Thursday, March 20, 2008


Political Protection

Michael Mayo of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel neatly skewers the pretensions of the backers of the "academic freedom" bill. Mayo notes the claim of Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who filed the House version of the bill, that:

This protects the freedom of speech for teachers in the classroom. I want teachers to be able to show those holes in Darwin's theory of evolution without fear of chastisement.
Hays also does a "Luskin" (the technical term for self-contradictory dissembling). First he says that "[t]he bill does not allow or authorize the teaching of creationism or intelligent design" but then says that it would permit discussions about "competing theories." What other allegedly "competing theories" are there, particularly if, as the bill purports to do, the field is restricted to "scientific" views?

But Mayo is too busy making shish kabob to stop for that:

[I]f Hays and other legislators want to go there in the name of "academic freedom," then they should be consistent.

If it's OK for science teachers to discuss the holes in Darwin's theory of evolution, it should be OK for health teachers to discuss shortcomings with the "abstinence only" dogma that has been deemed the only acceptable talking point when it comes to preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.

If it's OK for science teachers to talk about controversial alternatives to Darwin, it should be OK for health teachers to talk about birth control and abortion.
Suddenly, "academic freedom" isn't so important to Hays:

That's more of a parental responsibility than a school responsibility.
Of course, the same could be said of religious objections to science. Hays adds:

At this point we don't need to introduce any more controversy. It's already controversial enough.
Yeah, Rep. Hays ... we already knew this bill is, as Mayo rightly puts it, "a thinly veiled attempt to inject religion" into public school science classes by political means, not about "academic freedom."

Thanks for your coverage of this ongoing saga. I hope you'll take a look at my own post today about ID and dishonesty.
It's very encouraging to see some newspaper columnists writing intelligently about this issue, instead of merely presenting a few quotes from both sides and pretending they are equally valid.
I did see your post, James, and I thought it very good (and thanks for the link). In my opinion it is precisely the message that needs to be sent by believers themselves: that any Christian, Muslim, Jew, Latter Day Saint or other believer who accepts moral responsibility for their actions must face up forthrightly to whatever conumdrums the natural world presents and deal with them in an open and honest way. Otherwise they are trading a won battle for a lost war.

And Mark, being, as I am, something of a monomaniac on the subject, after going through the pre-Kitzmiller days, where every story about science education (and not a few about biological discoveries) seemed to have a comment by the Discovery Institute treated as equal in weight to those of scientists, the change in the media has been refreshing. Unfortunately, it may not be making much of a dent in the average American's views.
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