Scientists lined up last week at the state legislature to oppose a bill they say would allow public school teachers to teach intelligent design, or creationism, as if it were scientific theory.
Professor Gary McCracken, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, says the proposal before the legislature is a model bill put forward by a creationist think tank called the Discovery Institute.
He says the bill, and ones like it in other states, is meant to open the way for questioning not only evolution, but climate change, the chemical origins of life and stem cells. He believes the bill is an attempt to slip issues that are properly political into the classroom as though they were science.
“They are political issues. They are political, social, they’re ideological and religious. I mean there is no real controversy over evolution or over climate change – the causes of climate change, the extent of climate change, there was controversy there.”
McCracken says he has nothing against a person who believes in a creator – he just doesn’t want philosophy or religion taught in a science classroom.
Representative Bill Dunn, the Knoxville Republican sponsoring the measure, says it keeps the scientific establishment from limiting the information presented to students.
“What this bill talks about is critical thinking. It says that there are scientific facts out there, some that strengthen a theory, some that weaken it. And if all we do is teach the scientific facts that strengthen a theory, it really doesn’t help with critical thinking.”
Dunn says courts have already ruled that public schools can’t teach creationism, and this bill doesn’t attempt to overturn that.
The bill is HB 368 Dunn/SB 893 Watson.
Here’s the legislative staff summary of what the bill does.
Here’s a link to the Discovery Institute, characterized by McCracken as a pro-creationist group.