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Creationism Back On The Curriculum In Tennessee Public Schools

Creationism Back On The Curriculum In Tennessee Public Schools

If you thought that questioning the teaching of evolution in Tennessee belonged to 1925 and the Scopes “monkey” trial, think again.

A bill that allows Tennessee public school teachers to teach alternatives to mainstream scientific theories such as evolution and climate change went into effect on April 10, after Governor Bill Haslam refused to sign or veto the measure. Under the Tennessee State Constitution, a bill automatically becomes law if the governor fails to sign it within 10 days.

Care2′s Jessica Pieklo updated us last month on the progress of this legislation; it has now passed the Tennessee House and Senate.

In the 1925 case, John Scopes, a high school science teacher from Dayton, Tennessee, was prosecuted by the state for violating a state law against teaching evolution. He was found guilty, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality.

Almost 90 years later, today’s Tennessee law does not ban the teaching of evolution, but sneakily encourages teachers to “present the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”

But, as noted by the nonprofit National Center for Science Education, the only examples given in the bill of possible controversial theories are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

As The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss explains:

The problem is that there is no important “scientific weakness” in the theory of evolution that could scientifically undermine its essential truth. Scientists agree that it is the animating principle of modern biology. Scientists also agree on the reality of climate change.

“Telling students that evolution and climate change are scientifically controversial is miseducating them,” said the National Center for Science Education’s executive director, Eugenie C. Scott. “Good science teachers know that. But the Tennessee legislature has now made it significantly harder to ensure that science is taught responsibly in the state’s public schools.”

To allow creationism and evolution to be debated side by side in a science classroom is just plain wrong, even if the Tennessee legislature thinks otherwise. Students in Tennessee deserve better than this.

Because let’s get one thing clear: intelligent design, or creationist theory, is in fact not a scientific alternative view to evolution. It is a religious belief that God intervenes, or did intervene, in the physical world. And religious beliefs do not belong in a science classroom.

Attempts by states to teach creationism and other alternatives to mainstream scientific theories have mostly been stymied in the past by the federal prohibition against promoting religion in public schools, but the Tennessee legislature has found a way around this.

Indeed, anti-evolution bills have been introduced this year in at least six states, and in 2008 Louisiana passed a bill that gives teachers license to equate creationism with evolution.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Biology Teachers have both condemned the bill, along with more than 4,000 Tennessee residents who submitted a petition to ask the Republican governor, William Haslam, to veto the bill.

He refused to listen, and the children of Tennessee will suffer as a result. As a high school teacher, this makes me angry. Teachers have a responsibility to present the truth to students, to open up their minds, and to challenge them. In Tennessee, by contrast, teachers are being asked to warp the truth. Back to the future?

What do you think?

Related Stories

More Creationism Bills Advance

Louisiana Lawmaker Wants Evolution Taught In Science Classes

Indiana Republicans Push Creationism In Public Schools

 

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96 comments

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11:05PM PDT on Jul 11, 2012

Never let scientific facts get in the way of sheer stupidity. Teach creationism in religious class where it belongs. Teach evolution in science class.

12:31AM PDT on May 2, 2012

I'd like to say let's hit them where they'll really feel it, and petition the Education Department and/or SCOTUS to cut off funding for any school that refuses to teach an acceptable science curriculum. Unfortunately, I'm afraid many of these people are so over-the-edge delusional, they would willingly compromise their children's education to whatever degree necessary to avoid having to teach actual science in a science class.

I propose a compromise. The creationists will stop claiming their mythological truth is falsifiable scientific theory and stop trying to teach it in science class. Scientists will continue to define their ideas as theories, not truths, and not trying to teach them in language and arts or religion classes. In addition, we could print a paragraph on the front of each science textbook that says this book is an attempt to represent the current thinking and methodologies of the empirical investigations into the observable physical sciences, not to describe the whole of human experience. Would that make everybody happy?

6:26PM PDT on May 1, 2012

Jennifer, A theory is a(n hypothesis) concept based on observation, which is then held up to the evidence for or against it. If the evidence shows that the concept is faulty, it is discarded, and some other concept is sought to explain the observation, which is tested in the same way; and on and on. This is what science and scientists thrive on, and how science advances knowledge.
A concept that fails the test is not, somehow "entitled" to equal time, it is not a matter of being "fair" to it. The concept of a flat Earth is no longer considered valid, not taught alongside the concept of a spherical Earth, as an alternative.
Despite the beauty of the theory, scientists were recently excited to find a possible proof that Einstein's theory of relativity was flawed, because, if so, it would have pointed to a new, closer approximation of how the world really works. Scientists checking out the new findings found that the data supporting the new findings were what was flawed.
Done! Gone! No one suggested keeping the inaccurate data around.
You might be interested in a book by Carl Sagan: "The Demon-Haunted World; Science as a Candle in the Dark."

12:42PM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

great, more people who think the earth exists soley for them, and that their own human life is the only life of value.

9:28AM PDT on Apr 20, 2012

It is discouraging to see the insanity of conservative ideology firmly entrenched in Tennessee and many other places. I wonder how they will feel when teachers legally start discussing the theory of the flying spagetti monster creating the unvierse.

11:08AM PDT on Apr 17, 2012

Of course creationism should be taught but in religion classes along with islam, hinduism and a host of other religions. if the Holy Spirit moves in the child then that will cause true belief. what they are taught will allow greater discernment that is all.

12:06PM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

Jennifer, creationism isn't even a theory. I think you should learn what "theory" means.

There is no scientific evidence to support creationism. Therefore creationism cannot be given credence in a science class.

No one objects to creationism being taught in religion class.

Read Lois K's post.

10:55AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

You can call creationism a myth, a belief, a personal position, a religious affair. But you certainly can't call it a theory and certainly not scientific. So it desn't belong to the science class. It's that simple. But politician vie for power, not for truth or justice...

10:18AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

I believe that in an ideal situation where the teacher involved was able to teach both equally and with out bias to either, that people should be given both theories and be allowed to form their own opinion without pressure, but we are human and bias always seems to creep in somewhere providing inaccurate information that favors what the person doing the teachings believes. I believe in seperation of church and state and banning religious influence in government. I also believe that every person has the individual right to pray in class or say the pledge of allegence or wear a T-shirt that says "Jesus is not a Homophobe" without interference from the government or school officials. It is called the individuals right to Free Speech and Free Expression. Many religions state very publicly that Homosexuality is wrong and will not accept people from the LGBT community into their church, but when it comes to say, adultry that the bible also says is wrong, they turn a deaf ear and allow that. I do not believe that our God is bigoted or prejudicial or that he/she would turn away anyone who believes in him/her. I believe that God loves all of his creations without bias or bigotry, or prejudice to anyone. I seem to remember being taught in grammer school, which was a Lutheran school, that "God Is Love," it did not say "God is Love, unless you are catholic or Protestant, or Homosexual, etc, etc," it simply said "God Is Love" and I believe that he loves and accepts ALL of his creations W

10:11AM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

I believe that in an ideal situation where the teacher involved was able to teach both equally and with out bias to either, that people should be given both theories in their entirety and be allowed to form their own opinion without pressure, but we are human and bias always seems to creep in somewhere providing inaccurate information that favors what the person doing the teachings believes. I believe in a STRONG seperation of church and state and completely banning religious influence in government. I also believe that every person has the individual right to pray in class or say the pledge of allegence or wear a T-shirt that says "Jesus is not a Homophobe" without interference from the government or school officials. It is called the individuals right to Free Speech and Free Expression. Many religions state very publicly that Homosexuality is wrong and will not accept people from the LGBT community into their church, but when it comes to say, adultry that the bible also says is wrong, they turn a deaf ear and allow that. If you ban one you should ban them all, if you accept one, you should accept them all. I do not believe that our God is bigoted or prejudicial or that he/she would turn away anyone who believes in him/her. I believe that God loves all of his creations without bias or bigotry, or prejudice to anyone. I seem to remember being taught in grammer school, which was a Lutheran school, that "God Is Love," it did not say "God is Love, unless you are catholic or Prot

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