Alabama has been attempting for the past several years to pass what is being called the “Academic Freedom Act.” I love how pleasant sounding names adorn dangerous and destructive bills. It should be the first sign to run away from this proposed bill.
Rep. Grimes has proposed this bill for the past several years. He has proposed the bill again this year just in time to celebrate Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. If the past few years is any indication, may it die once again in committee.
What this bill does is allow teachers from elementary through college to teach the pseudo-sciences of intelligent design and creationism along side evolution. I say pseudo-science because what proponents of of ID and Creationism do is take the Abrahamic stories of Genesis as their foundation and then try to prove how the world came to be using these stories as the reference points. For example, how did the Grand Canyon form? Well, when the flood waters receded after the great flood that covered the earth, the rush of the waters carved the canyon. So how old is the grand canyon? Only a few thousand years.
I kid you not. There is a book that can be purchased at the Grand Canyon National Park that tells this story of how the world’s greatest canyon came to be from this creationist point of view. And this is the information that Rep. Grimes wants teachers to be able to teach in the classrooms of Alabama.
One of the arguments attempting to be made is that evolution is a theory and therefore may not be true. So why not present other theories that are more aligned with biblical beliefs? Well, first off there are several definitions of the word theory.
Most scientific theories are operating under this definition:
- A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
While Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents operate under this definition to argue for their curricula to be presented:
- An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.
(“theory.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 12 Feb. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theory>.)
And because this definition of theory is being used, it is argued that creationism and intelligent design theories (second definition) should be taught in school. Proponents argue that because the theory of evolution is only atheory, a conjecture (second definition), then their theory is just as valid to be taught in academic schools. However, the theory of Evolution is not a conjecture but rather a principle that has been tested and proven to be predictive about natural phenomena. The theories of creationism and intelligent design cannot be tested and proven to be predictive, they are conjectures.
They also argue that education should reflect the values and beliefs of their religious community. This opens the door for other creation stories to be taught as plausible science theories since other religions in addition to the Abrahamic religions are present in our communities.
Schools are not meant to support or validate the religious belief systems of a community. They are meant to be institutions that challenge and develop critical thinking skills of its students by using evidence found in the natural world. It is by this means that advances are made in all fields of research.
But when religious beliefs begin to dictate where education and knowledge are to advance then we do not advance into the light of day but rather recede into the depths of ignorance and darkness.
This proposed bill does exactly this. It needs to once again die in committee.