Continued boos for Tennessee's monkey law

Tennessee's monkey law continues to attract editorial condemnation within the state and around the country. The new law encourages teachers in the state's public schools to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Despite consistent opposition to the bill from scientific and educational organizations, and despite his own stated concern that the bill was unclear and would cause confusion, Governor Bill Haslam decided to allow the bill to become law without his signature on April 10, 2012.

In the Memphis Commercial Appeal (April 15, 2012), the newspaper's editor Chris Peck wrote, "The legislature has embarrassed itself, and the state, by passing a law suggesting that the part-time legislators know best when it comes to teaching the science of evolution, climate change and cloning," adding that the legislators "aren't experts in the science of evolution, or climate change, or education. And they shouldn't pretend to be. ... Yet these part-time legislators and their colleagues jumped in and decided to take a swing at directing the state's teachers on how to instruct students on complex scientific issues — without really knowing what they were trying to suggest, and being vague and confusing in the process."

The New York Times (April 15, 2012) also offered its editorial opinion: "Eighty-seven years after Tennessee was nationally embarrassed for criminally prosecuting the teaching of evolution, the state government is at it again. This time it has enacted a law that protects teachers who invite students to challenge the science underlying evolution and climate change. The measure is a transparent invitation to indulge pseudoscience in the classroom and a transparent pandering to a vocal, conservative fringe." The editorial concluded, "Scopes presented an enduring lesson in the importance of standing up for science and the truth. It is amazing that so many politicians have still not figured that out."

And the Washington Post (April 15, 2012) added in its own editorial: "Rather than removing some kind of official hostility to critical thought in Tennessee’s curriculum, it seems designed to encourage teachers who would introduce pseudo-scientific criticisms inspired by religion or ideology into descriptions of the current state of evolution or climate science. ... Merely emphasizing the existence of notable 'scientific weaknesses' exaggerates the uncertainty among scientists about these theories. That the state legislature has gone out of its way to warn administrators not to touch teachers can only discourage them from pushing back against wayward instructors."