Tennessee Enacts ‘Monkey Bill’ To Dumb Down Kids In Biology And Physics, Undermine Their Future

Two years after state hit by warming-enhanced 1000-year deluge, bill to ‘teach the controversy’ on evolution and global warming becomes law

On Tuesday, Tennessee adopted a law “to prevent school administrators from reining in teachers who expound on alternative hypotheses” to the scientific theories of evolution and climate change.

The National Center for Science Education has said of the primary alternative to evolution — creationism — that “students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level.”

I suppose this is some form of natural selection, then, as Tennessee encourages the disinforming of its kids in two of the most important areas they will need to thrive in the 21st century — thrive economically in a world of  global competitors who don’t teach anti-science disinformation to their kids and, of course, thrive literally in a world where a livable climate is being destroyed by man-made global warming and a man-made disinformation campaign to delay action.

Ironically, the bill was enacted two years after one of the epic extreme weather events in U.S. recorded history devastated one of America’s great cities (see “The Tennessee deluge of 2010: Nashville’s ‘Katrina’ and the dawn of the superflood“).

The status quo media barely told the story of Nashville’s Katrina (let alone its link to human-caused climate change), so you may not remember this superstorm unless you are a regular Climate Progress reader. But this one was way off the charts.

NOAA’s National Weather Service reported the jaw-dropping factoids in its report, “May 1 & 2 2010 Epic Flood Event for Western and Middle Tennessee“:

  • Fifteen (15) observation sites had rainfall measurements exceeding the maximum observed rainfall associated with Hurricane Katrina landfall.
  • The two day rainfall of 13.57 inches at Nashville International Airport shattered the monthly rainfall record for May which was 11.04 inches.
  • The heaviest rainfall occurred in a swath across Davidson, Williamson, Dickson, Hickman, Benton, Perry, and Humphreys Counties.  An average of 14 to 15 inches of rain fell equivalent to 420 billion gallons of water in just two days.

The NWS put together this “stunning map of Tennessee’s 1000-year deluge“:

What is a 100 year flood?  A 100 year flood is an event that statistically has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. A 500 year flood has a .2% chance of occurring and a 1000 year flood has a .1% chance of occurring. 

The map below relates to amount of rainfall that fell to the chances of that amount of rain actually occurring.

I had never seen a map like that before, but then that may be because there simply aren’t many events to rival this one.  Look at the red streak, which is the area hit by a greater than 1000-year deluge.  And look at how much of western Tennessee was slammed with a greater than 500 year downpour.  This is the biblical “high water” of Hell and High Water — but it is science that tells us humans are contributing to the superstorms by pumping billions of tons of heat trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year

It was an off-the-charts extreme weather event that human-caused global warming set the table for and almost certainly made more intense, as Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained to me the very next month:

I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.

Not that kids in Tennessee will ever hear any of this. But then why should they. It’s not like there’s anything they might be taught that would suggest this will happen before another 1,000 years, is there?

28 Responses to Tennessee Enacts ‘Monkey Bill’ To Dumb Down Kids In Biology And Physics, Undermine Their Future

  1. Raul M. says:

    There is probably some smart way of figuring if a flood
    has a .1% chance of happening in a given year.
    But with someone pulling the rug out cause it got flooded again.
    Well luckily their probably to busy to think that. Anyway.

  2. Lore says:

    Continued propagation of the next generation of fundamentalist deniers. What kind of an educational system would give someone a license to lie to their youth?

  3. warbeagle says:

    Funny I learned that Pluto was a planet. C.Columbus was the first european to discover america. And Electrons were the smallest particles.

    In fact when I was taught that all of that was false…and I turned out fine.

  4. Joe Romm says:

    I have no idea what that means. But give you are saying that science continually advances itself by putting forward testable theories that become better and better approximation of reality, whereas creationists and deniers remain frozen in myths and falsehoods, then I agree with you the teaching the scientific method is the way to have smart and productive kids.

  5. and I turned out fine.

    Um, and you know that how?

    People laughed by Galileo. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. So the question is, why are you so sure that you’re a Galileo and not a Bozo?

    — frank

  6. M Tucker says:

    “students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level.”

    It doesn’t matter. We all know of scientists, even climate scientists, who deny the connection between CO2 and warming. What about those who recently wrote that letter to NASA to stop saying that excessive CO2 in the atmosphere warms the planet? I imagine they took a few college level science courses. We have also occasionally heard from biology majors who deny the science of evolution and I have personally known nurses who do as well. All passed college level science courses.

    It seems to me in America we reserve the right to toss out any idea we personally disagree with no matter what the actual experts have to say about it. None, not one, of these geniuses would ever show up at a meeting of climatologists or evolutionary biologists and attempt to argue against the theories. They do not care about the actual science. They know they have no argument and they are not trying to make a name for themselves in the fields they deny. It is personal for them and that trumps science and reason.

  7. speakoutforscience says:

    @warbeagle, whether or not Pluto is a planet, Columbus was the first to discover America, or the electron is the smallest particle does not have the same impacts that denial of human-caused climate change has. Climate change will cause adverse effects on ecosystems, biodiversity, water and food supply, public health, not to mention real estate loss. There is a big difference.

  8. skyman says:

    Great point M Tucker: The fact that denying the link between CO2 levels and climate, is actually personal, and has nothing to do with empirical evidence.

    What shocks me about discussions (or are they nothing more than senseless trumpeting?) is the lack of agreement on what is an apple, and what is an orange. I suppose the oil industry has done an impressive job infiltrating vulnerable minds. My view is that our thirst for petrol will possibly prevent us from traveling at light speed, and thus, not surviving once the earth is uninhabitable by our complex species, homo sapien (or should we say homo industrialis?).

  9. Raul M. says:

    a refrigerator door type seal on a storm door or even the house door could save the carpet from flooding.

  10. Jay Dee Are says:

    Talk about thinking small. The Tinic legislature could have repealed the second law of thermodynamics.

  11. Jay Dee Are says:

    Re “students who accept this material as scientifically valid are unlikely to succeed in science courses at the college level.”

    Or they will learn the truth eventually and figure out that they were lied to, which will make them true skeptics,

  12. Jake says:

    > Funny I learned that […] Electrons were
    > the smallest particles.

    They are. Electrons seem to be point particles, so they’re as small as any other point particle (quarks).

  13. Kickus Maximus says:

    This kind: (From the Knoxville News-Sentinel)

    KNOXVILLE — Tennessee continues to fall behind most other states when it comes to converting its science and technology assets into jobs and companies, according to the Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science Index for 2010.

    Tennessee slipped into the Bottom 10 at No. 41 in the 2010 rankings, down from No. 40 in the 2008 index and No. 34 in 2004.

    The independent economic think tank released the 2010 rankings on Jan. 25.

  14. squidboy6 says:

    I doubt very much that this bill will make things worse for workers in Tennessee. You can’t go any lower when you’re already hit bottom.

    I took a temp job so I could make enough money to leave Memphis. I was with OHL, a contractor for shipping. The client was the National Geographic online sales. This was the worst job I’ve ever had and I left after four weeks, not six like it was supposed to be. Why? Because they made us work seven days a week and after four weeks I chronically tired. They were the worst and least efficient bunch of a**holes I’ve ever seen and they kept saying if you don’t like it, then leave. Worst of all, the crap they sold was mostly plastic garbage from Chine. A few, 1% of sales, were educational items but the rest was plastic crap run on batteries.

    If they had had us work 6 – 10 hour days I would have stayed on until the program, Christmas shopping, was over. The other worst part was they kept complaining about how hard they worked. Like I gave a crap! Everything you’ve heard about these places pales in comparison to the reality. When you buy online from these kinds of warehouses you subsidize slavery.

    That’s the reality of Tennessee. The poor rubes doing the jobs to get by were afraid to leave. Their schools and their society failed them for three or four decades. It wasn’t this way before Reagan became President, at that time there was very real progress. I’m glad I got out each time. I plan to go back and get some property in storage and never, ever, go there again. Tennessee is hell.

  15. Robert In New Orleans says:

    This should be seen as a sign to intelligent people to avoid or move out of the Idiots Republic of Tennessee. Prospective college students and business leaders should take heed of this too.

  16. squidboy6 says:

    half the people there aren’t deniers, they’re serfs. It’s determined by their color. They’ve never even heard of climate change. They don’t have time for climate change.

    P.S. worse bunch of drivers I’ve ever seen, they never heard of force = mass x acceleration. They don’t even understand it when they run into a 300 yr old oak tree. Doesn’t matter what color their skins were, pedal to the metal was what they knew.

  17. Jackie says:

    Smart move as the religious leaders take over the Constitution. One mistake the owners made when enslaving people was allowing them to read. Keeping people ignorant allows you control. Many Southern States are using law to break down civil rights, womens rights and education. We know elected officials are ignorant when they talk. Just think elected Congress/Senate had no idea what the Constitution said and had to have it read to them like children. No wonder they don’t understand President Obama. Obama should learn to talk to Law Makers like their 5 years old so they can understand.

  18. John Mashey says:

    Many states subsidize Tennessee.
    See Tax Foundation, Federal Taxes Paid vs Federal Spending Received, -2005. (latest they have)
    (The .xls spreadsheet is probably the handiest.)

    TN gets about $1.27 back for every $1 sent, which isn’t with VA ($1.51) or AK ($1.84), but is not bad.(Read fine print in gray in charts.)
    I’d guess the presence of a major science-based lab, Oak Ridge National Lab accounted for 40-50% of the extra spending.

    Check your state and see if you subsidize TN, which gets a big chunk of money by virtue of having a big Federal lab (which has good people, I’ve visited.)

  19. Jimmy the Geek says:

    I am actually hopeful that this law will backfire on TN, and that the teachers can start teaching the real science now without fear of being fired, including alternatives such as not believing any religion. Sort of like teaching not collecting stamps as a hobby.

  20. Steve Bloom says:

    See this piece by must-read blogger Digby discussing a new (to me anyway) facet of the anti-abortion movement. Of climate relevance is this striking passage from the quoted newspaper article:

    “We didn’t gather here to have a nice little worship service!” he informed the crowd. “We’re actually creating a throne,” he explained, to contain God and the “angelic hosts by the thousands” who would be attending the rally. Many of them, he said, had come with 39 women, part of an organization called Back To Life, who had just walked from Houston to Dallas to protest legal abortion’s roots in Texas.

    “Who would have guessed that when they crossed over the county line of Dallas, 12 tornadoes exploded,” Engle cried. “And no deaths!” The tornadoes, the hail, the grounded planes at the airport — all of this, he told the women and girls and more than a few men in the crowd — were a sign that God would hear the prayers of those assembled, and use them to influence worldly affairs.

    Until I read this I was under the general impression that the most extreme evangelicals would be unable to reconcile climate change impacts with the Christian bible, in particular the Book of Revelations. While climate change wasn’t mentioned in the article and the particular incident referred to, the Dallas tornadoes, are of a character that occurred often enough before climate change took hold, I think it’s pretty clear where this is headed. It is, unfortunately, a far less constructive way to resolve the cognitive dissonance that results from trying to maintain climate change denial in the face of increasing contradictory experience.

  21. squidboy6 says:

    many teachers in Tennessee support the teaching of Creation-dogma and the ones that don’t are worrying about their jobs already so they’re not likely to speak up.

    But the re-industrialization of the US depends upon highly skilled workers and guess what? they’ll come from the parochial schools! These turn out great students and they can avoid math by going to church during that period and get an “A” anyway!

    These schools don’t have discipline problems and fewer children bringing guns and knives into schools, but they cost more so in Louisiana the governor is pushing through his plan to send public funds to private-parochial schools. It gets even weirder and weirder in the South but hey! It was hoppin in Panama City Beach last night and I saw half a dozen girls climb into a pick up truck with half as many guys! They were all smoking too, and I mean cigarettes. It was too dark to see if they were smokin hot, but after a six pack who cares?!!

    Let Tennessee go further down the drain than it already is. Only Mississippi and Alabama are worse off. Racism is half of the problem. It’s going to have to get worked up before they change.

  22. Raul M. says:

    A group traveling and needing might decide to have a reason to share with those who might help? Stopping at churches along the way they might think it’s a good thing that they didn’t get aborted.
    Some might not have much to offer but an heart felt opinion that they themselves shouldn’t have been aborted and to project that decision to others.
    Possibly, they will think of other reasons to be?

  23. John The Brit says:

    And this, America, is why those of us in the civilised world are laughing at you!

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    They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for newbies. May you please prolong them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

  25. jb3 says:

    The Southern American States fought a vicious “civil” war over the right to have SLAVES!!! Why? Because the Bible not only mentions slavery but gives direction as to the treatment of slaves by their owners and vice versa. Colossians Ch. 3 Verse 22,; Leviticus Ch.22 verse 10& Ch.25 verse 44; & Exodus Ch. 12, 21….verses 43 (ch. 12), 1, 20 (Ch. 21). Among other books/chapters these verses actually ok slavery and describe slavery as normal! Now these southern states are using that same flawed book (Bible) as justification for their ideological warfare in the classrooms. Familiar?

  26. The Irritator says:

    From Tennessee House Bill 368 that folks are discussing:

    e) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not
    be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

  27. Larry Gilman says:

    The bill disavows any non-secular intent, of course, but that, as US courts have ruled in similar cases, is not enough to make it Constitutional (i.e., neutral with respect to establishment of religion). Nonreligious intent must be authentic, not just declared, and there is ample evidence that the claim of no religious intent is sham in all “teach the controversy” laws. Treating non-scientific “controversy” as relevant to science classrooms is inherently to drag non-scientific beliefs into the science — and there _is_ no substantial scientific controversy about the basic realities of evolution and climate change. There is no _scientific_ “controversy” to teach in the areas named by the Tennessee bill.

    Teaching about real scientific uncertainties (was the Cambrian explosion as fast as it appeared?) or limits to knowledge (how good are our estimates of CO2 climate sensitivity?) is another matter: such content is routinely incorporated into good science classes already and needs no legislative protection.

  28. Craig S says:

    I am a Tennessee educated chemical engineer with strong secular beliefs. I will not argue that our education system can be improved, but I will argue that it is not endemic of Tennessee, but of the whole United States. I do not believe we focus enough on the hard sciences and allow too many students to take the easy way. I also have over 16 years in management and have found that everyone is different, they learn differently at different rates. Schools are not fluid in their teaching styles. They give you facts to regurgitate on tests. This has nothing to do with knowledge nor wisdom. I also believe that much of education is what the student makes of it. If you are driven to learn and grow, you will. If you aren’t driven to learn, you can’t be made to. The one thing that I was taught both in school and in church was to question and keep an open mind. Most of the drivel on this board is of narrow minded individuals who do not or cannot think of the South as anything but dumb slave wanting yokels that marry their sister. Get over it and take your own advice and use the scientific method instead of just following what others tell you. Stop being sheeple.