Monkey Trial II: Tenn. House Passes Bill Permitting Teachers To Teach The “Controversy” Over Evolution

Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Legendary actor Spencer Tracy Crosses Frederick March in "Inherit the Wind"
I guess it takes a few whacks to get things into the heads of the theocrats in Tennessee.  Eighty-six years after the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial” pitted Clarence Darrow, Esq., against William Jennings Bryan, Esq., in a classic cross-examination of opposing counsel that decimated the notion that teaching creationism was anything except the indoctrination of religion by public school officials, Tennessee legislators are at it again with a new version of the Butler Act. 

Feigning that some controversy actually exists over the fact of evolution, the Rocky Toppers have decided to grant job protection to teachers who choose to criticize the scientific doctrine. To be quite proper, they have inserted language that stipulates that “this section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine.”  But  Becky Ashe, the president of the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, is not fooled. She told a subcommittee of the Tennessee House that the Bill “is an anti-evolutionary attempt to allow non-scientific alternatives to evolution (such as creationism and intelligent design) to be introduced into our public schools.”

Seems the famous trial and the movie version (“Inherit The Wind”) are always on the minds of  theocrats. Tennessee State Representative Richard Floyd (R) even alluded to them in the floor debate commenting that “since the late ’50s, early ’60s when we let the intellectual bullies hijack our education system, we’ve been on a slippery slope.” Aptly named Republican Sheila Butt even found a way to criticize environmentalists in the debate saying she was told in high school that Aqua Net hair spray hurts the environment. In a conclusion worthy of mention she added, “Since then scientists have said that maybe we shouldn’t have given up that aerosol can because that aerosol can was actually absorbing the Earth’s rays and keeping us from global warming.” Ah, the joys of anti-intellectualism.

The Bill passed the House 70-23 and now goes to the Senate. Hopefully, they reached a stage of high intellectual evolution.

Source: TPM

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

239 thoughts on “Monkey Trial II: Tenn. House Passes Bill Permitting Teachers To Teach The “Controversy” Over Evolution

  1. Buddha,

    To cast the net even further, Lager yeast.

    The original lager yeast weren’t intentionally cultivated. They were the result of German and Czech brewers using caves for fermentation, which had a lower temperature. Those yeast that worked best at that range out-bred the one that didn’t, and soon enough you had a strain of yeast that worked most efficiently at the temperature of the caves in the region.

    Did you have a chance to check out any of Peter Watts’s books yet? He deals with evolution (most of it biological, but he does have a great part about evolving viruses on the internet) as major plot points, and does his homework. All of his books have citations of scientific literature at the end. Lem does a pretty good job with ‘abiotic evolution’ (a term he uses in one of his books in Peace on Earth (the moon became a giant test run of self designing weapons systems) and The Invincible.

  2. Gyges,

    I see that view as the equivalent of a different (but also valid) frame of reference in physics. When you involve the idea of non-genetic evolution (i.e. the evolution of society) the boundaries are (at least for now) somewhat fuzzy. I think that you would agree, however, that society has evolved considerably since its inception – and in a way having nothing to do with recombinant DNA (except for society being comprised of various permutations of recombinant DNA, of course…).


    We used to catch lake perch (and bass) up at the lake, bring them in, clean them, and Grandpa* would fry them up for dinner. Yum.

    *who had sunk several wooden ‘rafts’ in the lake to make for good fishing sites – one was shallow and mostly dispersed by passing boats, one was barely visible under ideal circumstances and had good fishing, and one you could only find by lining up a tree with one of the cottage windows and cross-referencing via the shape of a gap in the trees where a road was (no GPS in the 50s…). The only time I can ever remember finding it, we ran out of bait (we were bringing fish up two at a time) and my dad had to cut up some of the fish to use their roe as bait (we knew we probably wouldn’t find it again…).


    Sorry, not interesting enough.

  3. Slart,

    I’d would think that has to do with the ‘life cycle’ of an idea being closer to that of a virus or bacteria than that of a complex organism.

  4. Gyges,

    Haven’t read any Watts yet, but maybe I’ll move him to the top of the list seeing as I am between books as of last night and was planning a trip to the bookstore tomorrow anyway.

  5. And Kevin just to be clear

    Corrections Page

    This page is reserved ONLY for suggested factual or grammatical errors — not for disagreements over the conclusions or interpretations found in blog entries. If readers disagree with the merits of a story, they should use the comment section of that story to raise such issues.

    No where do I see it says for the use of suggestions so I guess I continue to upset the apple cart🙂

    Adams had almost overset the apple-cart by intruding an amendment of his own fabrication on the morning of the day of ratification of the Constitution.

    Jeremy Belknap – The History of New Hampshire, 1788:

  6. bdaman,

    The placement of suggestions on the Corrections page is an unwritten rule promulgated by the Prof. when he was discussing adding guest bloggers, so you aren’t upsetting anything by doing that.

  7. Ok thanks Buddha. Sometimes when you spend to much time in one place you kinda miss whats goin on around you. I just like putting it out there because I know you guys spend quite a bit of time here and you may not see alot of the stories I do. Granted they come from the right, but if I wasn’t here you guys would just agree with each other.🙂

    Here’s another one Kev thats near and dear to your/our heart.
    Luv ya man

    Arizona Senate approves ‘birther’ bill

    The Arizona Senate has approved a revised bill requiring presidential candidates to prove they are U.S. citizens eligible to run for the office.

    The bill approved Wednesday gives candidates additional ways to prove they meet the constitutional requirements to be president.

    It was prompted by the ongoing claim by some that there is no proof President Barack Obama was born in the United States and is therefore ineligible to be president.

    Democrats argued the bill exceeds the state’s authority and say state officials are not fully qualified to determine the validity of a candidate’s documents.

  8. More bad news Kev

    After suffering seven straight quarters of losses, Wal-Mart will announce that it is “going back to basics” ending its era of high-end organic foods, going “green” and the remainder of its appeal to the upscale market. Next month the company will launch an “It’s Back” campaign to woo the millions of customers who have fled the store.

    Further from the Wall Street Journal:

    Starting in May, Wal-Mart shoppers in the U.S. will see signs in stores heralding the return of fishing tackle, bolts of fabric and other ‘heritage’ merchandise that Wal-Mart reduced or cut out altogether as it attempted to spruce up its stores …

  9. “Arizona Senate approves ‘birther’ bill

    From what I understand, federal election law trumps state election law including the vetting process … so this silliness is unconstitutional … but, leave it to the intellectual constitutional minds of the AZ state legislature to come up with this “brilliance” …

  10. TN State Rep. Argues Einstein Would Teach Creationism
    Think Progress, 4/15/2011

    Armed with fantasy and lies, Tennessee legislators are attempting to dismantle science education in their state’s public schools. Last week, the Tennessee House voted by an overwhelming 70-23 margin in favor of a radical bill to teach the “controversy” about scientific subjects “including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” During the debate on HB 368, introduced by Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), anti-science conservative Rep. Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains) argued that the “critical thinker” Albert Einstein would have wanted public schools to teach creationism alongside the science of biological evolution:

    I think that if there’s one thing that everyone in this room could agree on, that would be that Albert Einstein was a critical thinker. He was a scientist. I think that we probably could agree that Albert Einstein was smarter than any of our science teachers in our high schools or colleges. And Albert Einstein said that a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity.

    In fact, Nicely falsely attributed his quotation to Einstein, a Jewish humanist and professed agnostic, who never argued that scientific knowledge leads one to Jesus Christ. The statement is actually a mangled paraphrase of the 16th century philosopher Francis Bacon, who argued that “a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.”


    Check out the video of Nicely talking during the debate at the link I provided above.

  11. Elaine,

    Albert Einstein also said:

    The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.

  12. Blouise & Buddha,

    We’ve got state and national legislators fiddling while our country burns. And these legislators keep getting stupider and stupider by geometric progression. Don’t know if there is any hope for us.

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