Scopes Redux DOA Pending Expert Input

Tennessee’s Scopes Monkey bill has likely been shelved for the year. Two weeks after a public education bill requiring the teaching of “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution and other “scientific controversies” overwhelmingly passed the House, a state senator has withdrawn its companion legislation.

According to Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville Sentinel, the Senate bill’s sponsor Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) pulled the bill Wednesday until he can consider the recommendations of, well, some experts.

Science faculty from University of Tennessee-Chattanooga had urged Watson, who earned his B.A. in Biology from there, to reconsider the bill’s wording.

Watson’s decision to heed the advice of actual scientists (at least until he can gather more information) is a refreshing change from the way it’s otherwise been going in Tennessee.

In debating the House version earlier this month, supportive lawmakers decried listening to experts. Andy Sher writing for the Chattanooga Free Press, quoted 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.”

The legislation 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.”

Scientists say the wording is a ploy to sneak creationism into science class. Once again, the bill’s language is based on sample legislation proposed by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.

The bill is not yet officially dead, however. According to the Sentinel, “the Senate Education Committee wound up adjourning Wednesday night with some other bills left hanging, raising the possibility of another meeting where Watson could revive the measure.”

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