published Monday, March 19th, 2012

Senate approves Watson bill allowing teachers to discuss scientific ‘weaknesses’ of evolution, climate change

NASHVILLE — The state Senate today approved a bill that allows teachers to discuss with students “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of theories such as evolution and climate change.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, passed on a 24-8 vote after a brief debate.

Because of a Watson amendment that seeks to calm a storm of controversy over the bill in scientific circles, the bill now goes back to the House, which passed a different version of the measure last year.

Watson said he believes he has addressed concerns that caused a group of prominent Tennessee-based scientists, including a Nobel laureate, to criticize the legislation. It requires discussions between teaches and students to take place within the “framework” of the State Board of Education and local school systems’ science curriculum, Watson said.

Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, complimented Watson for his efforts but said he still had issues with the bill.

“I know [Watson] has the best intentions with this bill,” Berke said. “I do, however, believe there are others who are using this bill for other purposes to make their own points about the origins of life.”

Watson has said the original bill was brought to him by former Sen. David Fowler, R-Signal Mountain, who heads the religious conservative group, the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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