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Monday, February 9, 2009

Iowa's & Alabama's "Academic Freedom" Acts

There's news of two more "academic freedom" bills, this time introduced in the Iowa and Alabama House of Representatives. Iowa's "Evolution Academic Freedom Act" is sponsored by Representative Rod Roberts, an ordained minister in the Church of Christ, and it will allow teachers in the state's public schools, community colleges, and universities to "objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution." (The bill copies Florida's definition of "scientific information," describing it as "germane, current facts, data and peer-reviewed research.") The act also prevents students from being "penalized for subscribing to a particular position or view regarding biological or chemical evolution."
Alabama's "Academic Freedom Act," sponsored by Representative David Grimes (a deacon at Trinity Presbyterian Church), would give teachers "the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning" and also prevents a student from being "penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on any views."
Regular readers of this blog will notice the clear similarities between these bills and those that have been filed in a number of other states (most recently New Mexico and Oklahoma)—and will recognize them as part of the latest strategy to undercut the teaching of evolution and sneak religious ideas like creationism and "intelligent design" into the science classroom (even though the bills themselves claim not to promote any religious beliefs). The Alabama bill, for example, says that "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." This would still seem to bar ID from being discussed in the classroom, but it's important to keep in mind that a very small number of peer-reviewed ID papers do exist, and the Web-based Answers Research Journal calls itself a "peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework." —Heather Wax