With the conclusion of the recent Presidential election, newly formed state legislatures are planning their 2013 legislative programs. So that means right wing, anti-science legislators in more conservative states are going to once again push evolution-denying legislation.
In Montana, state Representative Clayton Fiscus (Republican) is going to introduce a bill that will require the teaching of “intelligent design“, a form of creationism. This requirement would be in conflict with the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, where plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the Dover school board policy violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The losing lawsuit against the Dover school district cost them over $1 million, money which could have been used for purposes such as teaching children real science. I can only conjecture whether the bill will include funding for school districts that implement this potential requirement to defend against the inevitable constitutional lawsuits.
Similarly, in Indiana, state senator Dennis Kruse (Republican) has told a newspaper that he plans to introduce a bill essentially written by the Discovery Institute (a non-profit religious “think tank” famous for its attempts at getting intelligent design taught in American schools). His bill will be similar to the aforementioned Monkey Bill in Tennessee and another one that was passed in Louisiana in 2008, the misleadingly named Louisiana Science Education Act.
I can only hope that as happened last year, either the state legislatures decide that the view of the American electorate has moved on from this anti-science viewpoint, or they just decide there are more important issues on the docket.
Unfortunately, new activities in Missouri and Kentucky might attempt to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which explicitly prohibits state and Federal governments from showing any preference toward any religion, which includes creationism. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has reported that Missouri voters approved, by an 83-17 margin, a constitutional amendment (pdf) that adds a provision “that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” According to NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau, the change is worrisome from the point of view of science education, because “those words give students the legal right to skip assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with their beliefs, Rosenau says.” Continue reading “Antievolution legislation: Missouri and Kentucky attack science education”
Since the beginning of 2012, Republicans throughout the country tried to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by pushing religion into public schools. They lumped evolution denialism and global warming denialism into the broad terminology of “scientific controversy” (in case you’re reading, there are no scientific controversies over these theories, just political ones). And those Republicans tried their best to give the children in those states the worst science education ever. Evolution is the foundation of biology, that field of science that is the basis of our health, of medicine, of agriculture, of our environment, and of every living thing on the planet.
Yesterday, the Missouri legislature also adjourned, and two antievolution bills died in the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education before getting a hearing. House Bill 1227 would have permitted teachers “to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution.” House Bill 1227 would have required “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design,” both in public elementary and secondary schools and in “any introductory science course taught at any public institution of higher education” in the state.
Again, to be absolutely clear on the point, there are no “scientific weaknesses” in the fact of evolution. There is some ongoing debate about the mechanisms of evolution, but the basic principle of change in a population of organisms over time by the mechanisms of natural selection and genetic drift is sound and fully accepted by a huge majority (about 99.6%) of scientists. And intelligent design is not science, it is creationism with different clothing. It is pseudoscience.
A win, hopefully permanent, for science education.
Pat Summitt, probably one of the greatest basketball coaches ever, has stepped down as the coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team. She announced that she had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in August 2011, and she had coached the 2011-12 season, but today, as a result of the disease, she resigned. During her career, she won 8 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Championships, a record that is almost impossible to comprehend. Her reputation and success is the envy of college sports.
Early onset AD is usually defined as a diagnosis before the age of 65. Early onset AD may occur in individuals as young as their 30’s (very rare), but with most diagnoses in patients in their 50’s. Summitt was diagnosed at the age of 58 (and without knowing everything, she might have had symptoms earlier), so the age of onset is not unusual. Continue reading “Early onset Alzheimer’s disease ends coaching career of Pat Summitt”
As you recall, Tennessee’s governor, Republican Bill Haslam, did not veto HB 368, but allowed it to become law. The legislation allows public schools to teach the scientific controversies about evolution and global warming. Once again, there are no scientific controversies regarding evolution and global warming (though admittedly there are ongoing discussions about mechanics and other issues, as there are with all scientific theories). The only controversies are political and rhetorical, and evolution-denialism is based in religious beliefs, not in real science. Tennessee now will allow the teaching of creationism, a religious dogma, in publicly funded schools in direct opposition to the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution. In every single case, when these religious laws were brought before State and Federal courts, the laws were overturned. This law will also be thrown out. Continue reading “Tennessee’s Monkey Bill–harmful to education”
Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam refused to sign or veto HB 368, which protects anti-science teachers who insist on pushing creationism or global warming denialism. By not signing or vetoing the bill, the governor has, legally, allowed it to become law.
The bill claims there is a scientific controversy about evolution and climate change, which, of course, is completely untrue. Science accepts the evolutionary basis of biology. It accepts that the planet is warming faster than it should because of human activities. There is only a political debate on these matters.
The key provision of this bill is to support creationism, which is a religious belief. According to the Establishment Clause of the Unite States Constitution, as confirmed by numerous court rulings, creationism is religion, and teaching religion in public schools is not permitted.
This is a huge disappointment. If you care about science, you won’t learn real science in Tennessee public schools.
Tennessee’s so-called “Monkey Bill”, House Bill 368, which allows teachers to discuss the non-existent “scientific controversies” over evolution and global warming, has still not been vetoed or signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. He has been bombarded with petitions, editorials, and letters to veto the bill. Haslam has indicated, in the past, that teaching requirements should be set by the Board of Education and not the legislature.
Well, stay tuned. Haslam says he will make a decision tomorrow.
According to the Nashville News, Governor Bill Haslam told reporters that he will probably sign antievolution bill, which allows teachers to discuss the scientific “controversies” regarding the fact of evolution and the fact of climate change. Not to be overly pedantic, there is no scientific controversy over either theory; however, there is a political one. Another problem with the bill is how will a teacher discuss everything there is to know about evolution in a few hours. How can you critically analyze evolution or global warming denialism in just a few minutes? That would be like teaching someone to be a surgeon in a couple of days. It’s almost impossible.
Stay tuned. We’ll see if Governor Haslam actually signs the bill. Republicans rarely keep their word, so who knows what will actually happen.
There’s really not much more to report, except that House Bill 368 is still sitting on Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s desk, awaiting his signature or veto. Actually, there’s a third way, he can just ignore it, and it will become law after a set period of time.
In deciding whether the bill advances a religious agenda, the governor needs to look at context and history as well as the text. A useful reference work would be a 2005 decision by a federal judge in Pennsylvania striking down a school board policy requiring that students be made aware of “gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.” In that case, Judge John E. Jones concluded that intelligent design and teaching about “gaps” and “problems” in evolutionary theory are “creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism.” Continue reading “Creationism legislation–Tennessee Monkey Bill (Update 5)”