Huffpost Politics

Bill Haslam, Tennessee Governor, Will 'Probably' Sign Evolution Bill

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) will "probably" sign a bill meant to protect teachers who allow students to question and criticize "controversial" scientific theories such as evolution, he told reporters on Monday.

The measure, which has been dubbed the "monkey bill" by critics who claim it's a backdoor approval of religious teachings in public schools, passed votes in the state Senate and House last month.

Haslam addressed these concerns Monday, saying that his discussions with the State Board of Education had led him to believe that the law wouldn't affect the current public school curriculum with regards to evolution.

But doubts remain for opponents of the legislation who claim it will allow for a broader denial of other popular scientific debates in Tennessee schools.

"It would open the door to creationism, it would open the door to climate change denial, and to other sorts of pseudosciences being introduced into Tennessee classrooms," Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education told The Huffington Post last month.

"The concern is that this sends a signal to teachers that certain subjects are controversial -- subjects that are not scientifically controversial -- things that are subject to political controversy, perhaps, but that in the science classroom are not controversial and shouldn't be treated that way."

Critics have also charged that the bill harkens back to Tennessee's anti-science history of the Scopes trial, the 1925 case that drew national publicity to the issue of teaching evolution in public schools.

"We're simply dredging up the problems of our past with this bill that will affect our future," Democratic state Sen. Andy Berke told The Tennessean last month. "I'm a person of faith. If my children ask, 'How does that mesh with my faith?' I don't want their teacher answering that question."

Proponents of the legislation have expressed a different take.

"The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory," said Republican state Sen. Bo Watson, the measure's sponsor.

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