Opposition to antievolution bill continues in Tennessee

As a third subcommittee hearing on Tennessee's House Bill 368 approaches, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and the executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee are expressing their opposition to the bill.

Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of its journal Science, explained (PDF) to two of the members of the subcommittee, "There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution. Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them." He concluded, "We encourage you to continue to support a rigorous scientific education curriculum in Tennessee schools by rejecting HB 368."

Becky Ashe, the president of the TSTA, told (PDF) the subcommittee that the bill was flawed in implying that evolution is scientifically controversial, explaining that the members of TSTA "recognize the scientific theory of evolution is accepted by mainstream scientists around the world as the cornerstone of biology and as the single, unifying explanation for the diversity of life." She also expressed concern that the bill would "allow non-scientific alternatives to evolution ... to be introduced into our public schools." She concluded by describing HB 368 as "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional."

And in a column in The Tennesseean (March 11, 2011), Hedy Weinberg of the ACLU of Tennessee reviewed the checkered career of attempts to undermine evolution education in the state culminating in HB 368. She forcefully argued, "this legislation is not aimed at developing students' critical thinking skills. Rather, it seeks to subvert scientific principle to religious ideology by granting legal cover to teachers who wish to dress up religious beliefs regarding the origin of life as pseudo-science," and warned of the bill's "serious consequences for the future well-being of our children, our economy and our state overall."

HB 368 is scheduled to be discussed at the House General Subcommittee of Education meeting beginning at 3:30 p.m. on March 16, 2011; e-mail NCSE's Joshua Rosenau or Steven Newton if you're able to attend.