On March 19, the Tennessee state legislature passed HB 368 (SB 893). While these bills acknowledge that "an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens," it authorizes the state board of education, school boards, and school administrators to "assist" elementary and high school teachers in finding ways to address scientific controversies. Teachers can help students "understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories."
You may know that in 1925, Tennessee enacted a statute that made it illegal for a public school teacher "to teach any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man descended from a lower order of animals." Soon thereafter, John Scopes was arrested and indicted. The trial, known at the time as The Monkey Trial, held the nation's interest, especially when Clarence Darrow, Scope's attorney, questioned the state's prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, although the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the conviction on a technicality. What the trial did accomplish was it was a significant setback for anti-science forces.
Creationists had another court room defeat in 2005 when their thinly veiled religious doctrine "Intelligent Design" was prohibited from being taught in Dover, Pennsylvania.
The issues today in Tennessee are evolution and climate change. Today I'll address climate change. Let's review some of the data.
|Global temperature increase since 1973.|
|Global temperatures from 1880.|
|Correlation of atmospheric CO2 (dark blue) and global temperature (light blue)|
over the last 600,000 years. The red line is projected CO2 levels.
IT"S GETTING WARMER! And it's anthropogenic - a fancy word for caused by people. There's no controversy about this; that is, unless you deny the science.
What's different about this crisis from the creationist attempts to dumb down our children is that there are global consequences. It won't be a pretty world if we don't do something.
Organizations opposing this bill include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and all eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences, including one Nobel Prize winner.