Are we sliding backward in teaching evolution?

Unlike those bills, Tennessee’s “monkey bill” is now law. School boards and education administrators are now required to give support to teachers who want to “present the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of various “scientific theories,” including “biological evolution” and “the chemical origins of life.” The new law also supports teachers who want to question accepted scientific thinking on two other hobgoblins of the far right: global warming and human cloning.

Backers of the “monkey bill” argued that it is intended to defend academic freedom. But the law encourages teachers to inject dubious ideas into their instruction. As the National Association of Biology Teachers said in a letter to the governor of Tennessee, evolution “should not be misrepresented as controversial or needing of special evaluation.” It should be presented as a scientific explanation “for events and processes that are supported by experimentation, logic analysis, and evidence-based revision based on detectable and measurable data.”

But the “monkey bill” is not just bad science — it is also bad education policy. The new law sweeps away the professional decisions of Tennessee’s educational administrators and replaces them with a political take on what should be in the state’s science curriculum.