Be It Teaching ‘Critical Thinking’ or ‘Creationism,’ HB368 Passes House

(Note: Updates and replaces earlier post)
By a 70-23 vote, the House approved and sent to the Senate Thursday a bill that protects teachers from discipline if they discuss alternatives to prevailing scientific theories, notably including evolution.
Sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said the purpose is to promote “critical thinking” in science classes. Critics contend the measure (HB368) is a backdoor means of teaching creationism reminiscent of the 1920s Tennessee law that prohibited teaching of evolution, leading to the trial and conviction of a Dayton teacher and inspiring the movie Inherit the Wind.
House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh had referred to the measure as “the monkey bill” earlier. Dunn said after passage that critics were practicing “monkey see, monkey do” by believing and repeating unwarranted characterizations of the measure as an attack on evolution and promotion of religion in the classroom.
The bill provoked extensive debate on the House floor, with Republicans at times bringing up religion and the shortcomings of scientific predictions. They also described critics of the measure as “intellectual bullies” sending”vicious emails.”


Dunn said that when he attended high school scientists believe a new Ice Age was inevitable – while now most believe in global warming. Rep. Shelia Butt, R-Columbia, recalled that as a high school student “we gave up Aqua Net hairspray… because it was causing global warming.”
“Since then scientists have said that maybe we shouldn’t have given up that aerosol can because that aerosol was actually absorbing the earth’s rays and was keeping us from global warming,” Butt said.
The debate at times did get into religion, though Dunn noted the bill itself includes a sentence declaring the proposed new law shall not be used to promote religion.
Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, quoted Albert Einstein as saying: “A little knowledge would turn your head to atheism, while a broader knowledge would you’re your head to Christianity.”
“Our whole state will be better if we have children using critical thinking about how we got here and not just accepting a theory that has never been proven,” said Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby.
Democrats questioned the measure at length. Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, suggested the bill is telling teachers what to teach in science and questioned whether math, physical education and history would be next.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville also asked whether the bill could allow teachers to promote creation theories promoted by non-Christian religions.

4 thoughts on “Be It Teaching ‘Critical Thinking’ or ‘Creationism,’ HB368 Passes House

  1. Valerie

    I think if teachers are going to teach evolution they should send home a permission slip asking parents if their child can participate in that chapter,unit,etc…
    They send home permission slips for controversial movies why not subjects? I personally am a Christian and do not believe in evolution. But I wouldn’t be against my children hearing the views and opinions of others. Who knows maybe it will grab their interest enough that they make it their lives work to disprove the theory.

  2. William

    Rep. Frank Niceley’s alleged Albert Einstein quote is fake. There is no evidence that Einstein ever said such a thing. In fact, his views on such matters were quite clear, as displayed in his now-famous 1954 letter:
    “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”
    “For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”

    BTW, Valerie, if your children do choose to make science their lives’ work, please encourage them to search with an open mind for the facts, as opposed to merely setting out to disprove something. The former allows for following the evidence to whatever conclusion it leads, while the latter is constricted by the bias of starting one’s search with the conclusion already decided (and is the wrong way to do science).
    Most Christians in the U.S. have no problem with accepting the evidence for evolution. A good starting point for understanding their position would be the writings of Kenneth Miller or Francis Collins. If evolution weren’t real, our vaccines and antibiotics wouldn’t have much basis for existing.

  3. Dan M

    Evolution is not a theory! The theory is related to how things have evolved and that very scientific precept has evolved as new discoveries ocuur throughout history.
    Ever wonder why poodles or cockapoo’s were not around 500 years ago? They are examples of evolution through selective breeding by man. Evolution through natural selection involves similar results but through very complex mechanims which are theorehtical.
    Evolution is a fact! Creationism is a belief and nobody can tell me, or my children what to believe, let alone a politician!!
    Stay out of my church and my faith!

  4. Jamie Kitson

    It was Sir Francis Bacon, and he didn’t talk about knowledge, he spoke about philosophy:
    A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, But depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.

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