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Does promoting creationism hurt teaching of science?

Staff Report • Oct 1, 2012 at 9:55 AM

The host of a popular 1990s TV show for children says a Tennessee law that protects teachers who allow students to question evolution and promote creationism hurts science education and damages technical innovation in this country.

The Associated Press reported last week that Bill Nye, a mechanical engineer and star of “Bill Nye: The Science Guy,” has posted a video on the Internet urging parents not to pass their religious-based doubts about evolution on to their children.

Creationists who believe the stories of the Old Testament are a historical fact argue the world was created by God just a few thousand years ago.

“The Earth is not 6,000 or 10,000 years old,” Nye told the AP. “It’s not. And if that conflicts with your beliefs, I strongly feel you should question your beliefs.”

Millions of Americans, however, do believe in creationism. According to a Gallup poll conducted in June, 46 percent of Americans believe in creationism.

“If we raise a generation of students who don’t believe in the process of science, who think everything that we’ve come to know about nature and the universe can be dismissed by a few sentences translated into English from some ancient text, you’re not going to continue to innovate,” Nye said.

He said he was troubled by lawmakers and school board members in some states who insist on presenting Bible stories in class as an alternative to teaching evolution. Tennessee passed a law earlier this year that protects teachers who let students criticize evolution and other scientific theories. The legislation was ridiculed by critics as a “monkey bill” that attacks evolution.

That’s in reference to the famous Scopes “monkey trial” held in Tennessee in 1925, when an educator was put on trial in Dayton for daring to teach evolution.

In May, Gov. Bill Haslam said he allowed the legislation to become law without his signature because “good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion.”

Nye is not the only scientist taking the new law to task. Three Vanderbilt University Ph.D.s authored a newspaper commentary earlier this year that accused state lawmakers of hurting efforts by Tennessee, which is the home of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to build a reputation as a leader in science and technology.

“What high-tech employer will want to open up shop in a state that allows ideology and prejudice to trump science education?” they wrote.

We want to hear from you. Does promoting creationism hurt the teaching of science in Tennessee?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification purposes. We will print your comments on the Editorial and Commentary pages in the coming weeks.

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