These so called academic freedom bills have been making their way around various states the last ten years or so. In fact, one just died in committee in Colorado. Now we have one on the docket in Arizona.
To read the wording of the bill the purpose doesn’t seem so bad.
1. Create an environment in schools that encourages pupils to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.
Doesn’t seem so bad right? We all believe in critical thinking, and who doesn’t want to encourage students to explore science and learn about scientific evidence? The problem is that these bills are just the latest scheme by creationists to promote non-scientific opinions in the classroom regarding scientific conclusions that some politicians have decided they don’t like.
Even their own bill states states the following as one of the intents of the bill:
2. The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy.
The first three are obvious, evolution, abiogenesis, and global climate change are the three main things that get heavily politicized, the first two due to religion and the last one due to the all of the lobbying done by oil and coal companies to prevent any changes to energy policy. I’m not sure why cloning is on there since no one is trying to clone a human right now, but it seems to be brought up in these bill a lot.
In case you doubt that academic freedom bills are promoting the teaching of creationism and climate change denial lets look at a few facts. The discovery institute is one of the major promoters, these are the same people who promoted “intelligent design” right up until they lost Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2005, when the judge flat out ruled that ID was just attempt to repackage creation science. “Creation science” was itself ruled as not science by several courts decisions in the 1980’s such as McLean v. Arkansas. The people who came up with the idea for “academic freedom” are creationists who, just as with ID, changed the name to see if it would allow them to sneak in their pseudo-science.
Luckily, even though these bills have been popping up all over the country, most of them have died in committee before they got to a vote. Information provided by the NCSE. Hopefully the same thing will happen here.
2-27-2013 Update: This bill has died at least for this session as of Feb 22 when the deadline for Senate bills to be heard in their Senate committees passed. It is still possible that the bill may resurface again in latter in another state senate session so I’ll keep my eye out.