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3,000 signature petition urges Haslam veto on Tenn. 'monkey bill'

April 6th, 2012 4:16 am by LUCAS L. JOHNSON II,Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has been handed a petition with more than 3,000 signatures urging him to veto a proposal that would protect teachers who allow students to criticize evolution and other scientific theories, such as global warming.

Several opponents of the legislation delivered the petition to Haslam spokesman David Smith on Thursday outside the governor's office at the Capitol.

Smith did not talk to reporters but told those who brought the petition he would make sure the governor got it.

Haslam has said he will sign the proposal, which encourages critical thinking by protecting teachers from discipline if they help students critique "scientific weaknesses." It passed the Senate 24-8 last month and 70-23 in the House last year.

Scientists in Tennessee and the American Association for the Advancement of Science say evolution is established science that shouldn't be taught as a controversy.

Alan Dooley, a Nashville architect, was among those who delivered the petition. He said architects "stand at the forefront of taking action related to climate change."

"If young people are not taught at an early age that climate change is real and it's happening, then as they grow up they're not going to vote for, they're not going to take action, that seeks to remedy this," said Dooley, whose wife is a science teacher.

The petition effort is led by Vanderbilt University Professor Larisa Desantis, who conducts research and educates students on both evolution and climate change.

Desantis wasn't at the Capitol, but she wrote in a letter to the governor that was included with the petition that the legislation would be hurtful to students.

"If this bill is signed into law, students in schools throughout Tennessee will receive a very different message, and will suffer the consequences," she wrote. "Scientific literacy is an increasingly important factor for college acceptance and job prospects."

Critics deride the legislation as the "monkey bill" for once again attacking evolution.

The state held the famous Scopes "monkey trial" in 1925 in Dayton, Tenn., and opponents of the legislation say evolution is still under attack in 2012.

The 1925 trial convicted school teacher John Scopes of violating state statute by teaching evolution in biology class and fined him $100. The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the verdict on a technicality a year later. In 1967, Tennessee's anti-evolution law was revoked.

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