Tennessee Passes ‘Anti-Science’ Bill: Makes It Legal To Doubt Evolution

A bill that could be used to shield teachers and education policy makers, who refrain from teaching evolution and global warming in classes, was passed by the state of Tennessee on Thursday. This has got to be good news for the people on the extreme right, predominantly Creationists, who have earlier wanted legal protection for their ideas. The bill was passed by the house by a vote of 70-23.

Creationism and Intelligent Design: An introduction

Creationists hold a view of the world that is inspired by the literalism of the Bible, which claims that the world and all living things are created by God. No natural explanation can explain the creation of the utter complexity and diversity of the living world. The most famous argument in support of this line of thinking was put forward by William Paley in his book Natural Theology’ in 1809. Paley puts forward the, now famous, watchmaker argument. He argues that if one sees a stone in a forest, he/she wouldn’t be interested; if one, however, saw a watch lying on the ground, he/she might ask about the watchmaker. Since living creatures are much more complex than a watch, and if the watch needs a maker, shouldn’t living creatures need a maker too? Fifty years later, in 1859, Darwin published On The Origin of Species‘, which answered this question. The answer was Evolution by means of Natural Selection.

First Edition of the Origin of Species
First Edition of the Origin of Species
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life: The First sketch of the idea, made by Charles Darwin

Recently, a different and more subtle form of Creationism, by the name of Intelligent Design(ID), has been gathering steam. It claims that evolution cannot explain all the diverse forms seen in the living world without running into problems of ‘irreducible complexity‘ and there needs to be an intelligent driving force.

Intelligent Design poster
A poster mocking Intelligent Design: posted on Pharyngula in Aug, 2006

History: Kitzmiller vs Dover

One of the most potent challenges to evolution came from a group of people, led by the Discovery Institute, in 2005 which led to the famous Kitzmiller trial. The world media, which descended on the sleepy town of Dover, covered the brilliant testimonies of a number of people from the pro-evolution side, especially those of Ken Miller, a professor at Brown University. The case ended on 20th Dec, 2005, with the judge ruling heavily in favor of the evolutionists. The Discovery Institute remains undaunted and there will be future challenges.

The Discovery Institute
The Discovery Institute

What the bill says (and what it really means)

The summary of the bill says the following:

This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, … from prohibiting any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping 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, such as evolution and global warming.

Looks good on the face of it, right? It does, till you read the last clause. That makes it clear that evolution and global warming can be targeted, and that too, legally. So, if any teacher wants to argue to his/her students that the Earth is 6000 years old, there will be a law to protect the teacher.

The bill has still to be ratified by the Tennessee Senate and it will be put up for voting on the 20th of April. So some hope remains.


Published by

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.

  • As a logical thinker, I have no fear of objective reviews of scientific theories. The last phrase in the bill is meaningless and is there only to please a few voters.

    • Debjyoti Bardhan

      I completely agree. Your comment reminds me of what Ken Miller said during the Kitzmiller trial. In reply to a question asking for his reaction to the state biology books being marked with a label saying that the content should be read with ‘an open mind’, he replied that the label should be carried by ALL books of science and not just biology books. Having said that, I think Dawkins is very correct when he says that it is only biology teachers, who have to perform some sort of ‘rearguard action’ against creationists all the time. They would rather spend time teaching.

  • A very, very biased article. What if a teacher wants to shove evolution down the throats of school children? What rights do the children have to protect themselves against darwanism rubbish?

    • Debjyoti Bardhan

      Protection from a scientific fact is certainly not required. Darwinism is an established scientific theory supported by a mountain of evidence. If children don’t require special protection against Newton’s laws or Avogadro’s hypothesis, there need not be any special protection against Darwinism.

      • I hope you’re joking. Protection from a “scientific fact”? From who’s point of view? Yours? A select bunch of scientists? From where I come from, the majority of children think evolution is a joke, and many of them get very annoyed when the high schools try to teach evolution crap.

        Every single scrap of “evidence” supporting evolution can be disproved one way or another. You think science is all magical and 100% correct because it has been “proven”. Try thinking for yourself sometime. You can start here:


        • Debjyoti Bardhan

          Yes, evolution is a scientific fact from my point of view. That doesn’t matter, however. The entire scientific community holds evolution to be true. If you prefer the opinion of ‘the majority of children’ over the entire scientific community, more (legal) power to you.

          I would be the last person to think that science is 100% correct and magical. (Science being magical is a paradoxical statement.)

          How difficult is it to do a Google search and post the link to the Google search page? C’mon, I’m sure that you can do better than that.

          Further, Creationism is NOT science. Evolution still has unsolved issues, as does any other scientific theory. Creationism has no issues, because it doesn’t aim to explain anything. It’s not falsifiable. It’s, thus, not science.

          (If you may, read the article I wrote on what a scientific theory is. http://techie-buzz.com/science/the-scientific-method.html)

          • Schell

            Theory is just that theory, it is not fact. Don’t you remember having to do science projects in school and that theory and hypothesis were considered the same. Just because someone says, this is what I think, does not make it factual.

        • Nairit

          dude,(or dudette) why are you afraid to share your identity?

          anyway thats not the point. I cant stop laughing at your statememt ” From where I come from, the majority of children think evolution is a joke,…”

          what the hell?…children are MADE to think “evolution is a joke”… from childhood they are made to believe in “intelligent design” .I openly challenge you to bring me one child whose mind has not been contorted with any of your crappy stories. I will present him/her with Evolution theory and your story side by side and let him/her choose.

          And as to the “bunch of scientists” in question , the bunch is quite large.. much larger than you can imagine. And they have spent their lifetime trying to establish rock solid evidence for the theory as it stands today, and that too for no personal gain. Certainly these people are slightly more credible than small misled children in your pathetic region.

          When you are arguing , please try to put up a bit more intelligent points.

          On second thoughts, you can go on as it is… people sometimes do need entertainment.

          • @ Debjyoti Bardhan (and Nairit to a point): The whole scientific community does not hold evolution to be true. Let me ask you some questions; where do you think evolution is coming from? Who supports it and why? Why do you think so many scientists endorse it? I’ll give you the answer:

            Atheists. They need some way to disprove creationism, and most atheists fall on evolution as the answer. Oh and I’ll take a wild guess and assume you’re an atheist.

            So how do these atheists spread this religion called evolution? Easy, they play it as scientific fact, they put it into schools, to the point where the majority of the western world has become so brainwashed that they cannot think for themselves anymore.

            @ Nairit: Share my identity? You want to stalk me or something? I don’t care about sharing my identity nor hiding it. When I post here I chose ‘Anon’ because why is that any different than ‘Chris’ or ‘John’ on the internet? It’s not like it’s an account, so why would I need a specific name?

            Talking about children – I grew up reading about, and being taught about evolution given as fact. For many years I was, one way or another, an Evolutionist myself. So what happened? Did I become a Christian? Nope. In my teens I began reading more, and eventually realized that evolution was utter hogwash. For a while I was conflicted – it seemed impossible that evolution was false, but the more I read and searched, the more I realized exactly how false it was.

            To me, intelligent design may not have as many “proofs” as evolution does (if you care to call those proofs), but there is far less evidence against intelligent design than evolution.

            Oh and Nairit, very clever what you did there, that attempt to undermine my credibility by taking a stab at my intelligence. I’ve seen that method used so many times in arguments (done it myself for kicks) that it’s gotten old.

            As for those scientists “no personal gain”, refer to my earlier point about atheists.

          • Nairit

            I can disprove creationism in 1001 ways without referring to Evolution. So Evolution as an Atheists’s tool is probably the lamest excuse that you can put forward.I’m really sorry but you are giving me one reason after another to “undermine” your quasi-intelligence. And since this age-old method has worked so efficiently, why shouldn’t I use it?

            Coming to your case, you claim to have evolved from an Evolutionist to a Creationist after reading (baseless) stuff in your teens.I have enormous respect for your phenomenal teenage wisdom and have absolutely no problem at you being a creationist.Our point is why not let the poor children choose their own line of thought after being presented both the alternatives?
            Like you did.(That you turn out to be a nut case is a different issue.Statistically speaking, existence of your class of people , I believe , perfectly fits the scientific model– a clear result of evolution )

            But, let me make one point clear.If someone tries to make kids believe that the Earth is 6000 years old or shit like that , that is a crime. And we,and sensible others like us,will always speak against such crimes.Evidence is gaping at you.If you are too intelligent to overlook them,then I must say your creator has messed it up big time.

  • This is a sheer vote banking activity. And with the bad press it is receiving, am sure it has failed its purpose already.

  • Charlotte

    I was taught that, in science, until something could be proved, it remained a theory. So what would be wrong with teaching both views and state them as such. After all, there are scientists on both sides of the argument.


  • Debjyoti Bardhan

    I don’t know how much evolution you were taught, but I can assure you that evolution IS a proven fact. Whether atheists or not, scientists back evolution and not intelligent design. (Ask Francis Collins or Ken Miller. Both are pious Catholics and still argue for their faith against atheists, but both are ardent supporters of evolution. It was Ken Miller who hammered in nearly all the nails in the creationist coffin at the Kitzmiller trial.) It’s not a question about faith, it’s just not! And definitely not involving my religious views.

    Evolution not only explains transitional fossils, but needs them. Creationism cannot handle that. Radio Carbon dating of various dinosaur fossils reveal them to be of an age very appropriate, according to evolutionary theory. Not so for creationism. Discovery of transitional forms like Tiktaalik is incriminating evidence against Creationism and tantalizing for Evolution. Or the series of whale fossils, each showing the transition that a land mammal had to undergo in order to become aquatic.

    Further, imperfections in the animal kingdom is practically required by evolution, while a perfect Creator would never goof up, right? Why are their vestigial organs? Why do we carry an appendix? Why do whales have remnants of ‘legs’ absolutely detached from the main skeleton? Why are so many genetic sequences throughout the animal kingdom incomplete.

    Don’t like fossils or vestigial organs? Forget them! How about genetics? How can scientists line up the genetic profiles of all animals on a perfect family tree? How do scientists predict the fusion of two chromosomes in humans and find one on chromosome no.2? Hogwash? I’d use that term for intelligent design.

    Less evidence against isn’t necessarily a good thing. Scientist deal with many theories every year which have no merit and yet have claims which have no evidence against them. The important thing is evidence FOR the hypothesis. Only a successful theory will have people thinking, and looking for contradictions.

    • Evolution is NOT a proven fact. Yes, many scientists believe in evolution because either:

      A. they are atheists and it is a convenient way to stick to that belief
      B. they were brainwashed, in other words, evolution has become interlinked with science because atheistic scientists strive to prove evolution through science. Do you see a circle here beginning to form?

      Catholicism is a cult. Most Catholics aren’t real Christians so that point is moot.

      Carbon dating is outdated and completely inaccurate, missing target dates by over 10,000 percent. Yup, that’s ten thousand. Evolution both explains and needs transitional fossils. Creationism does not need fossils at all, but it can certainly explain them. Transitional fossils? It’s called ‘adaption’, which is not evolution at all.

      Alright Tiktaalik is an extinct animal that was both land and water capable. So are crocodiles, except they’re not extinct. You call that evidence against creationism? Rubbish.

      Speaking of imperfections: Even the Bible can explain that. There were two major factors for deterioration. First was the fall of man, and the second was the flood. With the perfect conditions before the flood now lost, obviously imperfections will and have arisen.

      Why do we have an appendix? Either scientists have not yet found a reason for it, or it had a use when conditions on earth were more ideal, or – it was put there (intelligent design) to allow scientists to be fooled. I’m not even joking; it’s a very good possibility. An atheist would dismiss it of course, but that’s not my problem.

      Genetic profiles: cannot disprove intelligent design using this, sorry. To me it appears that all come from a perfect (aka a single) family tree because a single being created them.

      I guess I’ll conclude by saying that many highly respected top scientists (not the majority but many nonetheless) have been forced to conclude that Evolution is rubbish.

      • David

        Anon here is a troll–he/she is just messing with you.