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The Sciences

Tennessee passes law allowing creationism in the classroom

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitApril 11, 2012 5:13 PM

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Well, that's it then. Tennessee's governor, William Haslam, allowed a clearly antiscience bill to pass into law. It is now legal to essentially teach creationism in Tennessee public school classrooms. You can read about the background of all this in an earlier post. The TN House and Senate both passed this terrible, terrible bill, and Governor Haslam allowed it to beome law, saying,

I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.

This is, to not to put too fine a point on it, a crock. The legislation is designed specifically to allow creationism to be taught in classes, something the courts have clearly stated is against the law, and which just as clearly is unacceptable in our schools. Governor Haslam, I'll note, didn't actually sign the bill into law. In Tennessee, a bill passes by default if the governor takes too long to sign it. By not vetoing it directly, he allowed it to pass. That action, combined with his wishy-washy statement, makes it clear he is doing this for purely political motives. This way, it's a law and the creationists are happy, and if people accuse him of weakening the Constitution and allowing a specific religion to be taught in public schools -- which he's doing -- then he can say he didn't actually sign the bill. Nice, huh? So instead of doing the right thing, he has allowed students in classrooms across Tennessee to undergo religious indoctrination, despite a prior and clear Supreme Court ruling making it illegal. And for this those of you who will want to split hairs and say this law only makes it legal to teach scientific weaknesses, and doesn't make it legal to teach creationism, I call baloney. There is zero doubt -- zero -- that this will be used to teach creationism in the classroom under the guise of demonstrating (what they claim, wrongly, as) weaknesses in evolutionary science. [Update: Steve Novella at the NeuroLogica blog has more details on this.] So, unless and until someone fights this law and takes it to court to preserve the scientific integrity of the Tenessee public school classroom...

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