Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Friday, March 10, 2006

Legislative Update

Here is an update on Alabama's latest 'Academic Freedom' bill.

In the past, similar bills have been explicit in their attempt to get creationism into science classrooms. This one is so subtle that it probably accomplishes nothing.

The bill states:

public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of Alabama, shall have the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning.

O.K., great, they already have that freedom. Unless 'full range of scientific views' means the freedom to make religious criticisms of evolution. In that regard, the bill later states:

The rights and privileges contained in this act apply when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins.

However, the bill goes on to say:

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.

What does this mean?

If they wanted to get religion into science classes, this bill ain't gonna do it. It will not protect creationism/intelligent design because so far those two theories have lost every case in which they tried to prove their scientific bona fides. They just do not have 'published empirical or observational support.' Or at least they have no more than does the flying spaghetti monster.

If the bill is not supposed to get religion into science classes, the bill means nothing. In other words, if it does not include religion this bill gives science teachers the right to teach science. Wow.

Good to know our representatives are spending our resources wisely.