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UI profs suspicious of ‘evolution’ bill

BY MEGAN DIAL | MARCH 3, 2009 7:20 AM

More than 50 UI professors have signed a petition against a recent state measure related to the teaching of evolution in public schools and universities.

The most contentious aspect of the act, introduced by Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, on Feb. 3 as the “Evolution Academic Freedom Act,” would protect instructors from being reprimanded for teaching alternative views of evolution.

John Logsdon, an associate professor of evolutionary molecular genetics, was one of the 56 UI professors to sign the petition. In total, more than 200 people have signed it.

“The bill is an underhanded way to impose an alternative view into science curriculum,” Logsdon said. “It’s shrouded in an academic-freedom method that is neither necessary nor appropriate.”
The bill is proposed as a “teach the controversy” of evolution method of instructing, he said, and this type of instruction is inherently flawed.

“There is no controversy to be taught in a science class in regard to evolution,” Logsdon said.
Roberts disagreed, contending that the bill serves an important purpose.



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The legislation is aimed to give professors and teachers the ability to teach different views of evolution without fear of intimidation, he said, noting the bill provides legal protection for instructors.

UI Associate Professor of biology Bryant McAllister, who also signed the petition against the measure, said he is worried about the potential motivations behind the proposed legislation.

He believes the specific goals of the act are not very well defined, he said, which could allow too much religion in science classes.

But Roberts said he thinks the bill is clear and does not extend any protection to religious beliefs.
“It’s important that professors actually look at the language of the bill,” he said. “It expressly prohibits the introduction and promotion of any religious doctrine or religious discrimination.”

The bill clearly explains that students will be evaluated based upon their understanding of the course material presented by the instructor, he contended.

However, some UI professors are worried about another statement in the bill, which states students will not be penalized for expressing a particular position regarding evolution.

“If a student says that what I teach them is garbage, and they have evidence for another point of view, I would not be able to penalize them, and that’s not how science works,” Logsdon said.

McAllister said he is also worried about this section. Specifically, he is concerned students might be able to present a religious view on exams that would contradict the evolution teachings, but he would not be allowed to penalize the answer.

Roberts said professors should understand his intent with the bill is not to undermine their teachings. He said students will be required to follow what has been taught in class, whether it is the science of evolution or anti-evolution.

“Their grade is based on what they’ve been taught,” he said.

Similar bills relating to the instruction of evolution have failed to pass in Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama. Louisiana recently passed a similar bill.

The Iowa bill has been in subcommittee since Feb. 5.


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