Nearly 87 years since the beginning of the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tenn., the state is once again barreling toward being the battleground state for the debate between supporters of the theory of evolution and intelligent design.
    
Tremors of tension regarding the subject are already being felt throughout the nation. Following reports that Gov. Bill Haslam is likely to sign a bill that would allow teachers to discuss “scientific weaknesses” of theories such as biological evolution, global warming and cloning, news outlets from MSNBC to The Los Angeles Times to The Wall Street Journal have had their hands on the developing story.
    
With such a strong reaction emanating from Haslam’s remark that he “probably” will sign the bill into law, which he has until Tuesday to do, the tremors could erupt into a full-scale earthquake of disagreement between parties on either side of the issue.
    
The bill passed by a landslide in the Tennessee Senate and House, with tallies of 24-8 and 72-23, respectively, leaving the governor with the ultimate decision to sign into law or veto the legislation.
    
If 1925 taught us anything, it is that the creationist vs. evolutionist debate polarizes and evokes emotions of the highest degree. If a small town such as Dayton could be turned into a media circus complete with live WGN Radio broadcasts of the trial carrying a price tag of $1,000 per day for telephone lines, according to NPR, then who knows what sort of extravaganza may unfold in Nashville if this bill is passed.
    
The Butler bill, which passed by votes of 71-5 in the Tennessee House and 24-6 in the Tennessee Senate, strictly prohibited the teaching of “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.”
 
  The ACLU, attorney Clarence Darrow, and teacher John Scopes teamed up to challenge the bill in the courts, which ultimately failed. Scopes was found guilty by the jury and fined $100 by Judge Raulston.
   
 In an appeal attempt, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the law was constitutional but overturned Scopes’ ruling because Judge Raulston set the fine rather than the jury.
    
The law remained intact until Tennessee repealed the Butler Act in 1967.
    
Despite similarities between the Butler bill of 1925 and the current “Monkey Bill,” a few critical differences remain.
    
The intent of the Butler Act was to effectively squash within state lines Darwin’s theory of evolution and the descent of man. The wording of the bill was much more black and white than the one Haslam may sign into effect.
    
America was also much more conservative back in the 1920s. While Tennessee remains one of the more conservative states, the nation as a whole has become more liberal in the past century. Furthermore, science has made significant gains in that time period, vastly increasing human knowledge and productivity.
    
Therefore, even if the governor signs the “Monkey Bill,” formally known as HB368, into effect, the bill won’t last indefinitely without challenge.
    
The ACLU, which spearheaded the attack against the Butler bill, is already riling up supporters against HB368. According to The Wall Street Journal, the ACLU is arguing that the law is injecting religion into the public sphere.
   
 There lies the major difference between the two bills; early in the 20th century, conservatives were fighting to maintain the traditional theory of creation following Darwin’s publication of “On the Origin of Species” in 1859 and the more controversial “The Descent of Man” in 1871. Now, conservatives are seeking to regain a religious foothold in public education.
    
The passage of this bill is a needed change. With all of the civil liberties that we as Americans possess, it only makes sense to give citizens the right to make up their own minds on this issue.
   
 HB368 is not eliminating the teaching of evolution from schools. HB368 is not bringing about a strictly creationist curriculum.
    
Rather, the bill aims to allow the questioning of theories that a teacher may find ill-founded. This is, I believe, the best approach to this issue.
   
 After all, is science not based on questioning the world around us? Without this critical value of science, we would still believe that our flat earth is the center of the universe. The wording of the bill allows for discussion of “scientific weaknesses” of theories. Science dictates that theories, by definition, can be disproven.
   
 In sum, it is unscientific to oppose this bill. Ponder that, ACLU.


— Ashton Smith is a sophomore in communications. He can be reached at ssmit192@utk.edu.