Academic freedom and evolution
Academic freedom and evolutionWill academic freedom legislation improve the teaching of evolution?
Almost certainly not. In no documented case has an educator been prosecuted or persecuted for teaching legitimate science. Virtually all problems have arisen when public school science teachers or boards of education tried to substitute creationism, or its modern cousin "intelligent design", for legitimate science. Almost certainly, "academic freedom" legislation would increase these problems.
Why then do people promote this sort of "academic freedom"?
No professional science organization needs more academic freedom. The only organization that promotes this concern is the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington. The Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute has a major goal of introducing the supernatural into science education. Its motivations are largely religious and arise from failure of earlier attempts to introduce creationism into public education which ended with the Edwards vs. Aguillard supreme court decision in (1987).
Why shouldn't alternatives to evolution be taught?
There are no legitimate scientific alternatives to the theory of evolution. Evolution is sufficiently well established that any scientist who came up with a useful alternative (i.e. leading to productive scientific research) would soon be famous.
If intelligent design is a legitimate alternative shouldn't it be tested in the laboratory before it's introduced into education?
It certainly should. Promoters of intelligent design assumed research would soon support their conclusion. This is backwards from how science is done. Science begins with ideas and experiments and draws conclusions only after research and testing. Intelligent design is a striking example of how science should not be done.
Aren't there weaknesses of the theory of evolution that students should know about?
The weaknesses of evolution are not doubts about the adequacy of the theory, but about its completeness. As with all theories there are limits to what it can explain. For example it does not currently explain the origin of life. Students are hardly in a position to understand incompleteness of the theory until they've grasped the theory. Sadly those who promote discussing "weaknesses" generally wish to discourage understanding of evolution.
If intelligent design isn't legitimate science why do I hear so much about it?
The Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute is funded by wealthy theocrats. While the funding is small compared to science funding, the vast bulk goes for promotion. Science funding on the other hand goes overwhelmingly for research. The ratio of promotion to research is thus vastly higher for intelligent design than for evolution. The Discovery Institute also exploits political power. Where they exercise power (e.g. former state education boards in Ohio and Kansas and recently in Forbes magazine) they make sure that evolution and intelligent design are equally represented. In the real world research scientists who support evolution outnumber those who support intelligent design by at least a factor of a thousand.