A blow for academic freedom
"Our freedom to think and consider more than one option is part of what has given America her competitive edge in the international marketplace of ideas," said biology scientist Caroline Crocker to the Louisiana House Committee on Education. "The current denial of academic freedom rights for those who are judged politically incorrect may put this in jeopardy."
Crocker was testifying on the bill allowing supplemental materials into Louisiana public school science classrooms about evolution, cloning, global warming and other debatable topics. The legislature went on to unanimously (35-0) pass the bill. Now it has become law because of Gov. Jindal's courage.
One would think legislation which allows an environment that promotes "critical thinking" and "objective discussion" in the classroom would please everyone it did the bipartisan group of legislators in Louisiana but such is not the case. The New York Times felt threatened by the legislation, calling it "retrograde," naming its editorial on the topic, "Louisiana's Latest Assault on Darwin." They were attempting to pressure Gov. Jindal to not sign the law, using a number of tactics including implicit ridicule, subtle belittling insults and untruths.
The law is straightforward and clearly restricts any intent to promote a religious doctrine. There is no mention of either intelligent design or creationism. Darwinism is not banned and teachers are required to teach students from standard textbooks. But the Times calls the legislation a "Trojan horse" because the state board of education must, upon request of local school districts, help foster an environment of "critical thinking" and "open discussion" on controversial scientific subjects.
This allows teachers to use supplemental materials to analyze evolution and show views other than Darwin's theory. It allows evolution to be criticized, and the law protects the rights of teachers and students to talk freely about a wide range of ideas without fear of reprisal.
The Times' fear is that objective discussion "would have the pernicious effect of implying that evolution is only weakly supported and that there are valid competing scientific theories when there are not." They called any school district "foolish" if they "head down this path."
Evolutionists use a variety of methods to silence alternate viewpoints. They say people are trying to "inject religious views into science courses." Besides calling it a "retrograde step", the Times used implicit ridicule of Governor Jindal, saying, "As a biology major at Brown University, Mr. Jindal must know that evolution is the unchallenged central organizing principle for modern biology."
Many reputable scientists and scholars disagree with Darwin's theory of evolution and certainly challenge it. Evolutionists say they don't want biased religious views forced on students. Ironically, Darwin's evolutionary theory is based in atheistic naturalism, a religious belief.
Dr. William Provine of Cornell University explained his and Darwin's shared atheistic beliefs in this way: "Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear and these are basically Darwin's views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That's the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. What an unintelligible idea."
Scientist Casey Luskin, a scholar with the Discovery Institute said, "We would like to see evolution taught in an unbiased fashion and also want students to learn how to think like scientists and to weigh the evidence for and against."
Academic free speech rights for Louisiana's public school students and teachers are now guaranteed because of Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature. Trying to strike a modicum of balance to the scientific discussion in classrooms and allow students to hear more than one view, Gov. Jindal acted wisely.
Other states are considering similar legislation. Students deserve academic free speech rights to hear alternate views, ask critical questions and debate controversial topics. This freedom will in turn strengthen our country.
Floyd and Mary Beth Brown are authors and speakers. Together they write a national weekly column distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
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