Tennessee Passes “Monkey Bill”; Science At Risk
By on March 28th, 2012

The amount of stupidity in this is just too high! Tennessee’s “Monkey Bill” has been passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives, although by the thinnest of margins possible – 73 for to 72 against. This has been a crucial and controversial bill for a long time. We had told you about the bill before: here and here.

Seemingly Harmless

On the face of it, the Bill seems so benign, even pro-science. It encourages teachers to present both sides of the argument, harking back to the very successful slogan adopted by the Creationist Discovery Institute, “Teach the Controversy”. The Bill “protects a teacher from discipline for teaching scientific subjects in an objective manner”. If you look at it carefully, this shields a teacher if he/she teaches creationism as science in biology classes, especially when there are creationist textbooks available in the market. The Bill, however, has been modified from the form it first originated in.

What it really says

The Bill asks you to doubt and measure the “scientific strengths and weaknesses” of topics like “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”. Why these specific topics have been singled out is another matter, of course. As a humble student of science, I ask, are the other subjects not worthy of being doubted? Or is there some underlying motivation for doubting these specific topics?

The Bill has been passed by the House and now rests with Governor Bill Haslam. He has ten days to pass it, withhold signature, in which case the Bill will become a Law without Governor’s approval, or veto it.

Fears or Reality

Many organisations have been up in arms against this bill. Out of the many such educational institutions, a few are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel, The National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and three distinguished Tennessee scientists and members of the National Academy of Sciences.

In 1925, there was conducted the famous “Scopes Trial”, in which a school teacher – John Scopes – was tried and found guilty of teaching evolution in classrooms. This violated an existing law. A huge uproar ensued and ended up reversing the statement of the law. Alluding to this incident, three scientists from Vanderbilt University wrote in a letter saying that the legislators are “doing the unbelievable: attempting to roll the clock back to 1925 by attempting to insert religious beliefs in the teaching of science.”

What Gov. Haslam decides will be crucial. The next few days should be interesting.

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Author: Debjyoti Bardhan Google Profile for 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.

Debjyoti Bardhan has written and can be contacted at debjyoti@techie-buzz.com.
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