A while back I wrote a post about the National Center for Science Education and their recent efforts to not only take on the spread of creationism in public schools, but also the misinformation y the same groups about the reality of climate change and humanity’s role in it. Today, I got an article from their website about an interesting, but perhaps not surprising development from the great state of Tennessee …
“The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories,” the Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 19, 2012) reported, adding, “Critics call it a ‘monkey bill’ that promotes creationism in classrooms.”
I feel the same way about this as I do any time the government decides to get involved in determining what medical procedures are required for, say, a legal abortion. It’s none of their business, they almost never know what the hell they’re talking about, and it’s always being done in order to promote some sort of nonsensical agenda related to their personal interpretation of an invisible deity that gave us a bunch of laws we mostly don’t follow anymore. Otherwise, they would just let doctors, scientists, and teachers do what they were trained for years to do without every self-righteous yahoo shouting from the peanut gallery that they’re doing it wrong. The specific text of the bill reads as follows:
The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy . . . The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.
It’s true that some subjects can cause controversy when there are conflicting theories or models for physical phenomena that are being supported by a significant number of scientists in a particular field. Obviously the ethical issues involving human cloning or, for example, the taking of human life in the case of brain death can be the subject of a great deal of debate.
But the demonstrated, observable fact of biological evolution and the theory explaining its mechanisms is not one of these subjects. Neither is the Big Bang theory. Both are clearly imperfect, incomplete, and will most definitely change in light of new information we uncover as we improve our understanding of the universe of the very large and very small. But they are, without a doubt, the best theories we have to explain our observations to date; nothing else comes close. To suggest that – outside the normal scrutiny and rigor that comes with validating any scientific theory – there is any “controversy” within the scientific community with regard to either model is to not understand how the scientific method works.
Nevertheless, it’s true that the teaching – or even the mention – of such topics can cause arguments and even fist fights in some part of this great nation. The fact that it’s based on an ignorance of the facts or a refusal to accept them is largely irrelevant; the rhetoric is firmly entrenched in American society, and it’s not leaving anytime soon. This is why I’m so thrilled to see Tennessee stepping up to the plate and mandating that teachers …
… be permitted to 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.
This is perfect, since nothing in the world of creationism has even come close to even being a testable hypothesis, much less a scientific theory. Hell, creationists can’t even get into peer reviewed scientific journals unless they talk about something unrelated altogether. The best they have been able to do to date is cherry pick outdated information from real scientists in order to learn just enough to form questions to which they don’t bother learning the answers. The way this bill is worded, students will be scrutinizing “existing scientific theories” in a real, substantive manner and realize that science is a perpetual, self-correcting work in progress full of discovery and wonder.
“Bazinga,” as Sheldon Cooper would say.
This is Tennessee, and the bill was drafted by a Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) in order to cast doubt on anything about evolution and global warming that happens to conflict with his party’s agenda and the teachings of his local church – or the beliefs of his well-off constituents who are paying for his re-election. Supporting my claim is the recent passing of HB2658, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public buildings, I’m pretty confident in my assessment of the situation.
A number of other people are with me on this, and think this is yet another iteration of “teach the controversy”:
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Institute for Biological Sciences
The National Association of Geoscience Teachers
The National Earth Science Teachers Association
The Tennessee Science Teachers Association
… you know, people with degrees in science, who know what they’re talking about, who understand how to field questions about the subject matter, and who know from experience that the only controversy surrounding the topics of evolution and the origin of the universe is the one made up by people who can’t be bothered to open a book that doesn’t start with “In the beginning …“