Did you catch that, hidden in the last third of the list? Astronomy, biology, and geology. Teachers in Idaho will be "allowed" to use the bible to teach astronomy, biology, and geology.
Yes, the bible, the document that says that there's a vault in the sky to keep the water up there separate from the water down here on Earth. The document that says that the Sun and the Moon stopped moving for a bit so that Joshua could finish smiting the shit out of the Amorites. The document that says that bats are birds.
Please note that I have no particular problem with the bible being used as a reference in other sorts of classes. It is interesting as a historical document, and certainly has a place in any class about ethics, philosophy, law history, and sociology. Further, the bible's influence on world history is such that all student historians should have a working knowledge of its contents. And it's also important to recognize that as part of our cultural milieu, knowing the bible simply to understand references in literature is pretty important.
But in science classes? C'mon. This isn't about being even-handed and open-minded; this is about turning science classes into venues for religious indoctrination. It is not, as Idaho Republican Party Executive Director David Johnston said, to allow teachers to "have that tool in their tool box." This is simply one more in the long, long line of bills introduced by evangelical policymakers to shoehorn young-earth creationism into public school classrooms.
Car spotted in Athens, Georgia [image courtesy of photographer Amy Watts and the Wikimedia Commons]
I'm happy to say that the National Center for Science Education is already aware of the situation, and is taking steps to make sure that the bill is defeated. But the fact that we're still fighting this battle, for what is this? The thousandth time? It's a little demoralizing.
Look, if you think this is just about me being hostile, allow me to point out that I have a bible on the bookshelf in my classroom. Any student is welcome to use it or borrow it at any time. But what I teach is science, not folklore, mythology, or comparative religion. If I were not to give my biology students a good grounding in the evolutionary model, I would be failing to do my job. As biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky put it, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
And even more pertinent is another quote from Dobzhansky -- who was, by the way, a devout Russian Orthodox Christian -- and which seems a fitting way to end this post.
Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts.... the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.