The year is 1925, and the epic battle between liberalism and conservatism has commenced in a little town called Dayton, Tennessee. The two intellectual giants square off against each other. Clarence Darrow is on the one side representing liberalism, secularism, and modernity. William Jennings Bryan is on the other representing conservatism, Christianity, and tradition. Darrow publicly shamed Bryan during the latter’s testimony and left the three time presidential candidate looking like a fool. The left soundly won that battle because of the brilliant wit and acumen of Darrow, not because they were right. Although in the grand scheme of political history this event did nothing to change public policy, it was a microcosm of the battle between the left and right in American political thought.

Tennessee is at it again by taking a stand in the intelligent design and climate change debate. House bill 368 says that children are supposed to develop critical reasoning skills in the classroom, so “[t]oward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” This means teachers and students can challenge Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic causes for climate change, two dogmas of liberals. Leftist opponents to the bill think it undermines scientific education because it does not force children to accept what leftists believe is true.

Rather than stopping children from thinking, this law actually allows them to engage issues with minority opinions and weigh the evidence for themselves. Is that not the point of science? Or are scientists just supposed to accept “consensus” opinion? What if Galileo had just accepted the consensus opinion? The only way that the people of America can continue to accept the Left’s version of reality is if no one challenges it.

This also goes to two fundamental problems of modern American liberalism and radical secularists like Richard Dawkins that hate religion. First, they assume conservatives and Christians hate science because not everyone acquiesces to their version of Darwinian evolution. I am not going to debate the merits of Darwinian evolution verses intelligent design verses Creationism, although I have my opinion. The real issue is that leftists cannot handle when their own fundamentalism is challenged. Since the Enlightenment, several men who are giants in the field of science have also professed a faith in God, including Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, and Max Planck. Someone can easily be a conservative Christian and a scientist. The Left just does not want to hear that because it undermines their own doctrinaire approach to life.

Second, there is a distinct and important epistemological debate going on in this law. Liberals have to reject all forms of knowledge and truth except moral relativism and scientific positivism; otherwise their philosophical structure and policy positions make no sense. Positivism is the epistemological notion that truth can only be derived from data that can be verified, i.e. science. Therefore tradition and religion have no place in academic thought. Those on the left reject religious dogma, while accepting “scientific” dogma like evolution and global warming that no one can challenge. People who are against this bill oppose it because they cannot accept that another source of truth exists outside of their myopic world view. Conservatism on the other hand readily accepts tradition and religion as accepted forms of truth, especially because Christians believe in the noetic effects of sin. Due to man’s fallen nature, he is unable to derive all truth by himself. He needs divine revelation for guidance. Progressive thought rejects human nature and believes in the perfectibility of man and society; if conservatives attack evolution then they attack the principle that man is always moving forward to the ubermensch.

Too often conservatives and Christians are marginalized in the classroom because we do not fall into the goosestep line of leftist thought. True academic freedom means legitimately discussing ideas based on their merits, not on preconceived notions of validity. If America is to remain a free country, then it needs national legislation like this one that allows conservative and Christian opinion to operate in the classroom. I am proud that my state passed this legislation, and if we need to have a Scopes Trial 2.0, I am prepared to take a trip to Dayton and defend academic freedom and religious liberty. However, this time the scientific community is on the side of closed mindedness and hostility towards those who disagree. School is meant to teach a student how to have critical reasoning skill, not to parrot leftist teachers’ indoctrination. It is time to stand for academic freedom and to allow conservative students to give their beliefs in class.

Treston Wheat | Georgetown University | Washington, D.C. | @TrestonWheat