Anti-Science Bill Passes Tennessee House

The “strengths and weaknesses” bill introduced by Tennessee State Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, passed overwhelmingly in the House last week by a 70 to 23 vote.

While Dunn insists that the bill is not anti-evolution, but merely about improving teaching in the public schools, comments by the bill’s supporters reveal a stunning hostility towards science and education.

Andy Sher writing for the Chattanooga Free Press, quotes bill-supporter Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, saying that “since the late ‘50s, early ‘60s when we let the intellectual bullies hijack our education system, we’ve been on a slippery slope.”

Floyd sounds as if he’s been listening to Texas Board of Education Don McLeroy, who, in arguing for creationist language in public school textbooks, said, “Someone has to stand up to the experts.”

Sher also quotes Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, who said when she was in high school, “we gave up Aqua Net hair spray” because of fears “it was causing global warming.”

“Since then scientists have said that maybe we shouldn’t have given up that aerosol can because that aerosol can was actually absorbing the Earth’s rays and keeping us from global warming.”

Mother Jones has video of the debate.

The bill, which has yet to pass the Senate, would require teachers to be helped “to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.” It also says that teachers may not be prohibited 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.”

Those “controversial” theories would include, “Biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

The bill’s language is based on sample legislation proposed by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, an organization that promotes intelligent design.

The Senate version is scheduled for the Senate Education Committee on April 20.

In March, the Sensuous Curmudgeon predicted that of the record number of creationist bills that have been introduced in states across the country, the Tennessee bill would be the one to become law. So far, he’s half right.

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Lauri Lebo is the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.