By now, news of Tennessee’s Academic Freedom Bill has made the rounds. There’s been all kinds of analysis about it, harsh criticisms as well as defense. But as near as I can tell, just about everyone has missed what this bill has truly accomplished. Call it a cheap tactic, call it a trojan horse. Me? I call it brilliant.
Instead of just plain telling you why this bill is brilliant, however, I’m going to let you guys at Uncommon Descent guess. What makes this bill such a remarkable thing? Why is it a masterstroke? I want all of you that care to, to guess.
By the way, to help with that, I’m going to do something most critics seem pretty loathe to do: give you a direct link to the bill itself so you can read it. Go ahead, it’s not even two pages long. Pretty easygoing as far as legislation is concerned. And whenever you’re discussing this bill, I encourage linking to it so the people in the conversation can read it firsthand.
I’ll even throw in a few hints to help you guess at the brilliance of this bill.
* I’m granting the assumption, purely for the purposes of discussion, that this bill was crafted by creationist, intelligent design proponents, and – just for the hell of it – the ghosts of Francis Crick and Fred Hoyle.
* I am likewise granting, again for the sake of argument, that the goal of this legislation was to further the creationist, evolution-denying, evil right-wing cause. Sure, ID doesn’t require a denial of evolution or even common descent. Sure, even YECs accept various types of evolution. But I’ll just go ahead and agree that the goal of this bill, and the effect that it will have, will be to make people a lot more skeptical of the hot button mainstream science topics – global warming and Darwinian evolution in particular.
* It doesn’t accomplish this by teaching creationism. Indeed, the bill prohibits that: “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.” So, that would be a bad guess.
* It doesn’t accomplish this by teaching Intelligent Design either. Remember, Judge Jones made his ruling on that so – right or wrong, for better or for worse – that’s out too.
* It doesn’t accomplish this by teaching evolution skepticism or the denial of whatever aspect of global warming as fact either. Indeed, the bill stresses that insofar as science is taught, it should be done so fairly: “[…]school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall 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.” So, if global warming or evolution are discussed, the strengths and weaknesses have to be understood, analyzed, critiqued and reviewed in an objective manner.
But still, this bill is crafted – beautifully, brilliantly crafted – to encourage skepticism of evolution, common descent and global warming, in my opinion. And just to make anyone’s guesses more interesting, I’ll throw out this last hint.
* The way it will achieve this will actually have little to do with what’s taught in any classes at all.
I’ll post the answer – at least, the answer as I see it – probably later today or tomorrow. Until then, I look forward to seeing if any guesses are made.