Opinions — April 24, 2012 at 6:03 am

Creationism in Tennessee public education

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Courtesy of travelgogirl.com

In the town of Dayton, Tennessee, 87 years ago, John T. Scopes was charged with violating the Butler Act for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in his classroom; the now-infamous Scopes Monkey Trial ensued.  This month, Tennessee lawmakers passed HB 368 by a margin of 3-1, requiring “teachers to respond to debate and dispute that may occur when certain scientific subjects are taught in the classroom,” according to State Senator Bo Watson (R).  Under the law, a teacher’s response to science questions requires discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, possibly opening the door for discussion of religion, particularly as it relates to evolution, global warming and cloning.  Watson added that the legislation is aimed at improving students’ critical thinking and ability to analyze information.

Aside from the obvious issues of constitutionality, why would any responsible adult entrust their parental duty to the development of their child’s religious beliefs to an elementary or secondary school science teacher?  Apparently, many parents have taken issue with the law, inundating the legislature and school board with letters voicing their objection.  Simply stated, a parent’s responsibility does not belong in the hands of public education; although Tennessee’s Blount County Board of Education, which rejected three high school biology textbooks for not including creationism in a vote of 6-1, would seem to disagree.

Tennessee’s new law states in part, “This…shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine…”  Regardless of what the law claims, HB 368 is merely a backdoor attempt to introduce religion into public education and forcibly impose religious dogma on children without parental consent.  However, the law avoids making creationism or reading from the Bible part of the school’s curriculum.  This approach seeks to satisfy the federal court’s test established in Lemon v. Kurtzman, which requires that legislation concerning religion have a secular purpose, that it does not result in the government becoming excessively entangled with religion and that its primary purpose is not to advance religion.  However clever this legislation appears, the Supreme Court has exposed religiously motivated efforts far less obvious, such as in the case of silent prayer, wherein not a word is spoken but religious views are still clearly expressed.

Both legal and scientific experts believe this attempt to introduce religion into the classroom will fail the Lemon v. Kurtzman test when it is challenged in a court of law.  However, this contention did not placate scientific organizations, many of which came out in force opposing the legislation.  Members of the National Academy of Sciences authored an article in The Tennessean condemning the legislation.  The Tennessee Science Teachers Association and the National Earth Science Teachers Association also opposed the legislation.

In response to this objection, Tennessee’s State Rep. Bill Dunn (R) referred to scientists as alarmists and claimed that the law does not threaten science, though he conveniently failed to mention the bill’s assault on the separation of church and state and parents’ rights.  Paradoxically, legislative support for this law failed to take notice of the over 12,000 US Christian clergy who acknowledge the theory of evolution as a foundational scientific truth, according to members of the National Academy of Sciences.

On a very basic level, Tennessee lawmakers and school board members have declared war on the rights of parents over public education, as they relate to their children’s religious development.  A child’s faith is solely a parent’s responsibility to decide and shape.  No one in our society (politician, priest, educator or minister) has the right or charge to presume this responsibility without parental consent.  This basic right cannot be compromised by legislation like that in Tennessee, nor should it be imposed on educators who may or may not be persons of faith.  Who, in the school system or legislature, will decide whether to read from the Bible or the Koran as a means of ensuring equity in the presentation of alternative beliefs for the alleged purpose of developing critical thinking and analysis?  And what of those parents who acknowledge the importance of science?  Do they not have a right to protect their children from the ambiguity created in debate and discussion?

This action by Tennessee law makers is a case of religious extremism seeking to impose religious dogma on children, disregard the constitution and undermine a parent’s right and duty to their child’s faith and development.  Apparently not enough critical thinking or analysis went into the new law.

  • bgilman45

    Your thinking is flawed here Tim. Schools have long discussed and taught the theories and history behind Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc …. why should Christianity be any different? I would think that any discussion of the creation of the universe should include ALL theories and beliefs. In many cases, these beliefs speak volumes about the people groups who follow them. Therefore, there is great value to teaching this way in terms of sociological study, diversity and tolerance.

    • HUEY HEARD

      “Sociological study”. I agree, sociological study or more accurately, social studies. Not science.

    • theot58

      What is there is genuine SCIENTIFIC evidence supporting Intelligent Design, why should that be excluded?

      In the science classroom, the scientific method should apply.

      This law is a good law in that it will protect teachers and students who question what is being taught on scientific grounds. Surely this is a good thing – we want students to be critical thinkers.

      The evolutionists are concerned that if the scientific method was to be critically applied to their pet theory (Evolution) that it will cruble – that is why they are trying to create fear and panic.

      • HUEY HEARD

        “What is there is genuine SCIENTIFIC evidence supporting Intelligent Design, why should that be excluded?”

        No theot58 there is not one piece, shred or iota of genuine scientific evidence for the support of Intelligent Design. None.

        As a point of fact scientists actively apply the scientific method to evolution daily and critically. Thousands of them around the world. If there were something wrong with the theory of evolution, it would be widely known by now. Or are you suggesting that some sort of cabal exists?

        Nor are scientists, or evolutionists as you term them, trying to create fear and panic.

        Your statements are not only ignorant they are very specious.

        • http://www.facebook.com/weisschr Christopher R Weiss

          Theot58 is a well known troll making the same arguments over and over and over and over again. You can embarrass and refute him an infinite number of times, and he won’t back down an inch because he cannot be confused by the facts.

    • http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/ Dr. GS Hurd

      What is at issue with these laws is they promote anti-scientific, and irrational nonsense into science courses. A sociology course, or world religions course would be a logical place to teach about creationists beliefs. I think that if a teacher tried to truly examine the origins, and source materials of the worlds religions, including the three loosely based on the Bible, they would be fired post-haste.

      There are only so many class-room hours, and even a high school science course has more material in their text books than can be covered in class.

  • http://www.facebook.com/weisschr Christopher R Weiss

    What will happen is a few teachers or a district will step over the line and use this law to blatantly teach ID and/or creationism, a court case will ensue, and the law will be struck down as too broad. In the interim, TN will continue to perpetuate the shame it has born since the scopes monkey trials.

    • theot58

      The law explicitly prohibits religion from the science classroom!!!!

      The scientific methods requires observation, measurement, repeatability. Evolutionists are up in arms about this law because Darwinian/Macro evolution has none of these.
      They know that their pet theory is weak and will not withstand genuine scrutiny.

      For too long the Evolutionists have been harassing and intimidating anyone who questioned the Evolution myth.
      There are many cases where people have been bullied and harassed for no other reason than because they questioned Evolution. (See Expelled – No intelligence allowed, or the Kansas School Board – Evolution hearings for documentation). Questioning/scrutinizing is a key tennant of the scientific method, it should be encouraged not punished.

      • http://www.facebook.com/weisschr Christopher R Weiss

        The only logical alternatives to evolution are pure creationism and ID – this is the only direction that the “controversies” can proceed. There are established court cases banning the teaching of both.

        Expelled was an anti-intellectual journey into a religious perspective, It should have been re-titled “Expelled – Only real science allowed.”

        Folks like Behe have had their chance to prove out ID, and he and similar proponents have failed every opportunity to scientifically prove their points of view. The debate in the scientific community is over. It is only the biblically literal who refuse to accept reality.

        As we see in the rest of the world, the US is being left behind because of these backward views on science and reality in general. It is time we focus on good science, math, history, and communication skills. This the only way to intelligently design an education system.

        • theot58

          This law will improved science by encouraging the application of the scientific method which demands a questioning mentality.

          Why are you opposed to the application of the scientific method?
          What is you major malfunction?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=543797443 Robert Little

        theot58, are you aware that “Expelled” is basically a string of lies?

        • theot58

          Are you aware that the string of lies about Expelled are a string of lies?

          In order to make an informed conclusion you should view some debates on Evolution and see the theory under some scrutiny; just believing the pet answers is poor science. Go to Google Video or YouTube and search for Debates on Evolution. Try this link as a start http://youtu.be/PnmI4Yf12g4. Professor William Moore, Teacher of evolution at University level for over 30 years debates Kent Hovind (science teacher).

          • http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/ Dr. GS Hurd

            Kent Hovind, tax cheat and federal prisoner. Kent Hovind, had mail order degrees, and taught creationist dogmas at a Christian school and called it “science.”

          • theot58

            Scientific arguements do not care who makes them. Sladering people does not diminish the strength of the scientific arguements they put forward.

            What is important is that the arguements are clear and consistent are consistent with the evidence.
            Slandering Kent Hovind as a tax cheat does not diminish the force of the scientific arguements that he made.

            I have seen him debate and demolish Evolutionary professors because of the arguements he put forward.

            Have a look for yourself: http://youtu.be/PnmI4Yf12g4

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blake-Douglas/557532180 Blake Douglas

            Slander is spoken. Written defamation is libel.

        • http://www.facebook.com/theo.tsourdalakis Theo Tsourdalakis

          Why don’t you actually watch it and decide for yourself instead of listening to the misinformation of the Evolutionionst propaganda machine.

          In order to make an informed conclusion check out some debates on Evolution and see how it crumbles when scrutinised; just believing the pet answers is poor science. Go to Google Video or YouTube and search for Debates on Evolution. Try this link as a start http://www.fishdontwalk.com/

  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

    • theot58

      You seem to be asserting that teachers and students should NOT be able to question what is being taught. Do you really mean that?

      The law explicitly prohibits religion from the science classroom.

      What is the problem?

      For too long the Evolutionists have been harassing and intimidating anyone who questioned the Evolution myth.
      There are many cases where people have been bullied and harassed for no other reason than because they questioned Evolution. (See Expelled – No intelligence allowed, or the Kansas School Board – Evolution hearings for documentation). Questioning/scrutinizing is a key tennant of the scientific method, it should be encouraged not punished.

  • theot58

    THIS ARTICLE IS BALONEY.!!!
    The statement “Regardless of what the law claims, HB 368 is merely a backdoor attempt to introduce religion into public education and forcibly impose religious dogma on children without parental consent.” is utter bull.

    The Tennessee law is a GOOD law which will improve science standards by protecting teachers and students who question what is being taught on SCIENTIFIC grounds. SURELY THIS WHAT WE EXPECT.
    The scientific method demands a sckeptical questioning mentality. We should be applauding this law not condeming it.

    For too long the Evolutionists have been harassing and intimidating anyone who questioned the Evolution myth.
    There are many cases where people have been bullied and harassed for no other reason than because they questioned Evolution. (See Expelled – No intelligence allowed, or the Kansas School Board – Evolution hearings for documentation). Questioning/scrutinizing is a key tennant of the scientific method, it should be encouraged not punished.

    • http://www.facebook.com/weisschr Christopher R Weiss

      Same junk from you over and over and over and over again….

      Your position is well known, and it is wrong. Unfortunately, you are not alone.

      The only controversies around evolution are outside science. Specific facts are always under constant review because going backward is difficult due to the paucity of evidence. However, the theory which is the explanatory model is not under review.

      The 20th century introduction of molecular biology and genome mapping cemented evolution as the cornerstone of modern biological research. Creating artificial conflicts in the science classroom that do not actually exist in the scientific community will do all the children in Tennessee exposed to such nonsense a disservice.

      We know you want to establish a theocracy, which is why your handle is “Theot58.” The rest of us free thinkers, who are both believers and atheists, will always object to your anti-american agenda.

      • theot58

        My response to you is the same as your response to me

        “Your position is well known, and it is wrong. Unfortunately, you are not alone.”

        Scientific discussions should be based on discussing the science not in the gibberish you are dishing out. Stupid statements about theocracy etc. which seem to be design to create fear and panic.

        Let’s refocuss. The Tennessee law is a GOOD law in that it encourages the application of the scientific method. ARE YOU OPPOSED TO THE FULL APPLICATION OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD?

        In order to make an informed conclusion you should view some debates on Evolution and see the theory under some scrutiny; just believing the pet answers is poor science. Go to Google Video or YouTube and search for Debates on Evolution. Try this link as a start http://youtu.be/PnmI4Yf12g4. Professor William Moore, Teacher of evolution at University level for over 30 years debates Kent Hovind (science teacher).

        • wfraser11

          theot ,
          yo, creationism is not science. There is no reason to bring up failed ideas in an eigth grade science class unless one’s intentiion is to confuse and mislead students. Hey I think the flying spaghetti monster created the universe. We’re not teaching that are we. What we’re teaching is Christian fundamentalism and the creation myth . This is unsupported by science. There are ZERO,,,ZERO,,,ZERO scientifically peer reviewed articles supporting creationism.
          Your concept that attacking science with innuendo, and unsupportable claims
          is just exactly what it sounds like, ignorance. Deny away Bible beater.
          You cannot change reality, only damage children’s ability to absorb logic and reason in favor of fraud, dogma and plain old lies. Prove your magical designer scientifically please, in a peer reviewed science journal. You cannot, have not, will not. Saying you can denies the fact that no science article supports the claim ina peer reviewed journal. Won’t happen . Fraud, lies, deceit and lying for Jesus don’t count sorry. You have nothing scientifically and the law sponsored by creationists like yourself is a deceitful lying fraudulent attmpt to slip the camel’s nose under the tent bottom. You know it if you stop and thik too. Oh wait,thats asking too much. you don’t think. YTopu don’t do logic. you do religious dogma. Signed, conservative oil and gas geologist marine officer Lutheran.
          By the way creationist, most churches don’t agree wityh literalism. Most churches don’t lie about science like you. Ignoranmus.
          Will

          • theot58

            wfraser11
            I am very confused by your comments.

            Why are you introducing religion and the Bible in what is a scientific question?

            All I am saying is:

            1) The scientific method requires a questioning/skeptical approach
            2) The Tennessee law simply supports the scientific method
            – it protects teachers and students who question what is being taught
            – Surely you do not oppose to teachers and students questioning what is being taught do you?
            3) The definition of “evolution” used in textbooks is vague and changeable
            – micro evolution is agreed to by everyone
            – defining evolution as “change over time” is silly as it is blatently obvious, it means nothing
            – Darwinian/Macro evolution is where the contention is.

            4) The Evidence supporting Darwinian/macro evolution is very weak.
            – It is a deception to call Macro evolution a fact as the evidence is so weak
            – What evidence can you put forward which “proves” that our great ……. great grandfather was a self replicating molecule?

            Your wild accustations are discrediting you.

            I hope this helps

    • http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/ Dr. GS Hurd

      For an honest debunking of the “Expelled” propaganda film, see: “Expelled Exposed.”
      http://www.expelledexposed.com/

      It was a fraud start to finish.

    • LrZ

      Google: For too long the Evolutionists have been harassing and intimidating anyone who questioned

      This is a copypasta creobot. It’s probably not even reading the replies.

  • R2D3

    See:

    Evolution: The Creation Myth of Our Culture
    http://www.trueorigin.org/evomyth01.asp

    • http://www.facebook.com/theo.tsourdalakis Theo Tsourdalakis

      Do a YouTube search on “Kansas evolution hearings” to hear real, credible scientists, present powerful arguments which debunk the Darwinian/Macro evolution myth.

      Go to attached link for a 10 min audio interview with Dr Ben Carson.
      He is a world famous neuro surgeon and created much controversy recently when he expressed his rejection of Darwinian evolution.
      I commend the link to you;
      http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/entry/2012-06-11T17_15_57-07_00

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blake-Douglas/557532180 Blake Douglas

    “discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories”
    Such as gravity, dark matter, matter/antimatter imbalance, or the seeming nonexistence of Higgs bosons? I think if this law was implemented with an impartial mind toward balanced evaluation of scientific progress, we’d be hearing something about those subjects too.

  • wfraser11

    And there you have it: the conservative attitude to knowledge. No reading, no exploration, no empirical evidence, no learning, no free play of ideas. Just rumour, Fox News and the Bible. Why think? It’ll just make you unhappy.

  • wfraser11

    theot,
    Okay lets be a little cklearer then. You have no science accreditted background. you are repeating ignorant creationist bull about macro evolution. you know nothing about evolution. You are not going to overturn the central tenet in the life sciences. Evolution has no scierntific contention and there is no controversy. you are not a scientists and you do not think logically. Your comments are just plain misinformed.
    However, since you are an inteligunt desine advocate and seek to throw out 200 years of solid science in favor of unsupported, unreviewed, non peer reviewed religious dogma, please send us all some links to a peer reviewed scientific article that supports ANY of your allegations. ANY of them.
    I’ll give you a hint, there aren’t any. Creatyionists science attacks that have NO credible work behind them are not peer reviewed articles. You discredit Christianity and America with your unconstitutional;, ignorance based attempts to push fraud into the science classroom. your eforts will result in more of the same court rulings against your deceit, lies and corruption. The message of christ is not to lie about
    Christianity. neither the Ctholic, Lutheran, ERpiscopalina, Methodist or Anglican churches support your efforts to attack science in favor of literlaism. And science certainly does not support your efforts. So, speak for yourself stupid. And get thee to college, you are a moron.
    Will Oil and Gas Geologist

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