Friday, April 08, 2011

Tennessee Moves One Step Closer To Introducing Creationism In Classrooms

It's one thing to propose creationism in a religion class or comparative sociology classroom.

It's quite another to put it in a science classroom as an alternative to evolution.

The two aren't comparative. Evolution is science-based, while creationism is based on religion, and a leap of faith is required.

Yet, Tennessee has moved one step closer to allowing creationist indoctrination of students in science classrooms.
Tennessee's Republican-dominated House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would protect teachers who want to challenge the theory of human evolution.

Thursday's 70-28 passage of HB 368 was hailed by sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, who said the proposal was designed to promote "critical thinking" in science classes.

That's one way of seeing it. However, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association is on record describing the bill as "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional." Although the document is worded so as not to promote any particular doctrine, the thrust of the proposed law would elevate creationist theories about human evolution to the same status accorded by most educators to Darwin's research.
This isn't about critical thinking. It's about using religious concepts to pollute the waters of science. The harm being done by advancing this in the classrooms is antithetical to educating students and preparing them for the future. The text of the bill can be found here, and the sections in question are as follows:
(d) 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.

(e) 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.
Subsection (d) would appear to give wide latitude to teachers, and enable them to attempt to use intelligent design or other such couched terms to discuss and/or undermine the teaching of evolution in classrooms, while (e) appears to be an attempt to prevent it from being construed as an attempt to push creationism or other religious-based arguments against evolution.

The problem is that (d) gives teachers wide latitude in how to present evolution and enables teachers to propose intelligent design or outright creationism as ways to discredit or disprove evolution.

In fact, creationism goes against the kind of critical thinking necessary to compete in a global economy. When you push religious concepts into the realm of science, you're substituting faith for the scientific process. The scientific process, which relies on testable theories is critical to advancing science and technology, including in biology and medicine. Creationism undermines the ability to compete on those fertile economic sectors - sectors that are critical to the future American economy.

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