April 17, 2011

Creationists Win Big in Tennessee

Creationism

I have been more unplugged than usual over the past week - little news and very little time to blog. I've missed some big stories and want to weigh in on one of the bigger ones: Tennessee's tragic decision to allow the teaching of creationism in public school. That this should outrage atheists is too obvious to require stating; however, it is important to emphasize that it should also outrage anyone who values reality-based education for our children.

What Happened?

Again and again, we have seen what happens when conservative Republicans are elected. Tennessee's Republican state legislature passed HB 368 by a wide margin, a bill that would allow teachers to challenge evolution in their science classes.

The bill is opposed by the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, but that was not enough to prevent it from passing in the House. After all, what do a bunch of science teachers possibly know about...teaching science. Clearly, conservative politicians know better. This is yet another example of conservative Republicans pushing a Christian extremist agenda on their constituency.

A similar bill is coming up for a vote in a few days in Tennessee's Senate. This thing could well become law in Tennessee. And many observers are predicting that evolution will not be the end of it - any pet conservative cause without a basis in reality could become fair game.

Why Should We Care?

Legislation like this seriously undermines public education by placing myth on equal footing with science in the classroom. Every single one of us has a personal stake in the education our children receive. These are our future doctors, scientists, and the like. We need them to be competent. Moreover, measures like this not only make us a laughing stock around the globe but ensure that our country will be unable to compete at the international level.

And those of us who are members of the reality-based community had better care because legislation like this goes a long way toward demolishing the separation of church and state upon which we depend. Many states have already passed laws severely restricting (or even banning) abortion services. Despite being illegal under Roe, the left cannot sue for fear that the conservative Supreme Court will respond by overturning Roe. It is not difficult to imagine conservatives using precisely this same playbook to Christianize one state after another.

What Should We Do?

I have said it before, and I will likely say it again: our stubborn refusal to organize makes us easy to defeat. We are not a force to be reckoned with; we are not really a force at all. And we are the ones responsible for this state of affairs.

In the short-term, we can continue to support organizations with which we share at least some common goals (e.g., the National Center for Science Education) and hope that they can fight our battles for us effectively. But eventually, I am convinced that we are either going to have to organize or suffer one defeat after another.

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