Tennessee’s science law: Academic freedom or monkey business?

AP Evangelist T.T. Martin’s books against the theory of evolution are sold at an outdoor stand in Dayton, Tenn., 1925, … Continued

AP

Evangelist T.T. Martin’s books against the theory of evolution are sold at an outdoor stand in Dayton, Tenn., 1925, scene of the Scopes trial. (AP Photo)

Depending on whose press release you believe, Tennessee’s new science law either promotes “academic freedom” or “allows creationism to be taught in public schools.”

Enacted on April 10, the legislation instructs school officials not to prohibit teachers from informing students about the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “scientific controversies” such as biological evolution.

Science education groups are outraged, arguing that the law has nothing to do with academic freedom –and everything to do with finding new ways to undermine the teaching of evolution with trumped-up “controversies” and unscientific “weaknesses” disguised as science.

Dubbed the “monkey bill” by opponents, Tennessee’s law is the latest round in the long-running battle over teaching evolution in the science curriculum of public schools.

In 1925, Tennessee teacher John Scopes was famously convicted of violating a state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution. But today, the curriculum shoe is on the other foot.

Bill O’Leary

WASHINGTON POST

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural HistoryHall of Human Origins. Here, one of the many life-sized bronze sculptures depicts a Paranthropus boisei.

Anti-evolution laws like the one challenged by Scopes have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. And the theory of evolution –considered settled science by the vast majority of scientists–is a key component of science education.

Now it’s opponents of evolution who are demanding to be heard in the science classroom.

Tennessee’s new law is similar to one enacted in Louisiana in 2008 and to others recently debated in at least four states. Abandoning the failed strategy of pushing for inclusion of creationism or intelligent design in the science curriculum, anti-evolution forces now advocate “teaching the controversy” about evolution (and, to avoid singling out evolution, other purported “controversies” such as global warming).

In an attempt to preempt First Amendment challenges, the Tennessee law states that nothing in the legislation is to be “construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.”

Anti-evolutionists, of course, can readily support language prohibiting promotion of religion in schools since they maintain that creationism and intelligent design are not religious, but rather “scientific alternatives” to evolution.

And there’s the rub: What’s religious to one side is science to the other. Under the new law, Tennessee teachers apparently get to decide what counts as science (and what counts as “weakness” in scientific theories)– even if most scientists disagree. Critics of the law see this as a green light for teaching creationism or other religiously-based ideas as science.

And they may be right. What Tennessee lawmakers tout as academic freedom (a freedom, by the way, denied to teachers in every other subject), is very likely to be used as a Trojan horse for inserting religious convictions into the science curriculum.

A far better approach would be to address the religion-science debate up front by preparing teachers to teach students something about the history and philosophy of science, including the interaction between religion and science over time. Helping students understand the context for the culture-war fight over evolution may help them accept what modern science has to say.

Learning about various religious worldviews is an important part of a good education. But it is unconstitutional to present those worldviews as science. Public schools have a legal and educational mandate to teach what is widely accepted in the scientific community as sound science, even when that science tells people what they don’t want to hear.

The Tennessee law uses all the right language about helping students develop “critical thinking skills” necessary to become “scientifically informed citizens.”

But giving teachers carte blanche to attack evolution and promote religion isn’t the way to achieve that goal.


Charles C. Haynes is senior scholar at the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center and director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum in Washington.

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  • ccnl1

    What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

    1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

    2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

    3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

    4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

    5. Many contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

    6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

    7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode catalytically at any time ending life on Earth.

    Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

  • jshuey

    There is no academic freedom to teach untruths. Creationism is not a science, and to hold it up as science is a damnable lie.

    A teacher who insisted teaching that 1+1=3 would be fired, and the same must be the case for the teacher who insists against all evidence that Creationism is true.

  • Rongoklunk

    I could never understand why goddists insist that there’s a fella behind the process of creation, and existence in general, when that only complicates the picture, and has no evidence going for it. It was this kind of thinking that irritated Einstein who called it “naive even childish” to posit such an individual.
    Whenever he used the word god, it was as a metaphor for the wonder of existence and the cosmos, not some invisible flying skygiant who watches over us, and listens to our prayers. It is so Walt Disney it makes me want to scream.

  • SODDI

    I sure hope college admissions official take into account whether or not a student comes from Tennessee when deciding whether or not to accept them.

    Qualified students who come from a state where real science is taught should be given preference over students who come from a state where hoodoo mumbo jumbo is rammed down kids’ throats in place of science.

    I feel sorry for the kids from Tennnessee, but you can be sure that they have no such problems in the top high schools in China and India, the schools where the real leaders of tomorrow are being trained.

  • SkepticNY

    In 3 words. You are wrong. You are willfully ignorant of how galaxies form and know little to nothing on how evolution works. This is unfortunate.

  • catatonicjones

    Evolution and Abiogenesis are two completed different ideas. Evolution has nothing to say about how life started, only about how it evolved.
    If you got your information somewhere besides your church and some crap you downloaded, you’d know that. In fact, you’re announcing to everybody here who knows the difference that you don’t know anything at all.

    What’s it like, being so proud to be ignorant? Is there some kind of ignorance fellowship you belong to, is that how you keep it going?

  • SimonTemplar

    “…the legislation instructs school officials not to prohibit teachers from informing students about the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “scientific controversies” such as biological evolution.”

    IF there are no weaknesses in the theories of biological evolution, then what are the opponents of this law all worked up about. I would think this law would equip the students from Tennessee with a more comprehensive view of these theories than other students who are only taught the “approved” curriculum on the subject.

  • catatonicjones

    Butter wouldn’t melt, eh? This is still another back door attempt by the creationists to get religion taught in the schools, and you know it. Trying to come off as ‘reasonable’ … what a joke this is, and what a joke you are.

  • Sadetec

    @SimonTemplar “IF there are no weaknesses in the theories of biological evolution, then what are the opponents of this law all worked up about.”

    You’re intelligent enough to already know the answer to that question (begging the question what your motivation was in asking it.)

    Here’s another (equally as loaded) question: if the alternatives put about by Creation and Intelligent Design advocates are *THAT* strong, why are they targeting them at school children rather than qualified scientists?

    Why not do the work to get them accepted as valid scientific theories, so they’ll end up in the high school science curriculum ‘naturally’? What does it say about the strength of their ideas (and indeed their very motivation for holding them) that they chose as the primary targets for their arguments children instead of qualified experts?

    You may not like the theory of Evolution, but at least Darwin had the intellectual honesty to address Origin of Species to fellow experts and the educated public at large (and as such got a robust response in return). Any group who seek to put ideas in front of the impressionable minds of children while at the same time seeking to protect those same ideas from the scrutiny of experts should be eyed with extreme suspicion — there is a difference between education and indoctrination, after all..!

  • Sadetec

    @JosephU: “Matter from explosions does not condense to form objects like galaxies.”

    You got it wrong with your very first assertion. The Big Bang was not an explosion, it was a rapid expansion (yes, names can be misleading when you don’t bother to acquaint yourself with the ideas they relate to). You then go on to make a number of spurious statements that suggest the source from which you cut-n-pasted (because heaven forfend you should actually read a science book to find out the truth for yourself) has little of no knowledge of the actual scientific ideas it is commenting on.

    The blind willingly being lead by the blind… in the name of Jesus..!

  • SimonTemplar

    Discussing the weaknesses of theories of biological evolution is NOT the same thing as teaching creationism or intelligent design.

    I thought scientific theories were open for critical discussion and peer review. Now there is hysterical fear about allowing CHILDREN to think critically of evolution.

    Perhaps, Sadetec, you should reconsider which side is trying to force their ideas on “impressionable young children.”

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Interesting, would you be equally comfortable with teachers discussing the weaknesses of christianity in our public schools? Would you be fine with teachers pointing out the myriad ethical and logical shortcomings of the bible? Would you allow teachers to point out that snakes cannot talk? That dinosaur fossils refute the historical validity of the bible? That woman was not in fact made from a slice of man’s ribs? Would you be comfortable with teachers pointing out that outside of the scrapbook history of the New Testament, there is no testable evidence whatsoever that indicates christ ever existed? I wonder how open you would be to skeptical inquiry in our schools if teachers turned it against your faith.

  • SimonTemplar

    It happens every day, all across America.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Considering 80% of Americans believe with absolute certainty that they have a personal relationship with god, it’s not happening enough.

  • edbyronadams

    There are problems with evolution. Natural selection has been demonstrated. The change of forms over time is recorded in the fossil record. However, human breeding has demonstrated limits. We haven’t bred dogs as small as a mouse and how change overcomes this regression toward the mean is still unexplained. Certainly the chemical evolution of life from non living materials remains mostly a theory based on faith. That hasn’t kept it out of high school biology texts for over 40 years.

    The biggest problem with a law like this is that the assumption of most people is that problems with evolution mean that creationism, or the Biblical creation myth, is a viable default position.

  • ThomasBaum

    Sadetec

    You wrote, “You got it wrong with your very first assertion. The Big Bang was not an explosion, it was a rapid expansion ”

    I am not a scientist but if what is referred to as “The Big Bang” was not an explosion or an implosion but a rapid expansion, there must have been a reason for this “rapid expansion”, do you know what it was? Does anyone else know what it was? Is there a theory considering what may be behind this “rapid expansion”?

    By the way, what rapidly expanded?

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Of course your implication is that since we don’t know what caused the big bang, it must have been the christian god as described in the christian bible. The god who is omnipotent and omniscient, yet after spending six days creating the universe had to spend an entire day ‘resting.’ This is a cosmic joke, an infinite regression. By your rationale, the next question becomes, ‘Well, who created god?’

  • ThomasBaum

    As far as “had to spend an entire day ‘resting”, Jesus said, “My Father has been busy even until now”, so the seventh day has not arrived, at least according to what Jesus is reported to have said in the bible.

    I asked some questions and it seems that since you have no answers, you look for implications, why is that?

    By the way, Sadetec said, “The Big Bang was not an explosion, it was a rapid expansion”, seems as if he/she wrote this as an established fact or theory and I asked what seemed to me a very simple question, what caused this “rapid expansion” if not an explosion?

    Have you any idea if Sadetec just pulled this “rapid expansion” out of thin air or what?

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I’m afraid your questions are a simple matter of rhetorical posturing. You offer the idea that nobody can explain the origin of the big bang as if this fact somehow proves the validity of christian scripture. I’m terribly uninterested in whether the big band was an explosion or a rapid expansion. What interests me, is the fact that religionists, throughout human history, have always pointed to the limits of our collective knowledge as if they were evidence for a divine artificer. Nobody knew in the middle ages that germs were the cause of disease, so they offered it up to god. At one time, nobody knew how humans emerged from the animal kingdom, so they offered it up to god. In our current times, nobody knows what caused the big bang, so naturally, the religionists among us offer it up to god. God is a simple cop-out mechanism for explaining away our ignorance.

  • SimonTemplar

    Well stated. Though I don’t see why the assumption should be that pointing out the problems with evolution presumes the triumph of creationism. I personally believe the Biblical account. This is my position of faith. I don’t claim to know with certainty things that are not specifically mentioned in the Biblical account (I know it is not a science text book and it doesn’t even claim to give us all the details). And I’m not suggesting that creationism should be taught in the public schools. But one has to wonder how much the refusal to confront the problems with evolution has cost us, scientifically, in our understanding of our origins.

    Has the scientific community been blinded by a form of “group think” which has actually kept them from pursuing viable avenues of inquiry? I don’t have an answer to that question. I just think it’s an interesting thought. Though I do believe that the knee jerk reaction to the above mentioned law strongly suggests that the answer to my question is “yes.”

  • XVIIHailSkins

    If you think that the voters of Tennessee have passed this bill with any objective in mind other than the reintroduction of christian doctrine into the public school system, then you are simply out of touch with the ethos of the American South.

    The theory of evolution has stood up to two and a half centuries of the most intense scrutiny ever devoted to a scientific claim. What has happened in the intervening time? The theory has only been reinforced and refined by findings in biology, archeology, botany, and genetics. Has Darwin’s original text been modified? Of course. If a hole in the theory had been discovered at any point that cast suspicion on the entire school of thought, then Tennessee would not have to pass a bill to encourage teachers to explain this to their students. This bill is a religious one, aimed at opening a back door for christian dogma so that minds too young to distinguish between science and superstition can be exposed to both in a formal school setting. This is act is disgraceful, and it underscores perhaps the most disturbing issue with American democracy. When the majority of the republic is ignorant, tribalistic, and deliriously dogmatic, the politicians they elect and the legislation they vote for will reflect those shortcomings.

  • SimonTemplar

    @ skins: The law allows discussion of the STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES of the theory. There are weaknesses in the theory (your optimistic appraisal not withstanding). I understand that even the most die-hard creationist will concede that species can change over time (but within limits). Once you go beyond that to the idea of changing from one species to another things get a little problematic. Why are you so worried about the idea that someone might dare to ask critical questions about evolution? How is your attitude not identical to that of Galileo’s opponents?

  • SODDI

    Christians’ faith is so weak that they have to force it to be taught in public schools. Their churches are that ineffective at spreading their “gospel”.

  • edbyronadams

    The odd part is that those who so vociferously defend the scientific method don’t object to abiogenisis being taught in most high school biology texts. The evidence for it is pure speculation. It seems that faith of a certain type is completely acceptable in science texts.

  • Sadetec

    @edbyronadams “There are problems with evolution. [...] However, human breeding has demonstrated limits. We haven’t bred dogs as small as a mouse and how change overcomes this regression toward the mean is still unexplained.”

    The ‘problems’ you cite come from your misunderstanding of the theory, not actual problems with the theory.

    The various modern forms of dog, from tiny Chiwawa to mighty Great Dane, have all evolved very recently from one single wolf-like ancestor, within the lifetime of — and largely influenced by — modern man. (Actually you picked a really poor example, as dogs have proven to be incredibly adaptable when it comes to Evolution). As this simple fact demonstrates, there isn’t any ‘mean’ to overcome. If dogs as small as mice existed, you’d be complaining we don’t have dogs as small as an ant, and if dogs as big as elephants existed you’d be complaining we don’t have dogs as big as sperm whales. Ultimately, at any given moment, the bounds have to be somewhere.

    The idea of a ‘mean’ is particularly dangerous in fact: in the mid Twentieth Century wars were fought and millions of people slaughtered in part because of the bogus idea that there existed a ‘mean’ for each species, and that people could be valued based upon how far they deviate from it. Yet, thankfully, Science has proven no such ‘ideal’ (be it blonde hair and blue eyes, of anything else) exists — the genome of a species is free to drift untethered, shaped only by selection, and no one configuration can be said to be closer or further away from perfection than any other.

  • edbyronadams

    As you stated, dogs have been bred across quite a spectrum by artificial selection. Trust me. Breeders have tried to push them beyond their current limits without success. It is a valid example that forms can change within species but only within limits. The change from one species to another has not been demonstrated and is a weakness in evolution. The periodic mass extinctions in the fossil record produce many open niches and species seem to evolve rapidly to fill them. The mechanism for this unexplained.

  • Sadetec

    SimonTemplar: I look forward to your impassioned advocacy for the debating of Holocaust denial theories in History class, and whether 9/11 was a CIA plot, just like all those YouTube videos say. Teach the controversy, after all… right? Oh, and let’s not forget the New World Order. Let’s not bother the kids with the fact that the experts have soundly rejected those ideas — you do agree with that, right?(because you wouldn’t want to come across as some kind of religiously inspired hypocrite.)

    My view is Science class should contain what scientists think, and History class should contain what historians think — and every random conspiracy theory and whack-a-doodle fantasy should be kept out. Science says there is no controversy in Evolution, so that’s what kids should be taught. If you disagree with that, address your concerns to the scientists rather than the school kids, and if you prove your case then the science curriculum should be changed accordingly. Likewise if you want to deny the events of Europe in the 1940s your arguments should be made to Historians FIRST… BEFORE they appear in any History class (as debate or otherwise).

    I think it says a lot about how little esteem you grant Science that that you think the teaching of Science is about forcing ideas onto impressionable children.

  • Sadetec

    @ThomasBaum :”[...]there must have been a reason for this “rapid expansion”, do you know what it was? Does anyone else know what it was?”

    You mean the cause? There are theories, some of them quite plausible, but right now nobody knows for sure. !!But!! that means:
    (1) I don’t know with certainty.
    (2) YOU don’t know with certainty.
    (3) Anybody who tells you they know is either lying or delusional.
    (4) That doesn’t give people license to just make stuff up, instead of finding out.

  • edbyronadams

    Sadetec, you read much into little evidence. The bulk of junk DNA remains unexplained. Claiming that anyone can read into it a roadmap of evolution is simply not true.

    Darwin himself used human breeding of domestic species in Origin. The fact that activity didn’t not produce novel forms is a weakness as well as a strength of evolutionary theory. Natural selection works well as a winnowing of the unfit. It works poorly as an explanation of the emergence of novel forms.

    Science has been misdirected by political thought in many cases. That fact does not invalidate all of the science touched by it. The faith in the notion of the peaceful savage misdirected anthropology and archaeology for generations. That doesn’t mean that peace is unattainable. It merely means we can’t get there by acting naturally and civilization is a virtue, not a corrupter.

  • ThomasBaum

    Sadetec

    One of the things that I have heard is that matter became super compressed, so to speak, and something that might be analagous to “critical mass” was achieved and an “explosion” of some sort started not only expanding this matter but was the source, as it were, of the energy to power this “rapid expansion”.

    Granted, there isn’t much in the way of scientific terminology used in my wording but this is what I gathered to be what some that refer to the “big bang” were speaking of.

    Some of the questions that the “big bang” theory, in the simplistic terms that I used, bring to mind are but not limited to:

    Was there always this “matter” out there to come together?

    Was this “big bang” just a part of the universe breathing, so to speak, as in that some, I think, believe that the universe expands and then contracts and then expands again?

    One of the things about science in that the more we find out, the more we realize that there is still more to find out.

    If one believes in God, science is the study of God’s creation.

    If one does not believe in God, science is the study of our physical world in both the micro and the macro directions.

  • Sadetec

    @edbyronadams “Claiming that anyone can read into it a roadmap of evolution is simply not true. ”

    We don’t need to read roadmaps (!!Seriously?!) Firstly, we can compare sequenced DNA of one species another to see compatibility — this is just a straight forward number crunch operation once the sequences are available. Secondly, we have atavisms — the topic you avoid to commenting on. This is where ancestral traits re-emerge in individuals erroneous.

    According to you humans should never be born with tails, because tails are not part of our ‘kind’ — yet occasionally malformed tails appear (and are amputated) caused by junk DNA erroneously reactivating. Just one example of throwbacks accidentally appearing in living things — unless DNA can magically leap from one of your so-called ‘kinds’ to another, there is no way to explain them. Except through the theory of Evolution, where they are not only explainable, but expected!!

    >>” Science has been misdirected by political thought in many cases.”

    Surly it has suffered worse at the hands of religion — so many people I speak to about Evolution (in particular, although Science in general) distort or just blatantly ignore hard real evidence because they believe it is their religious duty to do so. As if acknowledging the facts somehow betrays Jesus (or Islam).

    For example: In support of your anti-macro evolution stance you stated “breeders have tried to push [dogs] beyond their current limits without success”. I posted a link to a news article (with pics!!) proving this is not true. You ignored it. You further stated that there is no evidence for macro evolution. I pointed out atavisms (as I have done again above) as one real physical example of a phenomena inexplicable except through macro evolution. You ignored it.

    This is the same reaction I get everywhere — people are so confident to tell me “there’s no evidence”. They go quiet when you start to rattle through examples. Occasionally they’ll volunteer a lamented

  • Sadetec

    @ThomasBaum — Cosmology isn’t really my area, but I think the evidence points to a rapid expansion rather than a BANG. My astrophysics PhD friend described this to me as like currents in a cake as it rises in an oven — space expands and everything just gets further apart.

    The oscillating universe is my favourite theory (in part because it is the only one I could get my head around), but I am aware that this requires a heat death event and entropy reversing (?) to cause the crunch which ends our universe and births another, and I think the evidence is still inconclusive and still contradictory given what we can currently know(?)

    >> “If one believes in God, science is the study of God’s creation. ”

    In the same way that if you believe in the Egyptian gods, then science is the study of what happened after Atum created a hill and flooding the world with life.

    Rather than try to come up with reasons for why one god, or gods, or spirit force, might exist, I propose instead we just study our universe under the assumption no gods exist — and if we stumble upon them then alls the merrier. And if we find unicorns too, we can throw a party!

    Likewise I advocate not believing in Bigfoot until you actually have undoctored photos, not waving magic crystals around until you have hard evidence they will cure your back ache, and not subscribing to the notion Santa is real until you’ve successfully accounted for your parent’s whereabouts on the night of December 25th.

  • SODDI

    “Certainly the chemical evolution of life from non living materials remains mostly a theory based on faith.”

    No, it’s a theory based on chemistry and paleogeology . There is a difference.

    “Faith” doesn’t require any facts and is in fact HOSTILE towards facts. “Beliefs” trump what is true in the believers’ minds every time.

    Theories require facts and proof, otherwise they are rightfully shot down. There is nothing prettier than seeing a scientist cleanly and elegantly taking down bad science (See: Richard Feynmann and the O-rings. Or Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”.)

  • SimonTemplar

    Sadetec, you are coming unhinged. For your analogies to fit, I would have to be advocating for teaching creationism in public schools, which I’m not.

    Further, there is no comparison between modern day events which we have all witnessed with our own eyes and supposed events that we are gleaning from very scanty fossil evidence that is said to date back millions of years.

    AGAIN, why are you so frightened of the idea of questioning those areas of evolution theory which are weak enough to deserve scrutiny?

    Your use of the word “controversy” is interesting. There may or may not be controversies among scientists regarding evolution. But there are weaknesses in the theory and they deserve to be questioned. Or are you suggesting that evolution theory is in a special category that can not be questioned?

  • SimonTemplar

    It is indeed surprising to me to see so many empiricists demanding that we dare not question or critically examine a scientific theory. It surprises me because it puts them in like-mind with the opponents of Galileo.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Ah yes, the noble religionist simply wants us to pay due diligence to the scientific method. As I said before, that is not the purpose of this bill. You are simply in denial if you think the voters of Tennessee have anything in mind other than the reintroduction of christian dogma into public schools. No empiricist would demand that we never question the theory of evolution, I’m afraid that would betray the entire definition of empiricism. Science is fluid, science never claims infallibility. If the theory of evolution were refuted outright tomorrow, you wouldn’t find a single empiricist demanding that we ignore the new evidence. That role, I’m afraid, is reserved for the religionist. Please stop clouding this discussion by pretending this act has anything to do with the scientific method, this is a last ditch effort by Southern christians to circumvent a defeat that they suffered long ago (Butler Act/Scopes Trial), it is simply disingenuous to call it anything else.

  • larryclyons

    Only science should be taught in science classes. Creatinism, sorry Creationism, Intelligent Design are not in any way related to science. End of story. if you want your kids to be taught religion in science class I am sure there are quite a few private Christian schools that will do that. Just don’t force my kid to suffer through that over ripened bull manure in the public school.

  • larryclyons

    this bill makes me really consider a job offer in Tennessee I received recently.

  • larryclyons

    Only science should be taught in science classes. Creatinism, sorry Creationism, Intelligent Design are not in any way related to science. End of story. if you want your kids to be taught religion in science class I am sure there are quite a few private Christian schools that will do that. Just don’t force my kid to suffer through that over ripened bull manure in the public school.

  • SimonTemplar

    So, if I understand this correctly MrFusion, there are no weaknesses in evolution theory, only perceived weaknesses. What’s more, these perceived weaknesses originate in faulty reasoning (beliefs) on the part of the questioner. If any of us have any questions regarding evolution, the problem is not with the theory but with US.

    In that case, you have nothing to worry about regarding the law in Tennessee.

    Obviously, I disagree. And I think many of the questions DO in fact involve the evidence.

  • Secular1

    SimonTemplar, do they have similar laws requiring the teach the controversy for other physical law, say Gravity, Maxwell’s equations, Quantum Mechanics, etc, etc. If not why just for Theory of Evolution.

  • steveAgnewToo

    So what makes Tennessee’s science “law” fearful to science and comforting to religion? Some scientists fear that this law will damage the practice of science by imposing “inappropriate” doubt. Some creationists take comfort that this law helps the practice of religion by showing the limitations of science. Excuse me, isn’t this backwards?

    To me this law is a feel-good law. Its effect will be very minimal in the classroom and it really just serves to once again point out the very different primal beliefs for our universe. However, it is equally clear that both sides necessarily must still have some kind of primal beliefs for each of creation, destiny, and purpose.

    Perhaps that is what schools should teach…the human need for such a minimal set of primal beliefs and not exactly what they are. After all, the practice of both science and religion really does not depend on how a person gets their purpose, but rather depends on one’s purpose.

    Scientists, just like all people, can and do believe a lot of very different things, religious and otherwise. Despite those varied beliefs, the practice of science is very disciplined and doubt is already a very integral part of that discipline. Doubt is the mortar of science and the mud of religion.

  • itsthedax

    Simon Templar, please construct a testable hypothesis for creationism, then an experiment to prove it. That is how science works.

  • itsthedax

    So, in order for christians to feel that they have religious freedom, they have to remove everyone else’s freedom, and require that christianity be taught in public schools.

  • Catken1

    If you can provide solid, fact- and evidence-based reasons arguing for major weaknesses in the theory of evolution by means of natural selection, many, many people would love to hear them. And if they survive scientific tests and peer review, you’d probably get a Nobel Prize, and tenure at the school of your choice – after all, that’s how scientists GET their advancement and prizes, through overturning other scientists’ ideas.

    Evolution and natural selection are in fact being critically examined ALL THE TIME. Creationists, however, are not the ones doing it, any more than astrologers are providing “critical examination” of the Big Bang Theory or psychic faith healers are providing “critical examination” of germ theory. If you disagree, please provide one example of real evidence for creation or intelligent design (not just against evolution) that provides further avenues for research and can be tested (i.e. not just “we don’t know yet, therefore God,” or “it’s too complicated and figuring out how it works would take WORK, therefore claim God and go out for pizza”).

  • Catken1

    “AGAIN, why are you so frightened of the idea of questioning those areas of evolution theory which are weak enough to deserve scrutiny? ”

    Because there are those like you, who make statements like “very scanty fossil evidence” in a newspaper belonging to a city with a Natural History Museum that has in it lots and lots of fossil evidence for evolution. We have clear fossils demonstrating quite clearly, among other things, the descent of whales from land mammals, the relationship of birds to other dinosaurs, the descent of horses from little fox-like creatures, and yes, the descent of humans from other apes. We have DNA evidence that independently confirms these lines of descent. We have relationships described between species by morphological similarity that were described BEFORE Darwin ever was born, when people didn’t realize they had common ancestors, but just thought that God had a categorical mind – and these match the fossil record and the DNA.

    We are afraid of “questioning evolutionary theory” when it is done by people like you, who whine and pout and throw tantrums because “There’s no EVIDENCE that water is wet! None whatsoever!”, and when we dunk you in it, you claim to be bone-dry, because wetness goes against your BELIEFS and must therefore never, ever be acknowledged.

    “But there are weaknesses in the theory and they deserve to be questioned. ”

    What are they? Describe them.

  • SimonTemplar

    There is clear controversy in the conflict between traditional in systematists who have built evolutionary trees from decades of work on species’ morphological characteristics and molecular systematists, who are convinced that comparisons of DNA and other biological molecules are the best way to unravel the secrets of evolutionary history. Their conclusions are not harmonizing so well. (Gura, T. 2000. Bones, moleculesSor both? Nature. 406: 230-233.)

    See the article Why Darwin Was Wrong About the Tree of Life in the journal New Scientist. 2692: 34-39 to see why the author states that the Darwinian tree of systematics, “lies in tatters, torn to pieces by an onslaught of negative evidence.”

    The “ape-to-man”series has been subject to numerous revisions with assorted candidates for our ancestry being removed from our direct line (including Lucy).

    Michael Behe has leveled an impressive challenge toward the idea of gradual evolution as an explanation for origins by pointing out the irreducible complexity of biochemical and cellular systems. In fact, James Shapiro (a molecular biology specialist at the University of Chicago) stated, in his review of Behe’s book, “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” (National Review, “In the Details…What?” 1996)

    The functional attributes of protein arise from information stored in DNA. Darwinism does not have an adequate answer for the origin of this information. RNA is no help here as it also requires information to function. In fact, given the proper information, an RNA can build any living organism on Earth.

    The theory of abiogenesis requires a large amount of nitrogen (because amino acids are nitrogenous). Therefore, the earliest sediments of the Earth should have high levels of nitrogen. However, the nitrogen content of these deposits is low (0.15 percent).

    Geneticist John McDonald refers to the “Great Darwinian Paradox” That is

  • ThomasBaum

    You wrote, “Many contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.”

    How could they possibly believe in the Second Coming if they didn’t believe in the First Coming?

  • SimonTemplar

    Right, there is not information in DNA, just chemical bonds, and RNA doesn’t require information to build things. Just like computer software codes do not contain information, it’s all just a bunch of 1s and 0s (probably in randomly assembled sequences compiled over time through natural processes).

    And have scientist really demonstrated how each of our organs and bodily systems have evolved, step by step, by demonstrating this in the laboratory. Perhaps they have found ancient fossil evidence that demonstrates the step by step process for the development of the clotting system of blood.

    Do you realize how far you have strayed out of empiricism and into the realm of philosophy and faith? That is much of what evolution theory is.

  • SimonTemplar

    Sorry, but when it comes to man’s supposed ancestors, I consider a few pieces of jaw bone and a couple teeth, perhaps part of a femur, each often discovered in different locations one from the other, to be scanty fossil evidence.

  • jeb_jackson

    Interesting that Mitt is being made to confess evollution in order to be considered President.

    You folks who think we came from monkeys should be ecstatic with this development.

  • Catken1

    Who knows, maybe those dastardly liberals will make him confess to believing in germ theory, the theory of gravitation, the Earth as an oblate spheroid orbiting the Sun rather than a flat “room” roofed with tiny star-lights, one great big Sun-bulb, and one smaller Moon-bulb…

  • quiensabe

    No, but you’re out to keep me from having mine!

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