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Two Days After Warning Against “Anti-Science” Label, Nature Calls Academic Freedom “Anti-Science”

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From the headline of the piece you might think you were reading some online tabloid. But guess again. Published in Nature on May 12 and republished by Scientific American, Erin Ross’s article declares, “Revamped ‘anti-science’ education bills in United States find success.” The headline is describing legislation in Florida and academic freedom resolutions in Alabama and Indiana.

The term “anti-science” is ironic. As we noted at Evolution News the other day, Nature itself published a May 10 editorial, “Beware the anti-science label.” It warned against using the term lightly and urged that “Presenting science as a battle for truth against ignorance is an unhelpful exaggeration.”

Now here is Nature, just two days later, labeling academic freedom resolutions as “anti-science.”

Ross extensively quotes Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, a group that is staunchly opposed to academic freedom legislation, but doesn’t quote supporters of the Alabama or Indiana legislation. The article represents a one-sided perspective on academic freedom legislation.

Florida’s legislation is not based on our model academic freedom bill. As for Alabama and Indiana, Ross writes that these states:

…have already approved non-binding legislation this year urging teachers to embrace ‘academic freedom’ and present the full spectrum of views on evolution and climate change. This would give educators license to treat evolution and intelligent design as equally valid theories… [Emphasis added.]

No, that is incorrect, as should be obvious to anyone who has read the resolutions in question or followed academic freedom laws passed in Louisiana (2008) and Tennessee (2012). Nor are those who support such legislation “opponents of science education” as Branch claims.

Academic freedom resolutions are limited pieces of legislation that are non-binding and simply urge support for teachers who choose to teach scientific evidence on both sides of controversial scientific topics covered in the curriculum. They strengthen science education by offering students the chance to critically examine scientific ideas rather than just memorizing and regurgitating.

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