JISHOU, HUNAN — Since a member of my immediate family will soon be moving to Iowa, I have the perfect excuse to blog about a proposal in that fine state to ensure “academic freedom.”
On the face of it, “academic freedom” would sound like a good thing, but in today’s world of newspeak, this kind of “academic freedom” is shorthand for “let’s allow the public schools to teach creationism or Intelligent Design ideas alongside the scientific theories of the Big Bang and evolution.” Similar bills have been proposed in several other — mostly Bible Belt — states, and all have the same chance of success. None — except of course in Louisiana, where one actually passed.
These bills are merely a veiled attempt by Christian kooks to subvert the US Constitution (and proper science education) by suggesting that creationism and ID are really scientific theories, not religious ideas, and therefore should be taught as valid alternatives to evolution. Trouble is, the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that creationism was religious in nature, and cannot be taught in public schools, and in 2005, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that ID was also religious in nature, meaning the Dover, Pennsylvania, school system had violated the Constitution by permitting it to be taught in science classes.
Yet, the kooks persist, in a quixotic attempt to find some state stupid enough to pass so-called “academic freedom” legislation, so like-minded instructors can slip in so-called scientific alternatives to evolution.
Here is the wording of the Iowa bill:
4 5 This bill establishes the “Evolution Academic Freedom Act”.
4 6 The bill includes the general assembly’s findings and
4 7 declarations related to its intent to protect the right and
4 8 freedom of public school teachers and public postsecondary
4 9 instructors to objectively present scientific information
4 10 relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding
4 11 biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching
4 12 any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological
4 13 evolution.
4 14 The bill defines “scientific information” to mean germane
4 15 current facts, data, and peer=reviewed research specific to
4 16 the topic of chemical and biological evolution. For
4 17 elementary and secondary schools, the definition is linked to
4 18 the state’s core curriculum for science.
4 19 Pursuant to the bill, the general assembly finds and
4 20 declares that current law does not expressly protect the right
4 21 of instructors to objectively present scientific information;
4 22 that instructors have experienced or feared discipline,
4 23 discrimination, or other adverse consequences as a result of
4 24 presenting the full range of scientific views regarding
4 25 chemical and biological evolution; that existing law does not
4 26 expressly protect students from discrimination due to their
4 27 positions or views regarding biological or chemical evolution;
4 28 and that the topic has generated intense controversy about the
4 29 rights of instructors and students to hold differing views.
4 30 The bill prohibits an instructor from being disciplined,
4 31 denied tenure, terminated, or otherwise discriminated against
4 32 for objectively presenting scientific information relevant to
4 33 the full range of scientific views regarding biological or
4 34 chemical evolution.
4 35 The bill requires students to be evaluated based upon their
5 1 understanding of course materials through standard testing
5 2 procedures. Students shall not be penalized for subscribing
5 3 to a particular position or view regarding biological or
5 4 chemical evolution.
The key words here are “scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding
biological and chemical evolution.” The bill mentions nothing about creationism or ID, but the language contained therein is a dead ringer for similar language proposed by the ID “thinktank,” the Discovery Institute. Here is the wording of a petition on a DI-sponsored website:
“We, the undersigned American citizens, urge the adoption of policies by our nation’s academic institutions to ensure teacher and student academic freedom to discuss the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution. Teachers should be protected from being fired, harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for objectively presenting the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory. Students should be protected from being harassed, intimidated, or discriminated against for expressing their views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory in an appropriate manner.”
Like the fictional “war on Christmas,” the persecution of Christians who dare challenge the horrible monolith of evolution is a lot of hot air. It’s a meme fostered by the simply awful movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, that essentially bombed in the box office last spring. You can count the number of instructors fired or harassed for teaching creationism/ID on your fingers. In fact, in many cases they lost their jobs for other extenuating circumstances. (See the John Freshwater case for a recent example.)
Creationism and ID are religion, folks. In their current forms, they are clearly Christian-inspired. According to the Constitution and all subsequent court interpretations of the same, publicly funded schools cannot teach one particular religion to students. It is a very simple idea, which some legislators are apparently too thick to understand.
Dressing the wolf in sheep’s clothing fools no one, really. Iowa’s scientists are circulating a petition against the bill, which will probably die in committee anyway. Meanwhile, we (actually, you) will get to hear the same tired arguments about evolution, men are not monkeys, the word of God, blah, blah, blah.
It’s a lot of crap, and embarrassing to realize it is coming from the most powerful nation in the world (well, maybe not in economic terms, anymore …).