I thought it would be fun and interesting to take an analytical look at the new Tennessee Monkey Law (Public Chapter No. 670). The following disclaimer must be presented first:
I am a professional scientist and not an attorney. Please be advised that my analysis below is not intended to be and should not be construed as being legal advice or counsel to anyone. If you are a public school system employee, a parent, or the legal guardian of a child and need legal advice with regard to the content of Public Chapter No. 670 and how it might affect you or someone you know, please contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in Tennessee.
This analysis will consist of bolded excerpts from the final text of the Monkey Law, and each of those will be followed by my comments in regular font.
(1) An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens.
Please notice that the initially stated purpose of science education in Tennessee public schools is to inform students about “scientific evidence.” The next is to develop “critical thinking skills.” Few would argue against the former or the latter. Few would argue with students becoming “productive” or “scientifically informed.” The things that bother me are the words “become intelligent.” According to Dictionary.com, an archaic definition of “intelligent” was to simply possess understanding or knowledge. More recent dictionary definitions focus more on the perspective that intelligence is an innate cognitive ability or mental acuity. However, the Tennessee General Assembly informs us that “developing critical thinking skills” is necessary to become intelligent. What does that mean?
Well, to the Biblical literalist/inerrantist and creation science/intelligent design (ID) crowd that rode shotgun on this bill, Tennessee children in a public school science classroom will now be allowed to voluntarily use the quackery tenets of creation science/ID to discuss, compare, contrast, and critically tear down evolution. Notice that evolution is the key and primary target. Some kids will conclude that evolution is the best explanation of changes in gene frequency and biological changes in organisms through time. These will be the stupid children riding fast down the highway to Hell. Other kids will conclude for the first time in their lives that evolution is a lie generated by that son of Lucifer himself (Charles Darwin) and that the entire universe and everything in it was poofed into existence by God in six 24-hour days about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. The new Monkey Law effectively defines these as the children who will have “become intelligent.” The Tennessee General Assembly has created a science classroom environment where your children can have a religious experience that will make them “intelligent.” Arguably, the stupidest state legislature in Tennessee history is legally handing out intelligence to our school children. Wow!!!
(2) The teaching of some scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education may cause debate and disputation including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
It is important to note several things here. First, notice that evolution heads the list of targets. Can you say “public enemy number one”? Second, notice the wording “curriculum framework developed by the state board of education.” You might be interested to know that a widely circulated national study done within the past 10-15 years slammed Tennessee hard for pretty much ignoring evolution in the state science curriculum. It also noted that Tennessee public school teachers were widely avoiding the subject of evolution in science classes because they were afraid of angering parents. If evolution was Chapter 10 in the biology textbook, the teachers hummed a nervous little tune, averted their eyes, and jumped from Chapter 9 to Chapter 11. Subsequently, the State of Tennessee revised its state science curriculum to put a greater and more specific emphasis on evolution—and to get better grades in national evaluation studies. Third, note the text of the Monkey Law that says “cause debate and disputation.” In the realm of public relations, the creation science/ID crowd likes to push the notion that the legitimate scientific community is deeply divided about biological evolution. This is a lie so big that only the “Father of Lies” in the Bible could have dreamed it up. In the scientific community at large, evolution is considered to be settled science. The legitimate scientists who are opposed to evolution are very few in number, and their baseline objections to it are almost invariably grounded in their own Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical religious beliefs: “Genesis 1 says…therefore evolution cannot be true…so I just need to find the undiscovered science to prove it.” It would be both wrong and a lie to either teach or imply to Tennessee science students that such a controversy about evolution exists in the scientific community. Three people with a science degree and a religious ax to grind for every 1,000 real scientists who understand the validity of evolution does not constitute a controversy. In effect, no such scientific controversy exists. The disputations about evolution and other such subjects involve religious groups and their allied political groups who fear that real science is about to strangle the things they value most in life. For them, truth is not an option—and never will be,
(Stay Tuned for Part II)