Are You Smarter Than …

It seems as if the prevailing scientific community is now as dogmatic in opposing critical thinking skills as the “creationists” ever were in the early 1900’s. And in this, these scientists have forgotten their own history and now want to do that which at one time they decried.

There is a popular game show that allows adults to partner with fifth-graders to determine whether the adult is “smarter than a fifth-grader.” Thursday it became the platform by which Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) helped his legislative colleagues figure out whether they were smarter than those who opposed House Bill 368.

House Bill 368 is a straightforward bill if you just read what it says. But those with another agenda want to twist the plain language of the bill to mean something that it does not mean and, in fact, to mean what it expressly states that it does not do. So Rep. Dunn came up with a written “test”that he distributed to the House members on the floor of the House prior to debate on the bill. It allowed legislators to determine if they were “smarter than a scientist.”

You see, House Bill 368 straightforwardly says that public school science teachers should not be prohibited from helping students develop critical thinking skills in their scientific studies. It does so by making it clear that they can help students think in an “objective manner” about the “scientific strengths andscientific weakness” of “existing scientific theories in the course being taught.” Then it adds specific language in section (e) stating that the bill shall:

not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

But some scientists have come out of the laboratory to oppose the bill for reasons that disclose their own hidden agenda, which will become clear. In a Pavlovian-dog type response, these scientists, as smart as they are, seem to go ballistic if the word “evolution” is even mentioned in a bill. It is like they go into a mental version of cardiac arrest at the thought that some of their fellow scientists would allow students to thoughtfully evaluate whether the scientific evidence, taken as a whole, supports macro evolution as the explanation of all of the complexity we observe in the natural world. They may be great scientists, but when it comes to legislation like House Bill 368, some kind of negative mutation seems to occur in their reading comprehension skills.

They came forward to testify that somewhere lurking in the bill was authority or permission for science teachers to teach “creation science.” In doing so, they seem to be more adroit at finding words in a written document that don’t exist than the U.S. Supreme Court had been in finding a “right to abortion” in the U.S. Constitution. And speaking of which, they conveniently forget that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “creation” cannot be taught in the science classroom. So the bill could not (and does not) authorize the doing of that which is unconstitutional.

And speaking of forgetting, there are a lot of other things they seem to have forgotten. So maybe it’s not so much a lack of reading comprehension skills that has brought about the primordial howls of protest as it is that their capacity for remembering has not fully evolved.

For example, maybe they forget that the bill only deals with scientificinformation, not theological or metaphysical information. Maybe they forgot that theological and metaphysical “theories” are not “scientific” theories.

Maybe they forgot that the bill only relates to “existing theories in the course being taught.” Maybe they forgot to look at the curriculum frameworks set by the state Board of Education. Those frameworks establish what students are to learn and the materials that are to be covered in the “courses being taught.” And those frameworks, which the bill does not even touch on, do not create “courses” on creation science and intelligent design. And those frameworks do not list creation science or intelligent design as “current theories” to be covered in the courses that are authorized.

I’ve referenced the opponent’s “agenda.” And what is it? Well, Rep. John Deberry (D-Memphis) summed it up pretty well. Those who testified against the bill and who oppose the bill have their own dogma, about which they display a religious-type fervor befitting the most devout religionist among us. And they are adamant that the law makes sure no one can evaluate or think critically about the truth of their dogma. That is their agenda.

It seems as if the prevailing scientific community is now as dogmatic in opposing critical thinking skills as the “creationists” ever were in the early 1900’s. And in this, these scientists have forgotten their own history and now want to do that which at one time they decried.

Fortunately, the legislature knew how to read and comprehend the actual words of the bill and didn’t forget that which needed to be remembered. I guess the 70 House members who voted for it are indeed smarter than some scientists.

(We are grateful for all 70 Representatives who voted for HB 368, but Rep. Dunn deserves special kudos for his perseverance on this bill in the face of some pretty nasty emails attacking everything from his lineage to his intellect. Please take a moment to send a “thank you” to rep.bill.dunn@capitol.tn.gov.)