Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tennessee's new "monkey bill"

Remember Inherit the Wind, that great Spencer Tracy film from 1960? It's not a documentary, more of a fictionalized version of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. But it's lots of fun.

The whole thing seems pretty old-fashioned these days. Heck, evolution has been the bedrock of modern biology now for more than a century. And in all that time, the evidence behind it has just gotten stronger and stronger.

But it's still 1925 in Tennessee:
Remember the Scopes Monkey trial? You know, that case from way back in the '20s where a school teacher was convicted of teaching evil monkey evolution science to the good Christian children of Tennessee?

Tennessee sure hasn't forgotten
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) announced yesterday that he will "probably" sign a bill that attacks the teaching of "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" by giving broad new legal immunities to teachers who question evolution and other widely accepted scientific theories…

Although the bill is written to seem benign, as it neither specifically authorizes the teaching of creationism nor permits teachers to do more than criticize scientific theories "in an objective matter," the practical impact of this bill will be to intimidate all but the heartiest of school administrators against disciplining teachers who preach the most outlandish junk science in their classrooms.

Democrats like to make fun of the GOP candidates for being stuck in the '50s, but at least they're in the post-WWII era. Tennessee is currently reliving the '20s, but without all those fun speakeasies and flapper dresses.

Between this "monkey" law and the state's "Don't Say Gay" bill, the state is really not doing itself any favors. Ironically, although the "theory" of evolution is pretty much a scientific fact at this point,* the people of Tennessee are themselves pretty strong evidence against evolution.

Note that it's not just evolution, anymore. Tennessee doesn't like any science it doesn't want to believe. Well, that's pretty much the Republican Party platform these days, isn't it?

The funny thing is that the South was solidly Democratic back in 1925. All those old, racist "Dixiecrats" who denied evolution and pretty much everything else in the modern world they didn't like, well, they're all Republicans now.

But they haven't changed much, have they?
*PS. Yeah, for you sticklers out there, "theory" and "fact" aren't opposites, or even expressions of different degrees of certainty. Evolution is a fact, as much as anything can be considered a fact in science. The "theory" of evolution is the evidence-based explanation of how evolution works.

But you knew that, didn't you?


Dr. Lee Allen said...

I happen to be unfortunate enough to find myself living in Tennessee, and all I can say is "'sho 'nuff" (I do not say "amen" as that might be misinterpreted as me being aligned with any deistic tendency). In reality, it seems that this entire country is moving full steam backwards and embracing (or celebrating!) ignorance and irrationality. I hope to get the hell out of this place as soon as possible.

WCG said...

Well, Dr. Allen, this is Nebraska, so I can't make too much fun of other states. :)

Admittedly, we don't seem to be quite as crazy as some, but these people are everywhere. As you say, the whole country often seems to be moving backwards.

But I don't think it's quite that bad, either. There are also good people everywhere. There are progressive people everywhere (even in Tennessee and Nebraska). It would be easy to become discouraged, but that might be the worst thing we could do.

Thanks for the comment!