Thoughts on the Tennessee Creationism Law

Governor Bill Haslam

“Give thanks to God, Brighton, that when he made you a fool, he gave you a fool’s face.”

The red text comes from Lawrence of Arabia, in the scene where those memorable words were spoken by the sheikh of the Huwaytat Bedouin warriors, Auda abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn) to Colonel Harry Brighton (Anthony Quayle). We’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to figure out what made your Curmudgeon think of that line.

As we reported last night, in Tennessee Creationism Bill Not Signed, Not Vetoed, Tennessee has enacted an anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism piece of legislative insanity that was literally drafted 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).

This masterpiece of mindlessness is now law due to the cowardly inaction of Bill Haslam, a flaming idiot who is the Governor of Tennessee, a state with a long and tragic history of creationism. Tennessee is the home of Bryan College in Dayton Tennessee — site of the Scopes Trial. The college is named after William Jennings Bryan — the great blowhard.

As H. L. Mencken said in The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 14, 1925:

The Legislature of Tennessee, like the Legislature of every other American state, is made up of cheap job-seekers and ignoramuses. The Governor of the State is a politician ten times cheaper and trashier. It is vain to look for relief from such men. If the State is to be saved at all, it must be saved by the courts.

Source: Full text of “Coverage of The Scopes Trial by H.L. Mencken” .

What will Tennessee gain from this monumental act of stupidity? What will its students learn as a result? They’ll be exposed to creationism in the public schools of their state, under the guise of teaching them “critical thinking.” If you don’t know what that is — see What Is “Critical Thinking”?

And what’s the point of such an education? Where are the results of creationism and intelligent design? Those modes of “thought” have produced no accomplishments in medicine, pharmacology, mining, agriculture, or any other productive field, nor will they ever do so. The track record of creation science is indistinguishable from that of astrology.

What benefit will the students gain from their creationist education? As we’ve pointed out before, there are No Honest Jobs for Creation Scientists. After showing that no industry is seeking creationist employees, we said:

It’s not hopeless — there are a few things [a creationist graduate] can do in addition to being a fast-food counter clerk. He can teach in a bible college. He can be a creationist preacher. He can run a creationist advocacy group (probably with the word “Family” in its name), and he can try to squeeze out a marginal living with a creationist website. Hey — he can be a politician and promote his “science” that way.

And that’s not all. If a creationist plans his career carefully and panders to his fellow idiots, then who knows — he might even become the Governor of Tennessee.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Thoughts on the Tennessee Creationism Law

  1. Note that the bill only permits criticism of curriculum material. Creationism, including ID, is not part of the curriculum, and is thus protected from such criticism.

    I want academic freedom for ruthless criticism of Creationist ideas. Funny how the law doesn’t provide that.

  2. “And that’s not all. If a creationist plans his career carefully and panders to his fellow idiots, then who knows — he might even become the Governor of Tennessee.”

    Or he could become Governor of Louisiana! Is Tennessee trying to become a piece of LA LA Land?

  3. retiredsciguy

    Not that wearing a rug implies anything at all about a person’s intelligence, but does Haslam’s hair look fishy to anyone else? One would think that the governor of a great state such as Tennessee would have evolved past usedcarius salesmanus.

  4. I think its very unfair to cite Anthony Quayle in this way. He was a genuine war hero in WW2. He was a Major in the Special Duties Service of British Military Intelligence and later a member of the Special Operations Executive. He served behind enemy lines in Greece & Yugoslavia organising resisteance and sabotaging German installations.

    It always riled him during his acting career how he could never get the lead role in war movies due to his looks. The movie industry insists that you look like a hero rather actually being a hero.

  5. Curmudgeon: “What will Tennessee gain from this monumental act of stupidity? What will its students learn as a result? They’ll be exposed to creationism in the public schools of their state, under the guise of teaching them ‘critical thinking’.”

    I am 100% opposed to such bills, and would be even if the outcome would be that the % of students that it turns on to evolution exceeds the % that it turns off. But given a few comments on the other thread, I’ll play devil’s advocate. Has there been any evidence that LA students have been taught “creationism”? And if so, which “kind”? Have any teachers provided “evidence” for independent origin of “kinds” or for a young earth, that they would have been afraid to teach before? Have any teachers taught long-refuted “weaknesses” of evolution – sans the refutations of those “weaknesses” – that they would have been afraid to teach before? Is the reason that there hasn’t been a “Dover” yet in LA because teachers think the law won’t protect them, and thus refrain from doing what they’d prefer to do? Or might this have
    been occurring “under the radar”?

  6. Rubble: “I want academic freedom for ruthless criticism of Creationist ideas. Funny how the law doesn’t provide that.”

    Actually I think that, technically it does. But it’s a moot point because neither anti- or pro-science teachers (aka “creationists” and “Darwinists”, respectively) want to teach them, though for very different reasons, of course. Criticism of pseudoscience is as inappropriate for science class as pseudoscience is. But even if taught in a non-science class, detailed technical refutations would require an inordinate amount of class time to counter the misconceptions reinforced by the “flood” of anti-evolution sound bites.
    To me the most damning criticism of the anti-evolution activists is not that they advocate teaching misleading “supplemental material” but that they always conveniently omit the refutations of that “supplemental material” in their demands. By that they make it clear that they are the ones demanding censorship.

  7. I know enough teachers to say that most of them work hard to cover the required material for their classes, and have very little time to insert additional course material into the curriculum. Until the legislature, or a school board, changes curriculum standards to specifically require teaching of ID creationism, it’s unlikely that there will be any actual effect of this legislation in the classroom.

    Not to suggest that there isn’t a school board somewhere crazy enough to take the bait, but so far in Louisiana they have not done so.

  8. retiredsciguy

    FrankJ

    “Criticism of pseudoscience is as inappropriate for science class as pseudoscience is.”

    As a retired Jr. High Earth Science teacher, I disagree. I felt I had a responsibility to my students to help them unlearn any pseudoscientific ideas they may have had, such as astrology, and to show them the evidence supporting current scientific theories.

    Yes, it would be inappropriate to criticize their religion, but not the unscientific ideas they may have had. When it came to creationism vs. evolution, you learn to tread carefully. I found it best to just demonstrate the overwhelming evidence supporting evolution, and let it go at that.

  9. @retiredsciguy:

    Good point. Actually I hesitated saying that because sometimes science class has to devote at least a little time to counter long-discredited ideas that students still think are current.

  10. retiredsciguy

    FrankJ: “…sometimes science class has to devote at least a little time to counter long-discredited ideas that students still think are current.”

    And sometimes, we have to take an inordinate amount of time correcting current b.s. they pick up from totally irresponsible tv programs. When Fox ran that horrible program that purported to show that the moon landings were faked, one of my students taped the show and passed it around to his classmates. There was practically no reasoning with that class after that. After all, they had seen the “evidence” of fakery with their own eyes.

    I finally convinced all but the most argumentative by playing a couple of NASA Apollo mission tapes, and letting them see what I was able to see first-hand when it happened.

  11. THIS is the greatest tragedy. Perhaps the greatest monument to our aspirations, hopes and goals of the 20th century is considered the product of an elaborate charade. Is this the new generation? A generation lacking that fundamental spark of discovery and pursuit of the unknown?

  12. RetiredSciGuy: On your class’s buying that idiotic Apollo hoax thing- you could have just shown them the clip of “That Mitchell and Webb Look- Moon Landing Hoax.” Sometimes the best defense against the ridiculous is ridicule.

  13. retiredsciguy

    @aturingtest: This occurred pre-YouTube, so even if I had heard of the clip, I would have had no access. Or am I mis-interpreting? I haven’t heard of the clip — will look it up now. The students in that one class had been clamoring for me to show their tape of the execrable Fox airing in class, but I told them I’d have to review it first, since I hadn’t seen the program. After watching it, there was no way I was going to show that in class. Even this many years later, I still think it’s the worst thing I’ve seen on tv.

    BTW, I like the new avatar. Kool Kitty! Should have mentioned it earlier.

  14. Lack of good education>Lack of good job>Low self esteem>Humility/meekness>Inherit the Earth (somehow).
    Women will not be competing for those deadend jobs, however, as they will be constantly pregnant and dependant upon their menfolk to inherit the Earth for them. Such idealism!

  15. @ CM and retiredsciguy
    Re Haslam’s photo: Just think of a twangy hick accent saying “Jesus” with a quiver in the voice when you look at the picture to get the full effect.
    The thing on his head might be a modernized version of Davy Crockett’s coon skin cap, obviously worn in an attempt to look younger, sexier – basically a desire to attract females (why else would he need to alter the way God made him?).