Tennessee—home of the legendary Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925—will be voting on legislation that evolutionists lament will “force creationism” into public science classrooms.
House Bill 368 would protect “a teacher from discipline for teaching scientific subjects in an objective manner.”1 It states:
Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit 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.
This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.2
Despite this criteria, antagonistic opinions fill the blogosphere and other news media. For example, Scientific American published an article titled “The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools” that reported, “Creationism proponents are pushing for state legislation…that could make it easier for teachers to bring unscientific ideas back into the science classroom in public schools.”3
Evolutionists argue that such legislation promoting “critical thinking” and “academic freedom” will undermine the teaching of evolution and give creation science or intelligent design a foothold in public classrooms.
What they fail to recognize, however, is that the students are indeed clearly learning about the theory of evolution. A report issued by the U.S. Department of Education this year found that even though American students can “correctly” answer questions presented with an evolutionary slant, they struggle with critical thinking questions, such as extracting conclusions from a given data set.4
It seems, then, that what is at stake with academic freedom bills is not the teaching of evolution, but the revelation of that theory’s weaknesses, which are rather plain to see in light of the raw evidence.5
Similar bills in Oklahoma and New Mexico died in committee this year. The Tennessee bill is currently in subcommittee with further action expected on March 16.
- Bill Information for HB0368. Tennessee General Assembly. Accessed on wapp.capitl.tn.gov March 10, 2011.
- House Bill 368. General Assembly of the State of Tennessee. Posted on capitol.tn.gov.
- Lebo, L. The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools. Scientific American. Posted on scientificamerican.com February 28, 2011, accessed March 10, 2011.
- Dao, C. Test Scores Suggest American Students Struggle to Think Critically in Science. ICR News. Posted on icr.org March 2, 2011, accessed March 10, 2011.
- See Evidence for Creation: Evidence from Science. Posted on www.icr.org.
* Ms. Christine Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.