Tennessee Schools

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on April 16, 2011

Sciencemag.org: “Bill Allowing Teachers to Challenge Evolution passes Tennessee HouseTeachers in Tennessee’s public schools may soon join those in Louisiana in being allowed to teach students critical thinking skills when examining controversial topics such as evolution.

In a 70-28 vote last week, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed HB 368, a bill which—if passed as expected by the state Senate and signed into law—will protect K-12 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, namely, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” The bill states that it “shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.”

Vocal opponent of the bill, Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, claims “There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution. Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them.”

To shelter children from the knowledge that real scientists with real credentials find holes in the tenets of biological evolution, global warming, etc. would be to raise up a generation unable to critically examine controversial topics and think for themselves.

To deny that scientific controversy exists is a slap at the credentials of the many reputable scientists who accept the creationist interpretation of the evidence as well as the many who see the scientific weaknesses of evolution. Furthermore, to shelter children from the knowledge that real scientists with real credentials find holes in the tenets of biological evolution, global warming, etc. would be to raise up a generation unable to critically examine controversial topics and think for themselves.

If this bill becomes law, teachers in Tennessee will legally have the academic freedom to teach children how to critically analyze scientific ideas instead of accepting them blindly. They would be allowed to present evidence both for and against evolution.

At the same time, we hasten to point out that the evidence does not speak for itself. Every person has a bias which affects the way he views the evidence. If a presupposition defines science—as has been done in recent years—as completely excluding the possibility of any non-naturalistic input, then the student is in effect being told that no supernatural origin is scientifically plausible.

We have never suggested a mandate to force teachers to teach creation, but we exhort Christian parents and churches to re-double their efforts to teach not only critical thinking skills but also the truth of the Bible as God’s Word. Students need to be taught that the Bible is completely consistent with the findings of science.

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