My analysis of the new Tennessee Monkey Law is completed in Part IV today. This post begins with the usual disclaimer as follows:
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.
The following item in bold font is our next excerpt from the text of the new law:
(b) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum taught under the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education as it addresses scientific subjects that may cause debate and disputation.
This one is fairly simple. It sounds like nebulous goop because it is. The state curriculum includes evolution. It does not include anything about doubts and disputations concerning evolution. This is the sort of wording that judges see and end up ruling that a law is too vague. Case dismissed.
(c) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrators, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrators shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught within the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education.
This is the central Achilles heel of the Tennessee Monkey Law. It clearly encourages teachers with a creation science/ID bias to actively help the students find things wrong with evolution. In addition, it tells state, county, and city education officials that they will be in violation of the new law if they try to stop it. Here is the rub though. No objective criticisms of the validity of evolution exist within the world of real science.
Critiques of so-called “weaknesses” in evolution exist only within the narrow little religious world of creation science/ID. The teacher may say, “One weakness of evolution is the absence of transitional fossils that suggest change over time from one species to another. We have never found a fossil that is half dog and half cat.” To uneducated people, ridiculous statements like that sound like science, but they betray incredible ignorance about how evolution actually works. That statement and thousands more similar to it are “old-time classics” in the realm of creation science/ID. The U.S. Supreme Court has defined all such statements as existing within the realm of religion rather than science.
The first Tennessee public school teacher that starts lining up these old creation science/ID criticisms of evolution on the whiteboard for her science class is going to be in grave danger of becoming a defendant in U.S. District Court, along with the school system administrators that failed to stop her from violating federal law. The Tennessee Monkey Law does not render even 0.00000001 percent of protection from federal authorities. This new law is powerless in the face of federal law—totally powerless—and the teachers who want to teach creation science/ID critiques of evolution are just as naked and vulnerable as they have always been. This excerpt from the Tennessee Monkey Law achieves nothing except to encourage Tennessee public school system administrators and teachers to violate federal law and the constitutional rights of Tennessee citizens. I can assure you that the Tennessee ACLU and other such organizations stand ready to take down any Tennessee public school system that tries to implement this law and that a U.S. District Court judge will eventually strike down the entire Tennessee Monkey Law as unconstitutional.
(d) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.
This is pure nonsense and one of the biggest outright lies ever included in a law. The preceding assessment makes that clear. The purpose of the Tennessee Monkey Law is to undermine the teaching of evolution and other aspects of science that are not popular with certain religious and political groups. This law is religiously motivated because the “Teach the Controversy” deception that undergirds it is also religiously motivated.