen under certain circumstances; thermodynamics theories explain why these events occur. Laws, like facts and theories, can change with better data. But theories do not develop into laws with the accumulation of evidence. Rather, theories are the goal of science."

  • by scot4875 (542869) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @03:49PM (#39432123) Homepage

    Those weren't children. End of discussion.


  • by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @04:08PM (#39432439)

    The US has never been "a Christian nation". Which men "of faith" wrote in our freedoms?

    Jefferson who rewrote the bible taking out the "superstitious nonsense". Perhaps Quincy Adams who we have letters that he wrote mocking Christianity and talking of it disdainfully. Perhaps George Washington who refused any religious solace on his deathbed and expressed that he didn't want a Christian burial service.

    Perhaps Benjamin Franklin- who we also have written evidence that he did not believe in a God still currently active in watching humanity.

    Perhaps we're talking about the senate under the second president who unanimously signed the Treaty of Tripoli after it was read out (that included the words probably not verbatim "The United States Of America is and never has been a Christian nation").

    The vast majority of those that "wrote-those freedoms" would be offended if you called them Christian.

    The fact is- everyone should be allowed to worship however they darn please. But don't try fooling people or rewriting history to make it seem like it is a "recent-innovation" that this is a non-Christian country. Even Abraham Lincoln, the president responsible for preserving the union many years after the founding fathers wrote an essay exposing the evil of religion, specifically Christianity.

    We are a secular nation. We should be a secular nation. Let people worship whatever god they want- but keep it out of politics and government. Remember the religious have the most to lose. If government and religion are not seperate- that means Obama is executive head of religion. You must recognise him as the authority in religion.

    Is that what you want? It works both ways- even when a leftie non religious man is in power- he is still the head of religion in you dystopian view of the United States where religion and government are one.

  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @04:33PM (#39432805)

    You'd be surprised how many people believe evolution is about making less complex organisms into more complex ones, or making the next generation "better" in some objective way than the current one.

    Ummm, the latter is exactly what evolution is. Mutations occur, the resulting changes are either propogated because they provide some objective benefit, removed from the system because they are detrimental, or become part of the background noise of genetic variation if they are neither harmful nor beneficial.

    Mutations are not, by themselves, evolution. There needs to be some reason for the mututation to reproduce. From the all-encompassing unimpeachable source of all human knowledge []:

    Charles Darwin was the first to formulate a scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Evolution by natural selection is a process that is inferred from three facts about populations: 1) more offspring are produced than can possibly survive, 2) traits vary among individuals, leading to differential rates of survival and reproduction, and 3) trait differences are heritable.[3] Thus, when members of a population die they are replaced by the progeny of parents that were better adapted to survive and reproduce in the environment in which natural selection took place. This process creates and preserves traits that are seemingly fitted for the functional roles they perform.[4] Natural selection is the only known cause of adaptation, but not the only known cause of evolution. Other, nonadaptive causes of evolution include mutation and genetic drift.[5]

    In the early 20th century, genetics was integrated with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection through the discipline of population genetics. The importance of natural selection as a cause of evolution was accepted into other branches of biology. Moreover, previously held notions about evolution, such as orthogenesis and "progress" became obsolete.

  • No. ON some things there is no compromise. specifically facts.

    You can't teach invisible fairies pull things to the earth to explain gravity. You teach the theory of gravity.

    This is LITERALLY the same thing. Evolution is a fact. Evolutionary theory explains that facts.

    If you needed 10 feet of pipe, and the delivery guy gave you 8 feet, would you compromise at 9 feet? Of course not, because it doesn't do the job.

  • by Empiric (675968) on Wednesday March 21, 2012 @07:00PM (#39434517) Homepage
    Ah, "30", and "10", without a trailing decimal, are both -one- significant digit. []

    There you go, enjoy. Grade school, if you insist.

He: Let's end it all, bequeathin' our brains to science. She: What?!? Science got enough trouble with their OWN brains. -- Walt Kelly