Update on Alabama SB45/HB106

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Ed Note: This update comes from a member of Alabama Citizens for Science. It concerns SB45/HB106, the “Academic Freedom Act”, which intends to give any teacher at any level the “freedom” to corrupt science education for any reason. The 2006 version drops the obvious anti-evolution language of its failed predecessors.

This is an update on SB45, the “Academic Freedom Act” currently wending its way through the Alabama Senate.

Last week’s “Public Hearing” was truncated because of lack of time and supposed to be finished today (Wednesday March 8) at 8:30 AM.

I went to the Senate Education Committee meeting this morning. They had 7 bills on the agenda, including two which had public hearings, but they only had the room reserved for 30 minutes and they started 10 minutes late. Half of the Senators on the committee weren’t even there for the first 15 minutes, so they missed what little there was of the “public hearing”, in which only one supporter and one opponent of SB45 were allowed to speak (we had at least 5 speakers there, and the creationists had at least 2).

The one supporter was a man who appeared to be in his late 70’s or older, who they identified as Dr Frady. If anyone knows who this might have been, please let me know. His primary point was that Alabama needed more diversity of viewpoints in schools. It was pretty much standard creationist boilerplate.

The one opponent was John Draper, president of the professional association of Alabama public school principals and superintendents (http://www.clasleaders.com/). His primary objection was that SB45 would allow teachers to bring ideas such as racism, abortion and Atheism into the classroom. This resonated well with the Senators.

Several Senators on the committee had problems with various particulars in the bill, and tried to amend it and/or change it. Chief among these was Bradley Byrne, Republican from Mobile, who was not supportive of evolution when he was on the State Board of Education in 2001 but actually had some pretty constructive ideas this time. The changes were so extensive that the chair (Senator Vivian Figures) would not let the committee vote on any version of SB45, and requested that it be revised and presented again at a later meeting (next week?) of the Senate Education Committee.

The meeting then adjourned because another committee had reserved the room for 9:00.

I think it is pretty clear that SB45 will not pass in its current form. There are several ways that they can change it to improve its chances. The most likely, I think, is that they will exempt kindergarten thru 12th grade (K-12) and make it apply only to public colleges, universities, and graduate schools. This alternative got the votes of all 6 Democrats on the House Education Committee (the House Republicans , and have some attractiveness to both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Education Committee today. Since the main opposition has come from professional associations of K-12 educators, this alternative will keep them from opposing SB45 because it will not effect them.

I have not heard from any Alabama public universities how they will stand on SB45 with this change. I doubt that they will like it, but I have not seen them working against SB45 or HB106 (the House version), and every “Academic Freedom Act” since they first surfaced in 2004 would have effected them if passed.

It is clear that all of our efforts are paying off. Certainly getting K-12 out of this horrendous bill protects our most vulnerable students.

19 Comments

It is clear that all of our efforts are paying off. Certainly getting K-12 out of this horrendous bill protects our most vulnerable students.

no doubt, but doesn’t this bill simply become a wedge issue even if it only passes at the college level?

BTW, pet peeve here:

Since the main opposition has come from professional associations of K-12 educators, this alternative will keep them from opposing SB45 because it will not effect them.

effect=>affect.

If state legislation is that generalized and doesn’t explicitly allow religious beliefs to be taught as fact (or rather, deliberately fails to identify them as permissible), I don’t think it can be challenged on Establishment Clause grounds.

Which would mean a school or district that does endorse religion is basically on its own.

Nothing in this act shall be construed as protecting as scientific any view that lacks published empirical or observational support or that has been soundly refuted by empirical or observational science in published scientific debate.

This bill can do nothing but backfire. Section 7 could not possibly be interpreted by a court as allowing either intelligent design or intelligent design’s “teach the controversy” lambscloak. But it would neatly basically protect any teacher who wanted to toss the curriculum and spend their entire year in second grade science classes talking about how evil the Bush administration is for promoting global warning from any repercussions for abusing their position. If this passes, the results will be painfully hilarious.

That bill is such a bunch of nonsense.

Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as protecting as scientific any view that lacks published empirical or observational support or that has been soundly refuted by empirical or observational science in published scientific debate.

Please. That throws out all of the garbage that they want to “protect” in schools. What? Are they going to use Darwin’s Black Box as a textbook b/c it’s published and contains “empirical or observational support” (even though it has been soundly refuted but they refuse to concede the flagella point)?

I especially frustrated with IDC subterfuge today. Hypocrites.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Allowing the teaching of creationism in Alabama’s college’s and universities would provide a place for the California charter school and home school students to go since they can’t meet criteria in the UC System.

I actually read that section as a safety valve against ID. It basically indemnifies the State.

A court case establishing that Pandas or Darwin’s Black Box “lacks published empirical or observational support” and/or “has been soundly refuted by empirical or observational science in published scientific debate” (and there is already a well-documented history of this for Pandas, at least) would establish that teaching these books as science would be illegal according to the state law. It wouldn’t even need to be tested on Establishment Clause grounds, I think.

Legislatures don’t legislate to solve non-existent problems, or at least problems they don’t think exist. Taken literally, this legislation creates no rights people didn’t already have. And if some institution or teacher responds to this legislation by pushing ID, or creationism, or whatever the next wrinkle is, it provides no protection whatever in a federal lawsuit. Perhaps a judge might turn aside a facial challenge to the statute on the grounds that, being meaningless, it can’t violate anything, but if anyone uses it for its obviously intended purpose, all bets are off.

Well, I was referring specifically to Section 7 and I guess Section 8:

Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as protecting as scientific any view that lacks published empirical or observational support or that has been soundly refuted by empirical or observational science in published scientific debate. Likewise, the protection provided by this act shall not be restricted by any metaphysical or religious implications of a view, so long as the views are defensible from and justified by empirical science and observation of the natural world.

Section 8. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

To me, these sections actually expressly prohibit ID/Creationism in schools, since it falls under the “soundly refuted” category and “promoting religious doctrine.” They might make a case that it’s supported by empirical evidence and isn’t religious doctrine, but as we’ve seen in Dover, they would lose.

The bill overall is a load of B.S., though. I especially like

Section 5. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution of higher education, shall be penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on any views.

So, I understand the course materials, but my view is that all of the materials that support the notion that Americans ever practiced slavery are part of a vast revisionist left-wing conspiracy, and slavery never occurred. And that 1 + 1 = 3, because Jesus said so. Are you going to fail me because of my “view?”

Yes, but the problem is here:

“Section 7: … Likewise, the protection provided by this act shall not be restricted by any metaphysical or religious implications of a view, so long as the views are defensible from and justified by empirical science and observation of the natural world.”

Note the ID use of the term “observation of the natural world”. One can observe the natural world, and use those empirical observations to justify a belief in a supernatural causation. “It cannot be explained, therefore God did it.”

Granted, it’s pretty thin, but I see the IDiots’ hand in this sentence.

GT(N)T wrote

Every cloud has a silver lining. Allowing the teaching of creationism in Alabama's college's and universities would provide a place for the California charter school and home school students to go since they can't meet criteria in the UC System. Wrote:

Unfortunately, some Alabama public universities already house faculty openly hostile to evolution, such as an Auburn professor of Poultry Science (and–most disturbing–director of undergraduate curriculum for his department) who was among the signers of the DIsco problems with evolution statement detailed in K. Chang’s 2/21/2006 NYT article “Few Biologists but Many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition.”

Those lying Brits who’ve been telling us that Creationism is a silly American problem have been lying to us. While we debate subtle wordings the Brits are bringing creationism to the class room.

Read it and weep: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4793198.stm

Creationist theories about how the world was made are to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.

The subject has been included in a new syllabus for biology produced by the OCR exam board, due out in September.

Those lying Brits who’ve been telling us that Creationism is a silly American problem have been lying to us. While we debate subtle wordings the Brits are bringing creationism to the class room.

Follow the money. It’s a certain bet that Americans are behind it.

Comment #85781 posted by normdoering on March 10, 2006 01:59 PM

Those lying Brits who’ve been telling us that Creationism is a silly American problem have been lying to us. While we debate subtle wordings the Brits are bringing creationism to the class room.

You can say that again. I have been pointing this out on this blog for a long time, but the many Brits who comment here have been denying it.

Read “Creationists taking over state schools” and weep some more. This article says, “ the powerful and extraordinarily wealthy creationist movement in the USA is impressed by the ease with which money buys access to children in the UK. “

Comment #85846 posted by ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank on March 10, 2006 07:47 PM

Follow the money. It’s a certain bet that Americans are behind it.

Yes, and I suppose American fundies are also to blame for the following – (1) the status of Anglicanism and Presbyterianism as official state religions in the UK, (2) the queen’s position as head of the Church of England, and (3) the existence of religious instruction and school prayer in British public schools.

Comment #85311 posted by GT(N)T on March 9, 2006 01:33 PM Every cloud has a silver lining. Allowing the teaching of creationism in Alabama’s college’s and universities would provide a place for the California charter school and home school students to go since they can’t meet criteria in the UC System.

For starters, UC’s discrimination against particular Christian-school grads is the subject of a current lawsuit and has not yet been approved by any court. Also, even if this Alabama bill passes, there will certainly be no guarantee that the Alabama public schools will provide the creationist or ID education provided by particular Christian schools. Finally, any singling out of Alabama high-school grads for discrimination in the UC system would arguably run afoul of Article IV, Section 1 of the US Constitution, which says, “ Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. “

Reed A. Cartwright posted Entry 2101 on March 8, 2006 11:34 PM ( opening comment of thread )

I think it is pretty clear that SB45 will not pass in its current form. There are several ways that they can change it to improve its chances. The most likely, I think, is that they will exempt kindergarten thru 12th grade (K-12) and make it apply only to public colleges, universities, and graduate schools.……Since the main opposition has come from professional associations of K-12 educators, this alternative will keep them from opposing SB45 because it will not effect them.

College professors in Kansas and Ohio are not directly affected by those states’ K-12 evolution education standards, but that has not stopped these professors from taking sides in the debate over those standards.

Reed A. Cartwright posted Entry 2101 on March 8, 2006 11:34 PM ( opening comment of thread )

It is clear that all of our efforts are paying off. Certainly getting K-12 out of this horrendous bill protects our most vulnerable students.

K-12 students are not “vulnerable” – particularly in the higher grades, they are perfectly capable of rational thinking. And they are also capable of changing their minds when they get older.

Alabama SB45 says – Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as protecting as scientific any view that lacks published empirical or observational support or that has been soundly refuted by empirical or observational science in published scientific debate.

That statement is very vague. There is a lot of disagreement on what has been “soundly refuted” – ID proponents of course do not concede that ID has been refuted at all. There are also some criticisms of Darwinism – e.g., criticisms related to (1) co-evolution of co-dependent organisms and (2) the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction – that have hardly been debated, let alone refuted.

Larry/Andy:

K-12 students are not “vulnerable” — particularly in the higher grades, they are perfectly capable of rational thinking. And they are also capable of changing their minds when they get older.

Wait until you reach that age, Larry. Then you’ll have a better idea how hard or easy it is to change a brainwashed mind.

This confirms that ID joy that their nonsense has spread is unfounded. I am a bit surprised that the BBC could run with the story without checking facts. Flitcraft already pointed this out on another thread, (thanks, Flitcraft).

I am a bit surprised that the BBC could run with the story without checking facts. Flitcraft already pointed this out on another thread, (thanks, Flitcraft).

Whoops! I should have learned long ago; you can’t believe everything I read.

At OCR, we believe candidates need to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre and post Darwin.

In our Gateway Science specification, candidates are asked to discuss why the opponents of Darwinism thought the way they did and how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence.

Creationism and ‘intelligent design’ are not regarded by OCR as scientific theories. They are beliefs that do not lie within scientific understanding.

That’s probably the way we should teach it.

The OCR are responsible for more than a few of my GCSEs. Nice to see it was the BBC screwing up (God bless the useless buggers,) not them.

Oh shut up Larry

Kinda Sorta Important Notice: Johncabbreck, also posting as Larry Fafarman, Andy H., and possibly other names, has a well-known habit of repeatedly posting assertions and arguments that have been soundly refuted in other threads on PT. Such repetitive axe-grinding, combined with his intellectual dishonesty, arguments from ignorance and incomprehension, and explicit refusal to acknowledge any fact that he finds inconvenient, have proven that he is not arguing in good faith and is not interested in real adult debate, and may not even be capable of it.

In addition, he is a Holocaust-denier. (His views on the curvature of the Earth have not yet been ascertained.) And he has all but explicitly admitted that his purpose in posting here is to get attention, not to engage in adult discourse. Therefore, responding to his “arguments” is probably a waste of time, and it may be best simply to ignore them.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on March 8, 2006 11:34 PM.

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