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New Round of Attacks on Evolution -
creationism as "academic freedom" or
a number of state legislatures (e.g. Florida, Alabama, South
Carolina, Michigan) and state boards of education (e.g. Kansas,
Texas), a new round of attacks on teaching evolution are in the
works. In Louisiana, both houses of the legislature passed SB
and Governor Bobby Jindal, in opposition to widespread calls for a
veto, signed it into law on June 25, 2008. This new onslaught of
creationism/intelligent design is, at least in part, a response to
the legal drubbing “intelligent design” got in the Pennsylvania
v. Kitzmiller legal case in 2005, when Federal Judge Jones ruled that
intelligent design creationism had nothing to do with science but was
a way for religion to be smuggled into the classroom, and should not
be allowed in public school science classes.
Louisiana law is modeled on a template from the Discovery
Institute, the nerve center of the intelligent
design version of creationism. The heart of it is the latest
misleading argument from the intelligent design forces – that
scientists and teachers who raise so-called “scientific”
criticisms of evolution are intimidated, unfairly denied tenure, and
otherwise retaliated against. This strategy, central to Ben Stein’s
movie, Expelled, frames the issue as one of “academic
freedom,” claiming dissent from Darwinism is not allowed in the
scientific community or classroom (for more on Expelled see http://defendscience.com/ds_commentary7.html
). This faulty logic claims that all ideas should be treated equally
in the science classroom – evolution, backed by 150 years of
scientific testing, should be taught in biology classes, but so
should “competing” scientific ideas. The argument, neatly
sidestepping the fact that these so-called scientific ideas are
religion-based non-scientific “theories,” raises “freedom of
speech” and “academic freedom” as straw men. The Louisiana
law, known as the Science Education Act, applies this same
anti-science approach to global warming and stem cell research, as
At bottom, this is
an assault on science and the effort to understand the world.
Pro-creationist Texas Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy put it
bluntly when he declared that the battle is between “two systems of
science. . . . You’ve got a creationist system and a naturalist
system.” That anyone could claim that a “creationist system”
is in any way science clearly illustrates the seriousness of
fight in the
state legislatures is just one key part of the larger picture. One
telling glimpse into what is happening “on the ground” came out
recently in the story of John Freshwater, middle school science
teacher in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. On June 20, 2008 the Board of Education
in Mt. Vernon voted 5 to 0 to fire Freshwater. He had stubbornly
attacked evolution and taught creationism in his classes, in
opposition to local standards; stubbornly continued to promote
fundamentalist Christianity in his classes, despite being told to
stop by administrators; and had burned crosses into the arms of
some of his students using an electrical device used to ionize
gases. The mark of the cross in some cases caused significant pain
and lasted for a number of weeks.
complaints against Freshwater for teaching creationism and promoting
Christianity for at least 11 years (although apparently marking
students with the cross started relatively recently). Why did this
kind of thing go on for 11 years? And why did Freshwater think he
could get away with all of this? It is telling that the complaint
against Freshwater for burning a cross into one student’s arm was
presented to the school board anonymously – the parents were
concerned that in the atmosphere in the school and the town, publicly
opposing this would at a minimum create problems for the student and
the family. It also seems that Freshwater had backing from the
school administration for most of this time.
Mt. Vernon is in
central Ohio. It isn’t the Bible belt (though these days it seems
the Bible belt has spread across the country), which only underscores
how serious the situation is and the urgent need to defend science.
provides a summary of
"The Discovery Institute, the LA Family Forum, and the 'LA
Science Education Act'"
Coalition for Science for an analysis of SB733 here
and a summary of the Discovery Institute’s involvement here.
Philos for a summary
of Mt. Vernon, Ohio events.
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