Barbara Forrest on the Tennessee Biology Book Ban

AT the website Louisiana Coalition for Science, maintained by Dr. Barbara Forrest, a star witness for the winning side in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, there’s an excellent new article on the current controversy in Tennessee that may result in the banning of a biology book.

We’ve been writing about this, for example here: Tennessee Biology Book Ban Demand, but Barbara discusses the matter with her usual scholarly thoroughness. She presents information which is essential to understanding what’s happening in Tennessee.

We invite you to visit Barbara’s site to read Louisiana Creationist Textbook Addendum Rejected in Tennessee. To encourage you, here are a few excerpts. Barbara says:

Mr. Zimmermann, a Sunday School teacher, objects that the book’s use of the word “myth” undermines his child’s belief in the truthfulness of the Bible and displays a bias against Christianity.

[…]

But there is nothing inherently offensive or disrespectful to Christianity about the use of the word “myth.” The most respected dictionary in the English-speaking world, the Oxford English Dictionary, gives this as the first definition of the word:

1. a. A traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon.

Let’s read on:

Where the [complaint] form [submitted by Zimmermann] asks, “What reviews of this material have you read?,” Zimmermann wrote, “19 page Review by Charles H. Voss, Jr. Ph.D. dated August, 2006.” This indicates that Zimmermann is taking as his authority for evaluating Asking About Life none other than Louisiana’s own Charles H. Voss, Jr., a longtime creationist who is well known among creationist-watchers for his mischief-making in our state.

Barbara then provides much-needed background about Voss and his creationist career. This is vital for the officials in Tennessee, and we hope they become aware of Barbara’s post. It will prevent them from making an extremely unfortunate decision. We continue:

Voss has promoted creationism in Louisiana for years. In 1993, he wrote a pamphlet entitled “Did God Direct Evolution?” [pdf], in which he rejected the mainstream belief in theistic evolution (the religious belief that God used evolution to shape life on Earth), opting instead for full-blown, biblical, young-earth creationism: “Ninety percent of the known indicators of the earth’s age say the earth is young while only ten percent give old ages to the earth.”

There’s no way we can summarize the material Barbara presents, so we won’t try. This is her her final paragraph, and the bold font is in the original:

To the ladies and gentlemen of the Knox County School Board: Please don’t give in to these creationist demands. When you compromise good science education with creationism, you don’t solve your problem — you exacerbate and prolong it. Sometimes you just have to say no. Stand your ground, as the Louisiana legislature and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education refused to do when we were faced here with an effort to inject creationism into science education — an effort in which Dr. Voss was integrally involved. Set a different precedent — one that says to your local constituents and to the rest of America that the integrity of authentic science education will be protected at every level in the state of Tennessee. The rest of the country will admire you for it. The scientific community will appreciate your courage. And the supporters of good science education who in 2008-2009 tried and failed to stop Voss and his creationist colleagues in Louisiana will cheer you on.

There’s not much else to be said, except this: Dr. Barbara Forrest is the greatest. Now click on over there and read her entire essay.

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