31 July 2012
TX PROGRESS, TN REGRESS
It isn't often that the teaching of evolution is celebrated in headlines. Usually the 150-year-old scientific explanation for how species come into being is associated with controversy, and with illogical rejection by religious fundamentalists who sit on school boards. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover that in Texas (of all states) evolution supporters have gained a stunning victory. As reported by the National Center for Science Education, "The Texas Board of Education has unanimously come down on the side of evolution. In a 14-0 vote, the board approved scientifically accurate high school biology textbook supplements from established mainstream publishers ~ and did not approve the creationist-backed supplements from International Databases, LLC .... Dr. Eugenie Scott, NCSE's Executive Director, is celebrating the decision. 'These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a central and vital concept in any biology class.' "
In almost comic contrast, in Tennessee, the ancestral home of self-embarrassment since the 1925 Scopes trial, the state senate took a giant leap backward by introducing a law which would ban the exclusive teaching of gravity. The article which describes the rationale behind the anti-gravity bill reads like a script written to poke fun at those who refuse to trust science ~ yet the quotes are directly from legislators themselves, and more frighteningly still, from purported science teachers. Consider ~ "I have long felt uncomfortable teaching gra...gra...this theory. It is clearly a dangerous idea to teach our children. Newton 'discovered' gravity by an apple falling on his head. Adam and Eve fell from the garden of Eden for eating one. Then Newton calls gravity an 'attractive force between all objects' ~ such a mentality is clearly a gateway for temptation and sexual promiscuity'. "
Really? We're now going to equate real apples with metaphorical ones, not to mention give equal credence to scientific fact and folk myth? You're telling me that gravity is optional? Really? I truly hope that this episode is a hoax. I can find no mention of it at Snopes. If it is true (and far stranger things have happened), it is proof positive that we need more scientists (and fewer lawyers) in government. We certainly need intelligent, educated adults who understand the distinction in science between a hypothesis, a theory, and a law.
Perhaps the Tennessee legislature should consider a fact-finding trip to, say, Texas.