A. The Board and each local school board, division superintendent, and school board employee shall create an environment in public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific controversies in science classes.That is as close as it gets to actually mentioning the hated sciences. Climate Progress, on the other hand, in its opening paragraph on the bill, writes:
A new bill, up for consideration this year in the Virginia General Assembly, would give Virginia’s public school teachers permission to teach about the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “scientific theories” like evolution and global climate change. The bill is part of a national trend of legislative proposals, led by creationist organizations like the Discovery Institute and climate-change deniers such as the Heartland Institute.The bill is being promoted by state representative Dickie Bell and a cursory reading of this story would make one think that Bell is going directly after evolution and climate change. Further, the Climate Progress story goes on:
Bell told the Hampton Roads Daily Press that the bill was intended to protect teachers who might otherwise be disciplined for how they responded to questions from students about topics like evolution. He noted that since the state does not require teaching of alternatives to the theory of evolution, “introducing them into instructional discussion would not seem appropriate.”If you go to the story in the Daily Press: it reads thus:
One of the handful of former teachers in the General Assembly, Del. Richard "Dickie" Bell, R-Staunton, has been thinking of an awkward spot teachers can find themselves in. Specifically, science teachers when a student asks about alternatives to scientific theories.Did Bell actually say "evolution," or is that the tacit assumption? His statements about evolution are, in fact, very vague. It only comes up when he is asked whether or not alternatives to evolution ought to be taught, to which he replies in the negative. Since the bill, itself, is so scrupulously nondescript in its language, one cannot help but wonder if he is working off the failed attempts at similar legislation that actually single out the hated sciences.
For instance, evolution.
Bell says his bill is intended to protect teachers from disciplinary action if people don't like the way they respond to questions about scientific theories.
It seems reasonable to assume that Bell had climate change and, perhaps, evolution in mind when he drafted this legislation. It is poor legislation and redundant in the sense that what is being proposed should already be a part of the curriculum. Additionally, the "strengths and weaknesses" wording has now become stigmatized as being anti-science in general and specifically anti-evolutionary where its instigation has been attempted. Whether or not evolution and climate change are mentioned, based on this example of the Climate Progress story, that is clearly what people see. Fueling this assumption is that, as the Climate Progress story notes, Bell has had the support of Ken Cuccinelli, who has been notable in denying the role of humans in climate change. Cuccinelli has notably been absent in the evolution debate, however.
Consequently, before we castigate Bell for his anti-evolutionary views, perhaps we ought to make sure that he has them. He might, but I don't think we can conclusively determine that from this set of stories.
I have tended to separate the debate on evolution from the debate on climate change because I know a good deal more about the former than the latter and because, rightly or wrongly, I tend to encounter a disturbing number of atmospheric scientists and meteorologists who question the conclusions emanating from the studies being currently conducted and their extrapolations. I know of no biologists who question evolutionary theory.
Additionally, evolution, as a scientific discipline, is over 150 years old (older if you count the pre-Darwinian formulations), while climate science is in its infancy. Therefore, I get uncomfortable when the two are lumped together and argued as a package.
The best thing for this bill is to have it die in committee, like many others of its kind.