Our Tennessee Legislature unfortunately, and unnecessarily, has been involved — again — in an unproductive controversy about the theory of evolution.
The state House of Representatives Monday night voted 72 to 23 for a bill apparently designed to protect teachers who discuss the subject of evolution. The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam.
The bill apparently bars the Tennessee Board of Education and local education officials from prohibiting teachers in public schools from “helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”
State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, says students “should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory. Students should be encouraged to debate, to improve their creative thinking skills and to improve their communications skills.”
The Legislature’s action brings to mind the 1925 “monkey trial” in Dayton, Tenn., in which teacher John Scopes was tried and convicted of violating law by teaching evolution, resulting in much heated rhetoric and ridicule. The current legislative action is unnecessary, inappropriate and not really helpful.