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Tennessee teacher protection bill passes; Darwin’s folk are teed off

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In “Tennessee Evolution Bill Becomes Law After Governor Bill Haslam Declines To Act” ( The Huffington Post, 04/10/2012), Nick Wing reports,

A Tennessee bill meant to protect teachers who allow students to question and criticize “controversial” subjects such as evolution and climate change became law on Tuesday after Gov. Bill Haslam (R) declined to act.

Unclear why the scare quotes around the word, controversial. These topics are not controversial? Who knew?

The state legislature had sent the bill to Haslam earlier this month. He had until Tuesday to veto it, sign it or allow it to pass without his signature.

The bill would guarantee

that teachers will not be subject to discipline for engaging students in discussion of questions they raise, though Watson said the idea is to provide guidelines so that teachers will bring the discussion back to the subjects authorized for teaching in the curriculum approved by the state Board of Education.

What’s interesting is how hard the Darwin lobby fought to prevent so simple a change:

Calls from civil liberties groups for a veto of the “monkey bill” in Tennessee. A new attack on science education in Oklahoma. A survey on the perceived importance of science education. The Los Angeles Times’s view of Tennessee’s antiscience legislation. The death of a second antiscience bill in Oklahoma. Views from across Tennessee on the state’s antiscience legislation. And congratulations to Lawrence Krauss.

With philosophers staring to weigh in against their straitjacket in increasing numbers, it’ll be interesting to see how long they can make people wear it.

See also: Tennessee passes a “teach the controversy” over evolution bill

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3 Replies to “Tennessee teacher protection bill passes; Darwin’s folk are teed off

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    News:

    One of the key underlying points is that Tennessee is the ground zero for the infamous — and poorly understood — Scopes Monkey Trial that has been so distorted in the media for 80+ years, and which has been used as a key means of strawmannising, denigrating, demonisising and scapegoating those so “benighted” as to take the Gospels and the Bible seriously. (Cf here on and here on in context. Those caught up in rage over the real and imagined sins of Christendom may find here on helpful.)

    What is not so well known, is that Inherit the Wind is seriously distorted [that is itself a part of why courses on origins science should have a little module or at least a text box and online link or appendix with more info on straight thinking about the controversies over the decades since 1858/9; here on some of the roots and pivotal issues may help], and that there was a serious reason for inferring that evolutionary materialist atheism and scientism were — and are — sectarian views that arguably are substantially equivalent to a denominational tenet.

    The argument was, in effect, that sectarian views should be funded on the same basis as sectarian seminaries are: by supporters, not by state — taxpayer — funds. (Implicit, was the point that if sensibilities of the taxpayers were so violated, this would undermine support for major exposure to science instruction in schools at a time when such emphasis was more or less a novelty still. the issue would have been that under the excuse of science education, people were being indoctrinated in the sort of atheism and social darwinism that had been responsible for the rape of Belgium and was pushing sterilisation and other questionable practices as a state sponsored solution to those deemed “less fit” than the idealised Northern European types; Appalachian Hillbillies and the like, of course, were not exactly deemed “fittest.” We need not mention members of my own predominant race, other than to note that c 1910, Ota Benge, taken slave and sold in a slave market then taken to the USA, was put on display in a zoo in New York, next to the monkeys in effect; he was set free with difficulty, and ended up a suicide when it became clear that he could not save enough money to get back home. If you doubt this concern was a serious one, kindly note that Hunter’s Civic Biology, at the heart of the Scopes controversy, was indisputably supportive of Eugenics, indeed such is hinted at in its very title.)

    We may disagree with the above points, but if we are to avoid indoctrination it is clear that we need to teach principles, strengths and weaknesses of science as a pathway to empirically reliable insights on our world. And, where there are controversies or significant limitations, we should not shun to let students and the general public know that.

    Otherwise, we have passed from the province of education into that of indoctrination and propaganda.

    And, on Origins science, we simply were not there to observe what actually happened, nor do we have an indisputable record.

    We have models of the past beyond record, and we may think they are accurate to one extent or another, but such models definitely go beyond what we can observe. (The tendency to present macro-evolution as a “fact” beyond dispute, is not justifiable. It can reasonably be argued as a significant inference and more or less well supported conclusion, but it is not even an historical argument, it is an inference beyond history. We should be willing to acknowledge that.)

    Models of origin of life or of origin of major body plans are NOT comparable to observing the roundness of the earth — generally accepted among the educated since Aristotle and Eratosthenes [the debate with Columbus was that his estimate for the distance round the earth was far too small and his objectors were correct] — but rather to models of solar system origin and planetary origin. Which, are usually presented with caveats and limitations.

    Bryan, who was severely caricatured in Inherit The Wind, a former US Presidential candidate and pacifist secretary of State under Wilson — took up cudgels against the Darwinist evolutionary agenda because he as Secretary of State had seen the influence of Darwin (via Haeckel et al) and Nietzsche on the German Aggression of 1914 – 15. That is why he published on The Menace of Darwinism, and it is why he joined the state team on this test case that was taken up by ACLU on the other side.

    It is perhaps unfortunate that the disgusted Judge, having gone through the infamous duel in the shade where Darrow had examined Bryan, did not carry through so that per the agreement between the two leading lawyers, Darrow would take the stand for examination by Bryan.

    Since we know that in the summing up Bryan had no opportunity to give [and, within a week he was dead of complications of diabetes . . . ], he was going to highlight the Loeb-Leopold Nietzschean superman murder case and its Darwinian connexions (Darrow had then recently “won” that high profile case), it is probable that Darrow would not have fared well. [Objectors, kindly cf. here on and the onward linked for more on the above little understood points, before shooting off ill-informed hot retorts, please.]

    So, the issue of rights of teachers and students on controversial theories of origins and the like, will have peculiar sensitivity in Tennessee.

    But that is all the more reason why the rights of students and teachers to provide balance should be protected.

    And of course, we do have major philosophers weighing in just now on the subject. (Cf the onward backgrounder on Nagel, here. Nagel, FYI, is evidently an atheist, but one who for decades has argued that there must be grounding for consciousness in our worldviews; which led to his well known essay on what it is like to be a bat.)

    Time for some serious re-thinking.

    GEM of TKI

  2. 2
    Bantay says:

    “declines to act” ?? Yeah right. As if he should have vetoed the bill and prevented students from doing what scientists are supposed to do. Question. Investigate. Test. Observe. Discuss.

    Hopefully more and more people will find out that taxpayer funded school science classes are not the place for ndoctrinating young, impressionable children with Darwinism, but for educating them with all aspects of current science issues.

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    Free at last, free at last, Thank God almighty free at last.
    Well at least a toe in the door.
    This kind of things can encourage more freedom fighting.
    70 of the pop agrees with both sides being presented in origin issues.
    Thats good enough for creationists to strive better to overcome the modern censorship and religious attack from evolutionism etc.
    All creationists should see in free schools the advantage to promoting creationisms.
    Sometimes ID folk yawn but miss the point that truth needs only resistance to be removed.

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