Six states (MI, FL, LA, AL, MO, SC) are currently considering adoption of academic freedom legislation designed to protect teachers who teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. Introduction of similar legislation is being considered by legislators in several other states, indicating the national scope of this movement.
"Often in this debate the issues at hand get misrepresented, and so our goal is to fully and straightforwardly explain that this is about science and helping prepare the best scientists of the future for our state and for our country," said Rep. John Moolenaar, sponsor of academic freedom legislation in Michigan. "And a big part of that is enabling them to have the academic freedom to explore and critically examine scientific theories."
Many of the bills have been adapted from sample legislation developed by Discovery Institute, including a model statute posted online at www.academicfreedompetition.com.
"In many states public school teachers, students, and even college professors have faced intimidation and retaliation when they attempt to discuss scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution," said biologist Jonathan Wells, a research scientist at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture who holds a Ph.D. from University of California Berkeley. "In educational institutions that receive taxpayer support, it is entirely appropriate for the government to ensure that teachers and students have the right to discuss freely the evidence and scientific arguments for and against evolutionary theory."
New developments include:
- Tuesday, an academic freedom bill was introduced in Michigan, bringing the number of states currently considering legislation to five.
- Monday, the Louisiana state Senate passed an academic freedom bill 35-0.
- Also on Monday, the Florida House passed a bill 71-43 that would require inclusion of scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory in the classroom. The Florida Senate previously passed an academic freedom bill that would protect the rights of teachers to do this. The two bodies must now reconcile their bills before the end of this year's legislative session.
- Last week, an academic freedom bill was introduced in Alabama.
- Today there will be a legislative hearing on Missouri's academic freedom bill.
Recently, a movie focused on academic freedom, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, has raised public awareness of attacks on educators and scientists who question Darwin's theory of evolution. Since the film first began screening for private audiences, and since its public opening in theaters earlier this month, there has been growing support for academic freedom acts to protect teachers who want to teach both the scientific evidence for and against Darwinism.