It looks like Tennessee can add another dumb law to join the ranks of other special ones such as being able to shoot whales out of a car, marrying your cousin, and not being allowed to carry skunks into the state or electrifying your trash. It now joins Louisiana in being one of the only two states to have anti-evolution and anti-climate laws in effect.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently posted their yearly anti-science legislation scorecard. It tallies up all the bills that states tried to pass over the past year attempting to interpose more “objectivity” into science curriculum.
Normally objectivity in science isn't a bad thing, in fact it's quite necessary and essential. However, these state legislatures' brand of objectivity means questioning well-proven theories like evolution and climate change, which are supported by mounds of evidence and have earned consensus among (legitimate) scientists.
Recall that a “theory” in science has a different connotation than when everyday people use it. A scientific theory has been rigorously tested and reviewed by multiple experts by the time it's assigned that label.
Theories that the public come up with more closely resemble hunches that haven't been proven with proper evidence. That Obama was teleported to Mars, reptile overlords are controlling the world's governments, and the Rugrats are all a figment of Angelica's imagination, are all labeled as “theories” by the public, but obviously aren't scientific.
Most of the bills include different variations of the passage below:
“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…”
That excerpt actually came from Tennessee Senate Bill 893, which has since been signed into law. Other bills have been proposed in Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, and New Hampshire, but did not pass.
It almost sounds harmless until you uncover the true meaning behind the language - that schools should be required to teach alternate versions of certain scientific concepts to provide “balance” and “perspective.” The bills are dubbed as “academic freedom acts,” a catchphrase used by religious promoters to assert that arguments such as intelligent design (abbreviated ID) should be taught as legitimate opposing theories.
The NCSE explains,
The claims of “academic freedom” are disingenuous for several reasons. The American Association of University Professors, the chief watchdog for academic freedom, defines academic freedom principally in terms of the right of college-level scholars to conduct, publish and discuss research. AAUP has stated its opposition to efforts to teach ID in classrooms, stating recently that “Such efforts run counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding evolution and are inconsistent with a proper understanding of the meaning of academic freedom.” And as the AAUP observes, academic freedom does not carry with it the freedom to misinform students, and that is exactly what happens when ID arguments are taught.
Basically the term “academic freedom” is being usurped by opposition groups to blend religious dogma and political views into science curriculum.
And it's not just evolution and climate change. New bills broadened their targets to include topics such as human cloning and the “chemical” origin of life.
As I've said in previous articles on the subject, religion and policy topics, such as creationism, intelligent design, or opposing theories to climate change, are not based in science, and are only appropriate to be taught in their respective subject areas.
Perhaps Tennessee politicians didn't foresee the irony of defining every living creature as a “dumb animal”.