Prospect of a new Scopes trial


Three of Tennessee's top scientists warn, "the Tennessee legislature is doing the unbelievable: attempting to roll the clock back to 1925 by attempting to insert religious beliefs in the teaching of science." In a column published in the Nashville Tennessean (March 25, 2012), Roger D. Cone, Robert G. Webster, and Jon Kaas — all distinguished Tennessee scientists and members of the National Academy of Sciences — argue that Tennessee's "monkey bills" "are misleading, unnecessary, likely to provoke unnecessary and divisive legal proceedings, and likely to have adverse economic consequences for the state."

The bills — House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 — would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The Tennessee House of Representatives is presently scheduled to consider the Senate version of the bill (now officially known as House Bill 368) on March 26, 2012; if the House passes the bill, it will be sent to Governor Bill Haslam, who will then have ten days to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it.

Cone, Webster, and Kaas's column is only the latest expression of opposition to the legislation. Also on record as opposing the bill are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, whose president Becky Ashe described (PDF) the legislation as "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional."