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Missouri "Academic Freedom" Bill, 2008

Amid the "Expelled" hype, Missouri legislators sponsored an "Academic Freedom" Bill which would have allowed teachers to bring potentially unscientific materials into their classrooms. Ben Stein appeared at a press conference supporting the bill. A similar proposal ultimately passed in Louisiana.

I oppose the so-called academic freedom bill (HB 2554)
State Capitol
Jefferson City, MO

Dear Honorable Representative,
I am a student at Carnegie Mellon University, and I oppose HB 2554 as a deeply-flawed change to the education system.
While the language of the bill itself is vague, the intentions of its supporters are perfectly clear. The so-called "Academic Freedom Act" aims only to lower the standards for what is allowed in a science classroom. Biological evolution and abiogenesis are supported by the most rigorous standards science can offer. Over 220 Christian leaders in the state of Missouri have signed the Clergy Letter Project, affirming that evolution is "a foundational scientific truth" that does not conflict with religion.
While I strongly support *actual* academic freedom, HB 2554 could easily hurt Missouri students' access to proper science education. The current standards allow teachers to present up-to-date and factual evidence which students will need to know for a future in studying or working with science. Groups supporting HB 2554 want a free pass to promote things like "intelligent design" in the classroom without being held to any scientific standard.
For students just beginning to learn the scientific method, a bill that could allow intelligent design in schools would demolish the requirements of science to have evidence, to describe, to test, and to predict - simply to allege gray areas in evolutionary biology. Anyone acquainted with modern biology knows that explanations exist for these gray areas and research - far from dogmatically ignoring these problems - is ongoing. Most religious people in the scientific community have rejected intelligent design, including Human Genome project leader Dr. Francis Collins, who called it bad science and bad theology.
I understand that you and your colleagues may have recently seen the movie "Expelled", which interviewed a number of vocal atheists under false pretenses. Their comments about religion have little or no connection to scientific matters. The producer of "Expelled" has taken every effort to prevent knowledgeable critics (even scientists shown in the movie) from seeing it. From what has been publicly released, it is obvious that a distorted view of history and an unauthorized shot-for-shot copy of a Harvard cell biology video are in the movie. Before allowing "Expelled" to influence how Missouri students are educated, I hope you will consider contacting expelled@ncseweb.org for questions about its claims.
I would be happy to answer any questions you or your staff may have about the scientific validity of evolution and the impact of intelligent design in schools.

Thank you for your continuing service to the state of Missouri,
Nicholas Doiron
Carnegie Mellon University

I received some positive responses, including one from a former creationist who was intent on preventing the "academic freedom" tactic from deceiving Missouri.