NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/01/20
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear friends of NCSE, NCSE's Ann Reid and Glenn Branch comment for Stat on the secretary of education-designate . Sad news of the death of Hugh Iltis. A Darwin Day resolution was introduced in Congress, but antiscience legislation was introduced in South Dakota. And a reminder that Darwin Day is less than three weeks away!
NCSE'S REID AND BRANCH ON BETSY DEVOS NCSE's Ann Reid and Glenn Branch contributed "Will education secretary pick Betsy DeVos dilute science instruction in schools?" to Stat (January 18, 2017), a new national publication specializing in health, medicine, and scientific discovery. "A few loud voices dismissing science can be enough to intimidate teachers into diluting their treatment of evolution and climate change, permanently short-changing a generation of science learners," they warned. Although Reid and Branch acknowledged that DeVos "hasn't taken strong positions on either evolution or climate change," they noted that during Senate hearings, when asked whether she would side with students or with purveyors of junk science," she evaded answering the question -- "but conspicuously used the 'critical thinking' catchphrase beloved by creationists and climate change deniers alike." The federal government's influence over curriculum and instruction is slight. But Reid and Branch warned, "Science teachers will find their jobs more challenging if our political leaders dismiss scientific findings and question the motives of scientists and research agencies." They concluded, "It will be up to all of us to let science teachers know that we recognize, support, and applaud them for the crucial and difficult role they play in equipping the next generation to understand the power of scientific thinking." For Reid and Branch's column in Stat, visit: https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/18/betsy-devos-education-evolution-climate-change/ HUGH ILTIS DIES The distinguished botanist, conservationist, and environmentalist Hugh Iltis died on December 19, 2016, according to the University of Wisconsin (December 30, 2016). Iltis was particularly famous for his important research on the evolution of maize from teosinte, as well as on tomatoes and spider flowers (genus Cleome), but he was also a fierce environmentalist and one of the first scientists to articulate the idea that humans are innately attracted to nature. The university's obituary summarized the interconnection of evolution, ecology, and environmentalism in his thinking: "To Iltis, plants represented stories and places. And they embodied the evolutionary web of their ancestors -- and their descendants -- assuming they could survive 'progress.'" A lifetime member of NCSE, Iltis was deeply concerned about threats to the teaching of evolution. In 2005, after the school board in the Wisconsin town of Grantsburg passed a third version of a resolution apparently aimed at undermining the integrity of evolution instruction there, Iltis -- then 79 -- told the Capital Times, "Total lunacy. Embarrassing. A step back into the Dark Ages ... It's just an outrage," adding, "it's largely due to ignorance, to a generation of people who don't understand evolution and are scared to death about the world we're seeing now." Iltis was also critical of the state superintendent of schools and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for not criticizing the Grantsburg board publicly: although many of his colleagues feel as strongly as he does, he told the newspaper, "they don't like to get in the public arena and fight about it." Iltis was born in Brno, in what was then Czechoslovakia, on April 7, 1925; his father, Hugo Iltis, was the first biographer of Gregor Mendel. He emigrated to the United States in 1938. After a year at the University of Tennessee, he served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946. After graduating from the University of Tennessee in 1948, he received his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1952. He taught for three years at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and then in 1955 joined the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he spent the remainder of his career. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1963; his honors also included the Asa Gray Award for 1994 from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists. For the obituary from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, visit: http://news.wisc.edu/hugh-iltis-uws-battling-botanist-dies-at-91/ DARWIN DAY RESOLUTION IN CONGRESS House Resolution 44, introduced in the United States House of Representatives on January 11, 2017, would, if passed, express the House's support of designating February 12, 2017, as Darwin Day, and its recognition of Charles Darwin as "a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth's peoples." The bill was referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where similar bills, such as H. Res. 548 in 2016, have failed to receive a hearing. Jim Himes (D-Connecticut), the lead sponsor of the bill, explained in a January 12, 2017, press release from the American Humanist Association, "In our modern political climate, when the very facts and truths revealed by science are under attack, honoring the efforts of scientists, the true heroes of human history, is vitally important." He added, "By celebrating and commemorating the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, we not only acknowledge his enormous contributions to our better understanding of the origins of life, but send a message that we value education, knowledge and science as our guiding principles." "2017 has already seen its first state bill targeting evolution [South Dakota's Senate Bill 55], so it's wonderful to see a resolution that recognizes the importance of teaching evolution," commented NCSE's executive director Ann Reid. "I encourage members and friends of NCSE to urge their representatives to support H. Res. 44. The problem is real: one of eight U.S. public high school biology teachers are explicitly presenting creationism, and six of ten are reluctant to teach evolution properly. So, yes, support H. Res 44, but don't overlook the many ways to defend the teaching of evolution locally." For information about House Resolution 44, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-resolution/44/text For the press release from the American Humanist Association, visit: https://americanhumanist.org/press-releases/aha-applauds-rep-jim-himes-reintroduction-darwin-day-resolution/ And for suggested ways to defend the teaching of evolution, visit: https://ncse.com/library-resource/how-you-can-support-evolution-education ANTISCIENCE LEGISLATION IN SOUTH DAKOTA South Dakota's Senate Bill 55, introduced on January 11, 2017, and referred to the Senate Education Committee, appears to be the first antiscience bill of the year. If enacted, SB 55 would provide, "No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48 [the section of the state code that governs the state education standards revision cycle]." Although no specific scientific topics are mentioned, the language of the bill matches the language in bills aimed at evolution and/or climate change, including South Dakota's SB 114 in 2015. And the sponsorship is similar: Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), a sponsor of SB 55, also sponsored SB 112 in 2014, which would have prevented school boards and administrators from prohibiting teachers from teaching "intelligent design." In sponsoring SB 55, Monroe is joined by Bob Ewing (R-District 31), Phil Jensen (R-District 33), Stace Nelson (R-District 19), Jim Stalzer (R-District 11), and John Wiik (R-District 4). For information about South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 from the legislature's website, visit: http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/Bill.aspx?File=SB55P.htm&Session=2017 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Dakota, visit: https://ncse.com/news/south-dakota DARWIN DAY APPROACHES It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than three weeks remain before Darwin Day 2017! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education -- which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education already under way in state legislatures. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!) And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 10-12, 2017, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 290 congregations in forty-four states (and seven foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events. For the Darwin Day registry, visit: http://darwinday.org/events/ http://darwinday.org/events/community/add For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ WHAT'S NEW AT NCSE'S BLOG? Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed: * Glenn Branch discussing a 1925 episode of evolutionary bookburning: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/01/burning-book-knowledge-0018438 For NCSE's blog, visit: http://ncse.com/blog Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600 Oakland CA 94612-2922 510-601-7203 fax 510-788-7971 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Check out NCSE's blog: http://ncse.com/blog Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join