Tag Archives: evolution

Dayton’s 1925 ‘Monkey Trial’ Now a Tourism Attraction

By Joseph B. Frazier, for The Associated Press
DAYTON, Tenn. — It was yet another Trial of the Century — one of those noisy spectacles that roll around every decade or so — but this one wasn’t about murder or celebrity kidnapping.
Rather it involved a new Tennessee law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools and an unassuming high school science teacher, John Scopes, who went on trial in July 1925 in the hill town of east Tennessee for violating it.
It was quickly dubbed “The Monkey Trial,” a description the town still dislikes, and for a couple of weeks the world was focused on conservative backwater Dayton, population about 3,000, which was flooded with some 200 journalists from around the world, scores of telegraph operators, thousands of onlookers and some of the finest legal talent in America. It was the first American trial to be broadcast live nationally on the radio.
The trial was the inspiration for the play and 1960 Spencer Tracy movie “Inherit the Wind,” widely seen as jab at the McCarthy era of the 1950s much as was Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” It had four Oscar nominations.

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In Protest of ‘Creationism’ and ‘Gateway Sexual Activity’ Bills

In a New York Times opinion piece, Amy Greene sees a violation of Tennessee religious traditions in the “gateway sexual activity” bill and the measure she calls “the creationism bill.”
A lot has changed in Tennessee since frontier times, but our feelings about religion remain strong. I know our hearts are in the debates we have over whether biblical theories should be discussed in public schools, whichever side we come down on. But I’m not sure the politicians’ are.
They claim their goal is to better our education system, and to give us more freedom of religious thought in the bargain. But it seems to me they’re taking away the individualist liberties we’ve always prized and giving us more government regulation instead.
I fear that these bills, written to give us what they think we want, will have the opposite effect. By legislating our Christianity, what they’re really doing is taking it away from us.

TN Evolution Bill Continues to Draw National Attention

Tennessee and Gov. Bill Haslam get prominent mention in a New York Times piece on social issue activism in state legislatures around the country, which some Republicans fear could hurt the party in national elections.
Tennessee enacted a law this month intended to protect teachers who question the theory of evolution. Arizona moved to ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, and Mississippi imposed regulations that could close the state’s only abortion clinic. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed a law allowing the state’s public schools to teach about abstinence instead of contraception.
The recent flurry of socially conservative legislation, on issues ranging from expanding gun rights to placing new restrictions on abortion, comes as Republicans at the national level are eager to refocus attention on economic issues.
Some Republican strategists and officials, reluctant to be identified because they do not want to publicly antagonize the party’s base, fear that the attention these divisive social issues are receiving at the state level could harm the party’s chances in November, when its hopes of winning back the White House will most likely rest with independent voters in a handful of swing states.
One seasoned strategist called the problem potentially huge. But others said that actions taken by a handful of states would probably have little impact on the national campaign.
…Tennessee enacted a law this month intended to protect teachers who question the theory of evolution. Arizona moved to ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, and Mississippi imposed regulations that could close the state’s only abortion clinic. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed a law allowing the state’s public schools to teach about abstinence instead of contraception.
The recent flurry of socially conservative legislation, on issues ranging from expanding gun rights to placing new restrictions on abortion, comes as Republicans at the national level are eager to refocus attention on economic issues.
Some Republican strategists and officials, reluctant to be identified because they do not want to publicly antagonize the party’s base, fear that the attention these divisive social issues are receiving at the state level could harm the party’s chances in November, when its hopes of winning back the White House will most likely rest with independent voters in a handful of swing states.
One seasoned strategist called the problem potentially huge. But others said that actions taken by a handful of states would probably have little impact on the national campaign.
….After Tennessee’s Republican-led Legislature passed a bill to protect school teachers who review “the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories” in areas including “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning,” it drew denunciations from a number of scientists and civil libertarians. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, decided this month to let the bill become law without his signature.
Mr. Haslam said in an interview that the law had passed by a wide margin, so the Legislature could have easily overridden a veto. And he said that while he feared that the law would muddy state policy for teachers rather than clarify it, he had been assured by state education officials that it would not actually change the way science is taught in Tennessee.
But he said he also worried that the law could damage the reputation of a state that was home to another famous legal battle over the teaching of evolution, the Scopes “monkey trial” of 1925.
“One of the things as governor, you’re always out — I’m out selling Tennessee all the time to businesses and other folks,” Mr. Haslam said during a recent visit to New York, adding that the state had heavily focused on the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in recent years. “So you worry about misperceptions, sure. I wouldn’t be honest if I said I didn’t do that. But if I thought it was actually going to harm the scientific standards, I would have vetoed it.”

Sunday Column: Our Evolving Governor

Displaying an evolving new normal in his gubernatorial reign, a believing-in-better Bill Haslam last week officially and formally, albeit cautiously, expressed mild disagreement for the first time with a piece of legislation that reached his desk.
“Good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion,” he stated with regard to HB368. “My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will allow it to become law without my signature.”
On one side, the governor had faced united Republican support in the Legislature for the bill, which authorizes classroom questioning of evolution. Even a few Democrats — mostly those worried about being accused of opposing the Bible in their re-election campaigns — had joined the sponsors’ call for more “creative thinking” about prevailing scientific theories.
On the other side, he faced a bunch of scientific types, academicians and around 3,200 petition-signers calling for a veto of the “monkey bill” they saw as a sneaky way to return to the 1920s, when Tennessee brought criminal charges against a Dayton teacher for talking about evolution. And the national media was listening to them and quoted the hoots of derision at us uneducated, backwoods hillbilly Tennesseans.

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Haslam Lets Evolution Bill Become Law Without His Signature

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he will allow controversial legislation that critics call “the monkey bill” to become law without his signature, marking the first time he has declined to sign a measure passed by the General Assembly.
The bill declares that teachers cannot be disciplined for allowing discussion of alternatives to prevailing scientific theories such as evolution. Supporters say it will encourage “critical thinking” by students while critics say it is intended to promote creationism as an alternative to evolution.
A week ago, Haslam said “probably so” when asked if he would sign the bill. He has since received a petition signed by 3,200 persons urging a veto of the bill and letters from several scientists and others calling for a veto.
Haslam issued this statement on his decision:
“I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have been raised by the bill. I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.
“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will allow it to become law without my signature.”

Haslam Will ‘Weigh Imput’ of Petitioners Before Signing Evolution Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam says the views of 3,200 Tennesseans urging him to veto a controversial bill dealing with the teaching of evolution are important, reports Andy Sher, but he emphasized the overwhelming legislative votes are, too.
“Sure, one of the things we do is we weigh input of all kinds,” Haslam said when asked about a 3,200-signature petition presented to his office last week of state residents opposed to the recently passed measure.
“It’s also worthy of note it didn’t just barely pass the House and the Senate,” Haslam said. “It passed three to one. … You take that into account as well.”
The Republican governor, who last week said “probably so” when asked if he would sign the measure, has until Tuesday to decide whether he will sign, veto or allow the measure to become law without his signature.
The measure, derided as the “monkey bill” by critics including scientists and science teachers’ groups, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.
Watson’s bill protects public school teachers who describe “weaknesses” in evolution, climate change and other theories.

AP Story on TN Evolution: From Scopes Trial to ‘Monkey Bill’

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee, where the nation’s first big legal battle over evolution was fought nearly 90 years ago, is close to enacting a law that critics deride as the “monkey bill” for once again attacking the scientific theory.
The measure passed by the Tennessee General Assembly would protect teachers who allow students to criticize evolution and other scientific theories, such as global warming. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said this week he would likely sign it into law.
Haslam said the State Board of Education has told him the measure won’t affect the state’s current scientific curriculum for primary, middle or high school students. Louisiana enacted a similar law in 2008.
“I think the one thing about that bill is this: Nothing about the curriculum of the state of Tennessee will change, and the scientific standards won’t change,” he said. “So I think some of the discussion about its impact has probably been overblown.”
The bill says it will encourage critical thinking by protecting teachers from discipline if they help students critique “scientific weaknesses.”
Scientists in Tennessee and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are asking Haslam to veto the bill, saying that evolution is established science that shouldn’t be taught as a controversy.

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Will Gov Sign Evolution Bill? ‘Probably so’

Asked Monday if he would sign into law a bill on the teaching of evolution and other scientific theories in Tennessee classrooms, Gov. Bill Haslam said, “Probably so.”
More from Andy Sher:
“Nothing in the curriculum of the state of Tennessee will change and the scientific standards won’t change,” Haslam said of the bill, which has passed the House and Senate but has yet to come to the governor’s desk. “If you read through that, that part is really clear.”
The governor shrugged off concerns voiced by prominent scientists about the legislation, saying “some of the discussion about its impact is probably a bit overblown.”
Scientists, including a Tennessean who won a Nobel prize, have attacked the bill, saying it would allow faith-based theories like “creationism” and “intelligent design” into classroom discussions. Asked if he were leaning toward signing the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, Haslam said “probably so” although he noted he hasn’t seen the final version of the bill yet.
But Haslam said he has had discussions with State Board of Education officials on “does this affect our curriculum and what we teach regarding evolution in the schools and the answer is no. Does it change the scientific standards that are the ruling criteria for what we teach in schools and the answer is no.”

Bill on Classroom Discussion of Evolution Goes to Governor

A House vote Monday night sends to Gov. Bill Haslam a bill that has inspired a controversy the governor says he knows little about.
The legislation (HB368) sets guidelines for classroom discussion of evolution and other scientific theories and declares that teachers cannot be disciplined for permitting such discussions.
Sponsors say it will encourages development of “critical thinking skills” by students. Critics say it encourages discussions of creationism as an alternative to evolution.
Haslam was asked his views on the bill last week after announcing plans to use federal funds to build three new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) schools in the state.
“I don’t know that I have any great insight there for you on that one,” Haslam said, adding that he had heard of the bill but knew little about what was involved. The governor said he plans to ask state Board of Education officials about it.

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Evolution in the Senate; Commandments in the House

The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories while the House approved legislation authorizing cities and counties to display the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
The Senate voted 24-8 for HB368, which sponsor Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, says will provide guidelines for teachers answering student questions about evolution, global warming and other scientific subjects… Critics call it a “monkey bill” that promotes creationism in classrooms.
The bill was approved in the House last year but now must return to that body for concurrence on a Senate amendment that made generally minor changes. One, says the law applies to scientific theories that are the subject of “debate and disputation” — a phrase replacing the word “controversial” in the House version.’
The measure also guarantees that teachers will not be subject to discipline for engaging students in discussion of questions they raise, though Watson said the idea is to provide guidelines so that teachers will bring the discussion back to the subjects authorized for teaching in the curriculum approved by the state Board of Education.
All eight no votes came from Democrats, some of whom raised questions about the bill during brief debate.
Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Clarksville, said he was concerned that the measure was put forward “not for scientific reasons but for political reasons.” And Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said teachers were doing just fine teaching science without the Legislature’s involvement.
“We are simply dredging up the problems of the past with this bill and that will affect our teachers in the future,” Berke said.
Watson said the purpose of the legislation is to encourage teachers in helping their students learn to challenge and debate ideas to “improve their thinking skills.”
The bill authorizing display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings (HB2658) is sponsored by Rep. Mathew Hill, R-Jonesborough, who said it is in line with court rulings. In essence, courts have often declared displays of the biblical commandments unconstitutional standing along, but permissible as part of a display of “historic documents.”
The bill authorizes all local governments to display “historic documents” and specifically lists the commandments as being included.
Hill said the bill will prevent city and county governments from “being intimidated any further by special interest groups” opposed to display of the Ten Commandments.It passed 93-0 and now goes to the Senate.