Friday, March 06, 2015

Ars Technica Pulls The Mask Off the "Teach the Controversy" Bills

I have written this many times in this blog: the “Teach the Controversy” legislation being promoted in different statehouses across the country is really a decidedly concerted effort to keep evolution from being successfully taught. The Discovery Institute has continued to maintain that they have no wish to intrude upon the teaching of evolution in the public schools, but that is only partly true. They are quite interested in making sure that it is not the only view taught.  Some years back, the Discovery Institute started a website, that gave an example/model of what an academic freedom bill should look like. It reads in part:
Existing law does not expressly provide a right nor does it expressly protect tenure and employment for a public school teacher or teacher at an institution of higher education for presenting scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution. In addition, students are not expressly provided a right to positions on views regarding biological and chemical evolution.
Here's the catch: there is no “full range of scientific views” about evolution. That is like asking to teach the full range of views about gravity. Evolutionary theory is so robust that there are no competitors. Catastrophism, inheritance of acquired characteristics, blending, all have gone into the dustbin of science.  Evolution has only become a stronger theory over time.  As creationist Todd Wood once wrote:
Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.
That has not stopped the Discovery Institute. And now Scott Johnson of Ars Technica realizes that. He writes:
If you knew absolutely nothing about the bitter public debates over certain scientific issues in the US, the “teach the controversy” bills that keep surfacing would probably sound reasonable and unremarkable. These state bills, which are mostly identical, encourage science teachers to discuss the scientific strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. Duh, right?

But why are these bills mainly focused on protecting said science teachers from being shut down by their superiors? Why would that happen?

To understand, you need to see that this is just the latest in a very long line of attempts to undermine the teaching of certain scientific topics that the legislators don’t like, especially evolution and climate change. The aim of these bills is to provide cover for teachers who want to teach their students that evolution isn’t a scientific fact and that creationism (possibly stealthed within the supposedly non-sectarian label of “intelligent design”) is a viable scientific alternative.
The Discovery Institute, as the source for the modelers of these bills is way out in front of your average state legislator, who probably couldn't spot evolution on a map but is absolutely sure that it is “evil, wicked, mean and nasty.”As long as they have people of good faith who will carry their water, in the name of scientific integrity, then they can sit back and watch.  This strategy has only worked out in some cases.  Most of the bills of this nature get bogged down in committee or voted down.  As he points out, only Tennessee's bill has passed.  I am quite sure another strategy is on the horizon.  There are a number of different paths this can take.  I am also quite sure that the Discovery Institute will continue its subterfuge.  It has a long history of that

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