Tennessee teacher law could boost creationism, climate denial

Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:53pm EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Deborah Zabarenko

(Reuters) - A new Tennessee law protects teachers who explore the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of evolution and climate change, a move science education advocates say could make it easier for creationism and global warming denial to enter U.S. classrooms.

The measure, which became law Tuesday, made Tennessee the second state, after Louisiana, to enable teachers to more easily teach alternative theories to the widely accepted scientific concepts of evolution and human-caused climate change. At least five other states considered similar legislation this year.

The heart of the law is protection for teachers who "help 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."

Science education advocates say this leaves latitude for teachers to bring in material on creationism or climate change denial, which they consider unsound science.

The law was billed as a triumph of academic freedom by proponents of creationism or intelligent design, who reject the concept that human beings and other life forms evolved through random mutation and natural selection.

The Tennessee measure "protects teachers when they promote critical thinking and objective discussion about controversial science issues such as biological evolution, climate change and human cloning," said a statement from the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which promotes intelligent design.

But Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists saw a risk to education: "We need to keep kids' curiosity about science alive and not limit their ability to understand the world around them by exposing them to misinformation."

Tennessee's action came 87 years after the 1925 "monkey trial" in which John Thomas Scopes was tried for teaching evolution in Tennessee.   Continued...

 
This spectacular “blue marble” image is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date, using a collection of satellite-based observations, scientists and visualizers stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer of Earth. Much of the information contained in this image came from a single remote-sensing device-NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. REUTERS/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Handout