Update, evolution/fact (longish)

carter pate (CPATE@UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Wed, 13 Mar 1996 14:23:05 EST

A couple of news items from closer to the fireworks:

The Chattanooga Times, Sat., Mar. 9, 1996, B-1:


"Tennessee voters may be conservative, but they don't want sate lawmakers
monkeying aouround withg their education.
"Only one in four Volunteer State voters favors legislation that would ban the
teaching of evolution in public schools, a Mason-Dixon poll conducted for the
Chattanoog Times shows. A large majority, 69 percent, would oppose such amove.
. . .
"The state Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit evolution
except as scientific theory. Teachers who do otherwise could be fired. The b
ill in lingering in the Senate Education Committee. It has passed the House Ed
ucation Committee.
"Del Ali of Mason-Dixon says Tennessee is the only state (where) his polling
and research company asks that question. The results, jhe says are not surpris
"'What this shows is that even in a conservative state, you can't just have
this go-gor-the-jugualar approach,' Ali said. . . . .

((the actual M-D question was: "Would you favor or oppose the passage of a
state law that would ban the teaching of evolution as fact in Tennessee's
public Schools?" 811 voters polled statewide, margin of error 3.5 %.
5-9 % reported themselves unsure. 64-72 % opposed the law (broken into
groups from West, Middle, and East Tennessee).

Chattanooga Free Press, Sun., March 10, 1996:

UTC's Faculty Opposes 'Evolution as Fact' Bill

<The Faculuty Council at UTC is strongly opposed to a state Senate bill that
<threatens to dismiss public education employees who teach evolution as fact
<instead of theory.
<"We see it as setting a dangerous precedent that's an absolute threat to prope
r education," said Dr. Nick Honerkamp, the council's vice president.
<Council members have unanimously passed a resolution against the bill, as well
<as its House companion. They are urging all state lawmakers "to vote against
<it or any version of it."
<The resolution staes that the Senate bill ":reflects a profound misunderstand-
<ing of the nature of science in general and the relation of scientific fact to
<scientific theory."
<Council members asy the bill "seeks to cast doubt on one of the central and
< best documented scientific explanations for natural processes that scientists
<have ever proposed."
<The bill, they wrote, also will "harm the public welfare by creating an
<impediment to scientific literacy and by threatening educators' abiulity to
<engage in open and free discussion of scientific concepts in the classroom."
<Sayimng the bill will subject the state of Tennessee to"public ridicule and
<derision," the facluty also charged that it "distorts the educational process
<and constitutes a serious abridgement to academic freedom as well as a clear
<violation of the U.S. Constitution's mandate concerning the seapration of
<church and state." . . .

Pate now, quoting a little more from the earlier Times article on the poll:

Nick Honerkamp (a colleague, but with whom I haven't had time to discuss the
recent anthro-l exchanges):
"I am frankly surprised--but pleasantly surprised," said Dr. Nick Honerkamp, an
archeologist and anthropology profesor at UTC. "The people of Tennessee
recognize that it's a bad idea to legislate specific subjects and the way
they are taught. They shouldn't be dictating to teachers how to teach. I
don't try to write laws."

((If anyone hasn't guessed, UTC is the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)

I'm proud of Nick and our whole faculty for spunk, for getting at the crucial
issues, and for effective choice of rhetoric!

carter pate