Some people don't think God is smart enough to come up with the idea of evolution.
By NEELA BANERJEE Posted on Friday, April 6, 2012
Tennessee is poised to adopt a law that would allow public school teachers to challenge climate change and evolution in their classrooms without fear of sanction, according to educators and civil libertarians in the state.
Passed by the state Legislature and awaiting Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's signature, the measure is likely to stoke growing concerns among science teachers around the country that teaching climate science is becoming the same kind of classroom and community flash point as evolution. If it becomes law, Tennessee will become the second state, after Louisiana, to allow the teaching of alternatives to accepted science on climate change.
The Tennessee measure does not require the teaching of alternatives to scientific theories of evolution, climate change, human cloning and "the chemical origins of life." Instead, the legislation would prevent school administrators from reining in teachers who expound on alternative hypotheses.
The bill's critics, which include the Tennessee Science Teachers Association and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, counter that teachers currently have no problem addressing unconventional ideas and challenges students bring up. They argue, instead, that the measure gives legal cover to teachers to introduce pseudo-scientific ideas to students, and they have asked the governor to veto it.
"Our fear is that there are communities across this state where schools are very small and one teacher is the science department, and they also happen to teach a Sunday school class, and this gives them permission to bring that into the classroom," said Becky Ashe, president of the state science teachers association. "It's a floodgate."
Haslam has until next week to decide whether to sign or veto the measure. If he does not decide within 10 days of the bill arriving on his desk, it automatically becomes law. The governor's office did not immediately return calls for comment.
Biologists say there is no scientific controversy over evolution, only a political one. FACT's focus is on evolution, not climate change. The bill's passage was hailed by the Discovery Institute, a group that seeks to have alternative theories to evolution taught in public schools. The Tennessee bill is based in part on the institute's model legislation.