There Will Be No Scopes II This Year

 From the National Center for Science Education:


Tennessee’s Senate Bill 893 — nicknamed, along with its counterpart House Bill 368, the “monkey bill” — is on hold, “almost certainly postponing any action until next year,” according to the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Humphrey on the Hill blog (April 21, 2011) …

The bill, if enacted, would require state and local educational authorities to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers 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.”  The only examples provided of “controversial” theories are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

 … A particularly noteworthy moment of the House debate occurred when Frank Niceley (R-District 17) misinvoked [sic] the authority of Albert Einstein in support of HB 368, quoting the physicist as saying, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel (April 8, 2011), “A little knowledge would turn your head to atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head to Christianity.” Beyond the fact that the passage is a paraphrase of a saying of the philosopher Francis Bacon, not a quotation from Einstein, it suggests that Niceley understood the bill to involve the promotion of Christianity, despite the protestations of its sponsors.

Senate highlights (from the TN General Assembly website):   (click on SB0893 below the video player) 

At the 51:00 mark, an evolution advocate, Molly Miller, a Professor of Geology at Vanderbilt for 33 years, gave a reasoned presentation against the Bill.  The hostility of some Education Committee members in response to her testimony must be seen to be believed.

House highlights (from the TN General Assembly website): (click on HB0368 below the video player) 

At about the 1:04 mark, the first witness, Dr. Robin Zimmer identified himself as a scientist, while neglecting to add that he is the director of a group, Center for Faith and Science International, which states that a belief in God as creator of the universe is a core principle.  He did make a number of, what I thought, were interesting remarks.  While affirming “micro-evolution”, the creationist Intelligent Design invention to explain why we need flu shots every year, he went on to imply that the jury was still out on “macro-evolution” — the rest of evolutionary theory. 

In support of this idea, he cited a book by Michael J. Behe, an Intelligent Design advocate.  (Mr. Behe’s testimony in the Intelligent Design case, Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005), was eviscerated by the judge in his ruling.)  Zimmer also dismissed the idea of “junk” genes, strong evidence in favor of evolution.  (These genes are present, but not activated in humans and animals, giving human embryos tails and gill slits and chickens the genes to produce teeth.)  Amazingly, in his opening remarks, and without a hint of irony, Zimmer bemoaned American students’ low ranking in science compared to other countries.

At about the 1:16 mark, Wesley Roberts. a Tennessee high school biology teacher gave an impassioned and informed speech in opposition to the Bill.  Mr. Roberts’ testimony makes for great viewing.  He gets to the heart of the matter when he tells the Committee that, under the Bill, teachers would be required to discuss all ideas, including Chinese creation myths.

The battle here in Tennessee is over for now, but the push to replace science education with Sunday School stories goes on.

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