Discovery Institute Downplays Tennessee Victory

By now you know that Tennessee is halfway to enacting a creationism law. See Tennessee Creationism Bill Passed in the House.

Despite the insanely lopsided House vote of 70 to 23 in favor of the creationism bill, there is a strange restraint being exhibited by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

The uncharacteristic lack of gloating is in striking contrast to their wild, unrestrained rejoicing over their victory regarding a similar bill in Louisiana back in 2008 (see Discovery Institute — Ecstasy Over Louisiana).

The Discoveroids’ subdued reaction can be seen in this post at their creationist blog: Tennessee House Passes Academic Freedom Bill by 70-23 Vote. It’s by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. He discusses an interview he gave about the situation, about which he isn’t happy. Casey says, with bold font added by us:

As regards creationism, I explained that multiple courts have found that creationism is a religious viewpoint and illegal to teach in public schools. Since the bill does not protect the teaching of religion, critics are wrong to claim that creationism could come under the law.

But that’s not the way Livingston Parish School Board officials understood a very similar law passed in Louisiana (see Louisiana Creationism: World-Class Idiocy). The Discoveroids are trying to prevent that kind of damage in advance. Let’s read on:

[T]he bill only protects instruction concerning “existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” Evolution is part of the curriculum in every school district in every state, including Tennessee, and is covered in every high school biology course. Thus evolution comes under the bill, and when teachers teach evolution they can teach it objectively.

On the other hand, intelligent design is not presently part of the curriculum in any school district, including Tennessee, and is not covered in any biology classes in Tennessee. Thus ID does not come under the bill.

That sounds nice, but no one believes it. If this bill doesn’t further the Discoveroids’ mission, then why did they write it and hand it to the activist who gave it to the bill’s sponsor in the legislature? (About that little detail, see Lauri Lebo on Tennessee in “Scientific American”.) Notwithstanding Casey’s disclaimer, everyone knows that if this bill becomes law, any teacher in Tennessee who wants to teach creationism will feel no restraint whatsoever. Casey continues:

The bill only protects topics that are already covered in the curriculum, and it does not permit teachers to introduce entirely new theories that aren’t already covered in the course. But if a theory is already covered in the curriculum, as is the case with evolution, then teachers are protected if they choose to teach the both scientific strengths and weaknesses.

There it is. The “strengths and [imaginary] weaknesses” of evolution will be taught. Those “weaknesses” are the whole long-debunked catalog of creationist arguments. That’s what it’s all about.

The only reason for the tone of Casey’s post is to prevent a jubilant cry of victory (from the bill’s actual author) from becoming evidence in court. Those who will inevitably challenge Tennessee’s creationism law will be watching for such things. Despite Casey’s guarded performance today, there will be plenty of evidence to expose the law’s purpose. So the Discoveroids might as well celebrate. It won’t make any difference.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Discovery Institute Downplays Tennessee Victory

  1. I just read through Lauri’s article in SciAm. That lead to another SciAm article talking about how creationists have changed tactics over time, as well as how the “debate” (for lack of a better word) has evolved over time, as well.
    Then I started reading through the comments. My un-scientific poll of the comments suggests that 2/3 were creationists. And I also think that I saw every, single creationist argument and tactic that exists (silly strawmen, weird analogies, the “watch” argument, “it’s only a theory”, even read one person stating how Dawkin’s arguments are actually arguments FOR creationism…) Unfortunately, those arguing against creationism in science class were doing a very poor job. I mainly saw arguments against God / for atheism. Frankly, that discussion belongs elsewhere. So long as we maintain the focus (keep creationism out of the science class), we can keep the creo-nuts at bay.

  2. Bryan Trim

    I graduated from Live Oak High School in Livingston Parish, LA. My science teacher, the person who influenced me to become a science teacher myself, had a great way of dealing with the pre Edwards V. Aguillard science texts we still had in class. She said at the beginning of biology I and II: “There are some people who do not agree with the theory of Evolution based on religious grounds. That is fine. God will not be on my tests. Ignore evolution at your own peril.”

    Sometimes I wonder if I should move back to Louisiana to try and drag science education back up a notch, especially for rural kids.

  3. One wonders if John Freshwater has applied for a Tennessee teaching license yet.

  4. The only reason for the tone of Casey’s post is to prevent a jubilant cry of victory (from the bill’s actual author) from becoming evidence in court.

    Does TN have a bicameral legislature? If so, I’d think his reticence is more likely due to the DI not wanting to draw too much media attention to it before the Senate passes it. Senators who are okay with voting yes on a creationist bill in private may be unwilling to do so when there are a bunch of national reporters asking about it.

  5. The last thing the DI wants is to have these bills succeed.

    Strange, you say? Not so!

    The DI thrives, in fact, it’s purpose is to stir up trouble, to create the manufactroversy, to instigate the controversy. How can you cry “Persecution!” after you win?

    The DI gets no mileage out of a bill that sails through. The DI’s job is to throw the turd into the punchbowl and run off waiting for screams of horror. They are mightily disappointed when they hear, “Mmmmmmm, turd punch! My favorite!”

  6. Uh, that should have been “sails” as in a boatload of manure, rather than “sales” as if the bill was bought and paid for, although …

  7. Doc Bill says: “Uh, that should have been …”

    All fixed.

  8. when reading about the DI I always bear in mind they are the Microsoft of creo-orgs, ie they employ more LAWYERS than writers.

    The whole creo-nut movement should not be seen only as a theological one – its run by and steered by lawyers, who have worked out what a big fat golden cash cow this is, playing on the weaknesses in your legislative and legal systems. The lawyers began the fat cash in post Scopes and just before the Creation Science debacle. Its a system that allows them to encourage legal challenges whilst selling books, and once lost they revise the books and sell the revisions to idiot school boards free from a national curricula, which initiates more cases, which triggers further revisions……and on and on and on.

    Theology is just a convenient flag they hide their activities behind, just as the IRA professed to be fighting the cause for Catholics when in fact they were fighting to protect their petty criminal empire of protection rackets, counterfeit product distribution and drugs.

    Its just shameful cynical exploitation of a system by the worst scumbags in the working world….lawyers. And it is also one more thing….a fat shameful millstone around your nations neck that means soon you will be running a very limpy third place in scientific innovation to Europe and China, with India nipping at your heels.

    For the nation that put the saluting astronaut on the moon, the one on the poster on my wall, that is a f**king tradgedy.