Florida’s “Academic Freedom Act” only provides freedom for teachers to fail to educate children
Readers, please permit me a short, non-science related rant. I don’t do this sort of thing often, so if you’re looking for more like this, go here.
The Academic Freedom Act is promoted as allowing science teachers to critically discuss evolution. However, science teachers have always been able to critically discuss any kind of theories in their classroom. No one has ever been fired or reprimanded for critically discussing any theory in the proper context. Critical discussion of the Holocaust or racial differences in intelligence are comparatively WAY more taboo, but you don’t see legislation to protect teacher’s freedoms to discuss these things, so don’t be misled – the one and only purpose of this is to teach creationism to public school children. I’m willing to bet there are churches that will happily sponsor tuition for parents that can’t afford to send their kids to a religious school, so this law is entirely unnecessary even for that purpose.
There’s a common misunderstanding that the purpose of teaching the theory of evolution is to replace the religious accounts of creation. That’s not the case. Evolution doesn’t teach that there is no god, just that there doesn’t have to be one. Evolution can’t answer the question of why we are here and where the universe originally came from, and it’s not meant as a replacement for whatever anyone believes regarding mankind’s place in the universe. It’s just a theory that explains what we can see as far back as we can see it, no further. Since it’s the best one that fits with available evidence, it’s the only one that can be taught in a secular context such as a public school. Stated this clearly, it’s hard to see where the misunderstanding came from, which has led many people to conclude that this actually wasn’t a misunderstanding at all, but rather a deliberate attempt to incite people against “godless atheists eroding our moral foundation”. When you consider that the Dominionists actually do want scripture taught as fact in public schools and they do want the Bible to be the highest law of the land and they do organize to elect leaders whose primary qualification is their faith, it’s easy to see how one could come to that conclusion.
In the end, anyone is free to believe whatever they want, but when they start making decisions on behalf of others, their duty to their constituents supercedes their personal duty to their faith, and there’s no way to justify your actions on behalf of your constituents without basing your decisions in consensus reality, not your personal version of it. I’m under no illusions, by the way, that rational, data-driven analysis underlies most legislation. People make decisions based on “gut feeling” all the time. That’s different, because the decisions made by those who place their personal faith above the duty to their constituents are based upon written scripture and doctrine, not divine revelation to them personally. If our elected leaders were having mystical experiences in the stateroom, it would be a different matter. That’s the last I’ll say about this – back to real science.