Opposing Intellectual Freedom in New Mexico

In the state of New Mexico, a bill was recently introduced into the legislature that was very simple in what it had to say: it encouraged intellectual freedom in the teachings of biological origins.

Leaving off all of the precatory language at the outset of the bill, here's what HJM 14 called for:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that the public education department be requested to ensure that when a theory of biological origins is taught, public school teachers in New Mexico have the right and freedom to objectively inform students of any scientific information that is relevant to both the strengths and weaknesses of that theory; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the public education department be requested to ensure that teachers are not reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for objectively informing students of scientific information relevant to both the strengths and weaknesses of a theory of biological origins; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the public education department be requested to ensure that students are encouraged to critically analyze scientific information and allowed the right and freedom to reach their own conclusions about biological origins; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the public education department be requested to ensure that no student is penalized in any way for subscribing to a particular position on biological origins; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this memorial be transmitted to the public education department for further distribution to school districts.

Let's examine this for a moment. First, the bill calls for teachers to objectively inform students of the strengths and weaknesses of any theory of biological origins. Now, to me, this bill makes sense. After all, a good education requires that students not only be taught what is considered to be the prevailing viewpoint on an issue, but that they be taught to evaluate these views on their own to see if they hold water. As a former adjunct professor, I always wanted to challenge students to think through things on their own. For example, when my class studied the commerce clause of the United States Constitution, I was always challenging the students to consider the original intended scope of the clause and the extremely broad reading that it has today. I would challenge them to consider whether the present expansive reading was correct, whether there were any foreseeable limits to it scope, and to evaluate whether it was a good thing that the clause had been read so expansively since the 1930s.

Now, while I taught law related classes, I know that when I took courses in any number of subjects the teachers were always challenging me to think through the issue as the best way to learn. So, why is it any different when it comes to biological origins? Why shouldn't we encourage teachers to point out potential problems with theories of biological origins -- even widely accepted views of biological origins -- in the name of academic freedom and advancement? Isn't the very heart of science questioning the status quo and raising questions about its ability to explain the facts?

Moreover, I think it important to note that the teaching is not purely one-sided. It allows for the discussion of various views of biological origins to be criticized. Now, when I was in biology class, my biology teacher had no difficulty in roundly criticizing the view of young earth creationists that all life was created in seven 24-hour days. He had the academic freedom to do that, and I doubt that anyone would argue that such freedom should be taken away from him. Yet, some people think that while it is perfectly legitimate to be critical in classes of views that are contrary to Darwinistic evolution, it is not okay to teach problems with Darwinistic evolution. Why is that?

The legislature, true to form, decided to table the bill in committee so that it never has a chance to be considered from the floor of the house. According to the article in the Albuquerque Journal entitled 'Creationism' Measure Tabled :

The House Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to table a resolution saying public school teachers would have "the right and freedom to objectively inform students of any scientific information that is relevant to both strengths and weaknesses" of the evolutionary theory.

Opponents of the resolution argued that language such as "teaching of biological origins" and the resolution's reference to "weaknesses" of evolutionary theory signaled an attempt to inject "creationism" into the classroom.

Of course, the title of the article tells you that the author of the article is accepting the side of those who argue that this is an effort to put creationism into the classroom. The article continues with the argument by a former physicist:

"This ... resolution attempts to shoehorn creationism, or intelligent design, which is creationism in a tux, under the guise of science, into science classrooms," said Harry Murphy, a retired physicist who worked at Kirtland Air Force Base. "Teaching religious dogma as science is clearly a violation of the United States Constitution."

In a word, nonsense. As a friend of mine pointed out, it takes a lot of imagination to get 'creationism, embarrassment, and the redefinition of science' out of 'academic freedom and objectivity'. While Darwinists are quite good at imaginative thinking, this isn't what's going on here. The bill is even-handed and straight-forward. It seeks to encourage teachers to challenge students to think through all of the arguments for and against the various theories of biological origins, to introduce and discuss problems with the the most widely accepted theory and any alternative theories that the teacher may choose to raise, and to encourage critical thinking all with the safety and security of knowing that such discussions will not lead to the teacher's being fired due to pressure either from over-zealous religionists or over-zealous Darwinists. Again, what's wrong with that? My answer: nothing. Not a thing.

What's truly interesting here is that it is the people who support the status quo -- the so-called scientifically rational people -- who are standing up against intellectual freedom. For some reason, they are so afraid of the specter that religion will somehow be snuck in the back door that they would prefer to limit the ability of people to think for themselves and allow teachers to help them think for themselves. Is this really fear of religion being snuck in the back door, or is it that open discussion will expose that what is really being taught isn't as scientifically solid as they pretend? As my friend noted, perhaps the real problem the critics have with this bill is not that religion will be smuggled into the science classroom but that introduction of true academic freedom will expose the fact that religion is already in the classroom -- a materialistic religion, taught under the guise of evolutionary science.


It is sad, but not surprising to see this piece of common sense legislation be tabled. You are right, this is opposition to intellectual thought and freedom. I mean, heaven forbid that kids hear about opposing scientific views!

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