Pennsylvania Legislator Wants Science Teachers to ‘Teach the Controversy’ About Evolution

Pennsylvania State Rep. Stephen Bloom thinks he has a brilliant idea to make our science classes better: He wants everyone to debate already-settled scientific concepts like evolution and global warming:

Rep. Stephen Bloom

“In the real world, outside of academia, scientific theory is up for all kinds of argument,” Bloom said. “I don’t think it’s right to exclude any particular kind of argument prima facie. If a student wants to discuss a criticism, he or she should be able to.”

I love that first sentence. Bloom is saying that when you talk to people who don’t know a lot about science, they debate things that real scientists already understand. No kidding. And instead of letting the experts dictate the curriculum, Bloom wants the people who know the least about it (including himself) to tell teachers what to discuss in their classrooms.

Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education in California, which advocates to protect the teaching of evolution science in schools, called academic freedom efforts the latest repackaging of creationism.

“People who promote these bills are clearly going after evolution,” Scott said. “Because of the various court decisions, they can’t overtly promote creationism, so they’ve found a backdoor way of promoting creationism.”

She said many bills like Bloom’s have expanded the language to include global warming and cloning, which are “not scientifically controversial, but are socially controversial and important to the religious right.”

Scott said the bills create a way for religion to be discussed in the classroom.

As always, Dr. Scott is right on target. This is anti-science, pro-religion, and nothing but a roundabout approach to bring Creationism back into the classroom. It’s an issue that’s been settled many times before, academically and legally, and yet Bloom thinks he’s on to something novel:

Bloom said he got the idea for the bill from his son, who was denied sparking any debate in his classroom.

“The free exchange of ideas was being quelled by these very strict speech codes in school,” said Bloom. “And, so for me … it’s just something from the heart.”

It must be from his heart, because it’s certainly not from any intelligent person’s mind. This has nothing to do with free speech. This is settled science. There’s nothing to debate, at least not at the high school level. Students have enough to learn in science class — let’s not muddy it up by teaching them silly theories only espoused by religious zealots.

You can read the draft version of the bill here (PDF).

Just to be clear, no one’s against students discussing and thinking critically about scientific questions. When it’s warranted.

Good teachers already do that, rendering this bill completely unnecessary.

So why not just pass it? Because there’s no serious controversy among the experts when it comes to issues like evolution and global warming, and this bill would give religious teachers who don’t know their subject the opportunity they need to sneak their faith into the classroom.

If you live in Pennsylvania, contact your representatives and tell them to say no to this misleadingly-titled “academic freedom” bill.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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