Top Story: On Saturday, I wrote about the impending enaction of a bill in Tennessee that could require schools to “teach the controversy” of evolution and global warming. Opposed by the ACLU, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, it nonetheless was allowed to become law without the governor’s signature on Tuesday.
“Republican Gov. Bill Haslam allowed the controversial measure to become law without his signature and, in a statement, expressed misgivings about it. Nevertheless, he ignored pleas from educators, parents and civil libertarians to veto the bill. The law does not require the teaching of alternatives to scientific theories of evolution, climate change and “the chemical origins of life.” Instead, it aims to prevent school administrators from reining in teachers who expound on alternative hypotheses to those topics. The measure’s primary sponsor, Republican state Sen. Bo Watson, said it was meant to give teachers the clarity and security to discuss alternative ideas to evolution and climate change that students may have picked up at home and want to explore in class.”
Doesn’t require teaching alternatives? Lets go to the actual language.
“The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.” [...] The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
I guess a lot hinges on the scope of “shall endeavor to,” and what qualifies as a “scientific controversy.” David Fowler, President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, believes it will allow the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classes. Wesley H. Roberts, a high school biology teacher in Tennessee, says it will harm students going to college and taking Advanced Placement exams. How this “teach the controversy” law will actually affect curriculum decisions in Tennessee schools is a very open question, and will no doubt depend on how each school district interprets the language of the law. At best, it provides cover to rogue science teachers who want to insert non-scientific ideas into science classes, at worst, it will force teachers to add “controversial” theories to their curriculum.
As I said when I initially wrote about this proposed law, it’s doubly bad for followers of Pagan, indigenous, and earth-centered religions. It could very well insert explicitly Christian notions of creation and the origins of life into science classes, exposing non-Christian children to misinformation on the government’s dime, in addition to undermining basic knowledge of increasingly dire issues like global warming. I can only imagine that legal challenges are being prepared as we speak, I’ll keep you updated on this story as it progresses.
In Other News:
- The Patrick McCollum Foundation has awarded a grant to M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien) in support of her work in interfaith relations. Quote from M. Macha Nightmare: “I take the words of Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung seriously when he says, ‘There will be no peace among nations until there is peace among religions. And there will be no peace among religions until there is dialogue among religions.’ My life has been enriched by my friendships with my interfaith colleagues of many different religions. I am both proud and humbled by this award.” Congratulations!
- Solar Cross Temple’s publishing imprint Sunna Press has announced the release of “Crafting a Daily Practice” by author, teacher, and mystic, T. Thorn Coyle. The new book “walks the reader through a simple eightweek course exploring various methods for engaging in spiritual practice.” Yesterday, the book shot to #1 in three Amazon categories: Alternative Medicine (today it’s #3), Meditation (today it’s #2), and Paganism (still #1!). Congratulations to Thorn, Solar Cross, and Sunna Press on the successful launch!
- Denver, Colorado-based magazine 5280 has conducted a survey on what Coloradans believe in, religiously speaking. A whopping 12% of state residents are adherents of a New Age, Pagan, or esoteric faith (though they strangely included Seventh Day Adventists in a bundle that included Shamans, Wiccans, Scientologists, and Yogic philosophers). Another 13% are agnostic, and 7% are atheist. All told, 40% of Colorado is non-Christian. A majority of Coloradans are pro-choice and pro-evolution. The whole thing is interesting reading. I have no doubt certain Colorado-based Pagans of my acquaintance will have something to say about this.
- Ian Astbury is not only lead singer of the rock band The Cult, he’s also a Buddhist. In addition to being a Buddhist, he may also be the incarnation of a protector deity. Quote: “One night [my guide] said to me, “You are the incarnation of a protector deity.” I said, “So, not an enlightened lama or monk?” And he said, “No, no; just a protector deity. You have to guard the Dharma, to hold the space.” I’m thinking, “Oh, shit, more of a Bodhisattva gig. You mean I have to give up my seat on the bus?” Yep. [Laughs.] That was such a drag to find that out! But it was also a reminder that there’s work to be done, and not to get caught up in the ego of it. Okay, so I’m being of service.” (It’s OK if you’ve been singing “Fire Woman” in your head while reading this.)
That’s all I have for now, have a great day!