Postponed: Tennessee ‘Anti-Science’ Bill Put On Hold By The Senate

The bill dreaded by scientists, teachers and educationists across the US the Tennessee anti-science’ or ‘monkey’ bill – has been put on hold by the Tennessee Senate, after being passed by the House by a majority of 70-23. (Read about this here.) Without the Senate’s ratification, the bill cannot be passed into a law. The bill basically says that topics like Evolution and Global Warming should not be forced upon students and be taught with an open mind. This would allow pro-creationist teachers from teaching Creationism and Intelligent Design, both unscientific hypotheses in classes without any risk.

Many have pointed out that the bill allows the teacher to bring the religion in the classrooms, and use it to usurp scientific principles. This is, in fact, against the US Constitution.

The heated debate preceding the voting of the bill in the House included words like Intellectual bullies’, hair spray’ and the contextual documentary Inherit the Wind’. Thrown in this cauldron was a gross misquotation attributed to Einstein A little knowledge would turn your head to atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head to Christianity.This clearly set out the agenda for the supporters of the bill, which they strongly deny.

Poster for the documentary

People have quickly found parallels in previous trials and court cases, and they didn’t have to look very far. The most discussed were the Scopes Trial and the Kitzmiller-Dover Trial.

Driving at a controversy that is not there

Many are heaving a sigh of relief, but all are justifiably cautious. Hedy Weinberg, a leader in the opposition to the bill told NCSE:

It’s taken eighty-six years, but perhaps at last the Tennessee legislature is learning the lesson of the Scopes trial.

However, she adds,

Science education in Tennessee won’t be truly safe until the legislature adjourns next year.

Eugenie Scott, the director of NCSE, and a major backstage player at the Kitzmiller-Dover trial congratulated the teachers:

This couldn’t have happened without the hard work of the ACLU of Tennessee, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and all the teachers, scientists, parents, students, and just plain folks who volunteered their time and effort to defend the teaching of evolution in the Volunteer State.

The road ahead is not smooth. The bill has been put on hold, not dismissed. Given the political and financial clout of the Discovery Institute and many prominent Creationists in the American Senate, the bill might resurface in the next session.

For now, Tennessee has been saved.

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.