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.
A group of students, teachers and alumni at a New York high school are calling for the removal of state Sen. Stacey Campfield from its hall of fame based on his comments on homosexuality and AIDS, reports The Tennessean. Several people denounced Campfield at an apparently raucous school board meeting in Vestal, N.Y., the small town near Binghamton where the Knoxville Republican grew up. The group called for his portrait to be taken down from Vestal High School’s Hall of Fame, with one woman shouting “Cowards!” at school board members when they did not immediately agree to do so, according to the Press & Sun-Bulletin, a Gannett sister paper.
Campfield told the paper they “are welcome to their point of view.”
The source of the controversy is a view Campfield shared with a radio host in January that AIDS entered the human population via a sexual encounter with a monkey. Most scientists believe humans first contracted AIDS by eating infected primate meat.
— Update: The board voted to keep Campfield’s portrait in place. AP story below.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
News release from National Center for Science Education:
All eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences — including a Nobel laureate — have signed a statement (PDF) expressing their firm opposition to House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893. Both bills, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” HB 368 was passed in April 7, 2011, but SB 893 was stalled in committee until March 14, 2012, when the Senate Education Committee passed a slightly amended version.
The scientists object to the misdescription of evolution as scientifically controversial, insisting, “As scientists whose research involves and is based upon evolution, we affirm — along with the nation’s leading scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences — that evolution is a central, unifying, and accepted area of science. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; there is no scientific evidence for its supposed rivals (‘creation science’ and ‘intelligent design’) and there is no scientific evidence against it.”
The scientists also object to the encouragement to teachers to present the so-called scientific weaknesses of evolution, which, they contend, “in practice are likely to include scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution. As educators whose teaching involves and is based on evolution, we affirm — along with the nation’s leading science education organizations, including the National Association of Biology Teachers and the National Science Teachers Association — that evolution is a central and crucial part of science education. Neglecting evolution is pedagogically irresponsible.”
Their statement concludes, “By undermining the teaching of evolution in Tennessee’s public schools, HB 368 and SB 893 would miseducate students, harm the state’s national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy.” The statement is signed by Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986, Roger D. Cone, George M. Hornberger, Daniel Masys, John A. Oates, Liane Russell, Charles J. Sherr, and Robert Webster; all eight are members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific organizations.
— Note: As explained by Sen. Bo Watson in committee, his amendment (which had not been posted on the legislative website four days after adopted in committee) deletes the word “controversial” and replaces is with “debated or disputed.” That may well be, as the release suggests, a matter of ‘slightly amending” the original version.
Sen. Stacey Campfield has posted on his blog a fairly lengthy discourse on the comments he made about AIDS during a radio show appearance, including multiple links.
It starts like this: As you may have heard I was on some little radio show to talk about my “don’t teach gay” bill. After a few minutes the host (Who shall we say was not of a receptive lifestyle) jumped topics and I made some comments on how the homosexual lifestyle was WAAAAAAY more risky then the hetero sexual lifestyle. Of course the regulars went bonkers. Here are some facts on the issues we covered. Note: In case you haven’t heard about this, previous post HERE.
Sen. Stacey Campfield says he was speaking “on the fly” about the origins of AIDs and its transmission during a radio interview that now has “some people going crazy.”
Still, the Knoxville Republican says his assertions, including the possibility that AIDs originated from a man having sexual intercourse with a monkey, reasonably reflect what others have said in researching and writing on the subject.
“I’m not a historian on AIDs,” he said in an interview Friday. “But I’ve read and seen what other people have read and seen and those facts are out there.”
Dr. Jacques Pepin, author of the book “The Origin of AIDS,” said some of the assertions are “kind of funny,” in the sense of being strange, and not fully factual.
Campfield was interviewed by Michelangelo Signorile, editor-at-large of Huffington Gay Voices on Signorile’s radio show on SiriusXM’s LGBT channel, OutQ. The subject was a Campfield-sponsored bill, nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (SB49), which Campfield says is intended to block discussion of homosexuality in grades kindergarten through eight of Tennessee schools.
In a Huffington Post story on the interview, Signorile describes Campfield — while speaking in an “often belligerent and sarcastic tone” – as “comparing homosexuality to bestiality and making what public health officials would characterize as recklessly false assertions about AIDS.” Campfield said his remarks were taken “out of context” in parts of the story.
In a radio show interview, Sen. Stacey Campfield has offered some thoughts on homosexuality and the nature of AIDs, including its origin, that has been greeted with considerable skepticism by bloggers for Nashville Scene and Metro Pulse.
An excerpt from the Huffington Post interview with Michelangelo Signorle: “Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community — it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall.”
“My understanding is that it is virtually — not completely, but virtually — impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex…very rarely [transmitted].”