A bill in the Tennessee Legislature encouraging science teachers to explore controversial topics, which opponents claim opens the door to anti-evolution rhetoric, was put on hold today. The bill had passed the Tennessee House on 7 April, but sponsor Bo Watson delayed action on it by the Senate Education Committee, nixing its chances for becoming law this year.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports:
While still regarding SB 893 as "a good bill," Watson told the News Sentinel's blog that he was deferring it because of concerns expressed by faculty at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga — where he received a B.A. in biology — and because of possible proposed amendments: "I want to listen some more," he explained.
That doesn’t mean that the bill won’t return with a vengeance, however. "Science education in Tennessee won't be truly safe until the legislature adjourns next year," Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, told NCSE.
The bill protects teachers from discipline if they "help 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," namely, "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." It is similar to a Louisiana law passed in 2008 that contains specific protections for teachers who want to question evolution in the classroom.
Forty-one Nobel laureates signed a letter sent to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal today asking him to repeal the law. "Louisiana's students deserve to be taught proper science rather than religion presented as science,"