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Opposition to antievolution bill mounts in Tennessee

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TSTA Letter Critical of HR 36844.79 KB

As a second subcommittee hearing on Tennessee's House Bill 368 approaches, the author of The Evolution Controversy in America and the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee are speaking out against the bill.

Writing in The Tennesseean (March 1, 2011), George Webb comments, "I find the most recent effort to compromise the quality of science teaching in the public schools ... both curious and disquieting." Acknowledging that it is useful to discuss historical scientific controversies in science classes, he emphasizes that the "controversial" topics itemized in HB 368 — including evolution — are not scientifically controversial; to claim otherwise "reveals an inadequate grasp of the history and practice of science." Moreover, he argues, "If teachers are expected to examine these so-called controversies in the science classroom, they will obviously have less opportunity to discuss the topics included in the Tennessee Science Framework." Observing that the Framework reflects the consensus of the scientific and science education communities, he remarks, "It is difficult to imagine how teaching less science so that so-called controversies may be included in the curriculum will result in greater scientific knowledge." Webb is professor of history at Tennessee Tech University and the author of The Evolution Controversy in America (University of Kentucky Press, 1994).

In a press release dated February 28, 2011, available at the Tennessee Report, Hedy Weinberg writes, "Eighty-six years after the famous Scopes 'Monkey Trial' in Dayton, Tennessee, anti-evolution forces continue their attempt to entrench creationism in our state's science classrooms," and urges her fellow Tennesseans, "Let's let our lawmakers know that it's not 1925 anymore." She explains, "While at first glance [HB 368] may not appear to promote creationism, the bill's intent is actually to enable creationist teachers to create doubts in their students regarding evolution, doubts which are not scientifically justified. These alleged weaknesses come not from the scientific community but from creationist advocacy organizations. The National Academies of Science and the National Science Teachers Association unanimously agree that evolution needs to be taught straightforwardly and without compromise." Encouraging Tennesseans to express their concerns about HB 368 to their representatives, she concludes, "Tennessee lawmakers need to know that we want Tennessee to move forward, not backward." Weinberg is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

HB 368 is scheduled to be discussed at the House General Subcommittee of Education meeting beginning at 12:30 p.m. on March 2, 2011; e-mail NCSE's Joshua Rosenau or Steven Newton if you're able to attend.