Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/02/20

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Louisiana's antievolution law lost the state a major biology
conference. There's good news and bad news on the legislative front, with
a new antievolution bill introduced in Missouri but a similar bill dead in
Oklahoma. NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller is honored by the AAAS. And a
few further noteworthy articles for the Darwin bicentennial.


The executive committee of the Society of Integrative and Comparative
Biology decided not to hold any future meetings in New Orleans owing to
"the official position of the state in weakening science education and
specifically attacking evolution in science curricula," according to a
February 5, 2009, letter (PDF) from SICB's president, Richard Satterlie, to
Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal. Noting that the last SICB meeting,
held in Boston, attracted over 1850 scientists and graduate students to the
city for five days, Satterlie observed, "As you might imagine, a
professional meeting with nearly 2000 participants can contribute to the
economic engine of any community." But in 2011, those economic benefits
will accrue to Salt Lake City rather than to New Orleans.

Particularly of concern to SICB was the Louisiana Science Education Act --
originally introduced as Senate Bill 561, then renamed as Senate Bill 733,
and finally enacted as Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1. As NCSE
previously reported, the law threatens to open the door for creationism and
scientifically unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in public
school science classes. The development of a policy about what types of
supplementary classroom materials will, and will not, be allowable under
the law was not reassuring, especially when a provision that "[m]aterials
that teach creationism or intelligent design or that advance the religious
belief that a supernatural being created humankind shall be prohibited for
use in science classes" was deleted.

Taking note of SICB's decision, the Louisiana Coalition for Science wrote
in a February 13, 2009, press release (PDF), "The first tangible results of
the Louisiana legislature's passage and Gov. Bobby Jindal's signing of the
2008 Louisiana Science Education Act have materialized, and these results
are negative both for the state's economy and national
reputation." Observing that Governor Jindal signed the bill over the
protests of educators and scientists in Louisiana and nationally, the press
release concluded, "The citizens of Louisiana, whose educational well-being
the governor claims to be so concerned about, are now paying the price --
literally -- for his loyalty to his conservative Christian base."

The Louisiana Coalition for Science also noted that SICB may not be the
only scientific organization considering taking its business elsewhere. In
the August 2008 issue of ASBMB Today, Gregory Petsko, the president of the
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, called for a
boycott by scientific organizations of Louisiana and of any state adopting
antievolution legislation, writing, "As scientists, we need to join such
protests with our feet and wallets. ... I think we need to see to it that
no future meeting of our society [the ASBMB was already committed to
holding its 2009 meeting in New Orleans before the LSEA was enacted] will
take place in Louisiana as long as that law stands."

SICB's decision to shun Louisiana was in the headlines, both in Louisiana
and nationally. The New Orleans Times-Picayune (February 16, 2009) led its
story with, "A national organization of scientists has informed Gov. Bobby
Jindal it will not hold its annual convention in Louisiana as long as the
recently adopted Science Education Act remains on the books," and quoted a
spokesperson for Governor Jindal as saying, "That's too bad. ... New
Orleans is a first-class city for a convention." In its report, The New
York Times (February 17, 2009) quoted Barbara Forrest -- a member of NCSE's
board of directors as well as a leader of the Louisiana Coalition for
Science -- on the evasive language of the LSEA: "They're using code
language, which is not new ... Creationists have done it for decades."

For SICB's letter (PDF), visit:

For the Louisiana Coalition for Science's letter (PDF), visit:

For Petsko's editorial in ASBMB Today, visit:

For the story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit:

For the story in The New York Times, visit:

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:


House Bill 656, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on
February 10, 2009, and not yet referred to a committee, is the latest
antievolution "academic freedom" bill. The bill would, if enacted, call on
state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an
environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages
students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence,
develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and
respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues,
including such subjects as the teaching of biological and chemical
evolution," and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways
to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific
controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall be
permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an
objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of
theories of biological and chemical evolution."

Where a predecessor, HB 2554 from the 2008 legislative session, attempted
to immunize itself from the accusation of unconstitutionality by saying,
"This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this
section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious
doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of
religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against
religion or nonreligion," however, HB 656 is interestingly specific,
saying, "This section only protects the teaching of scientific information
and this section shall not be construed to promote philosophical naturalism
or biblical theology, promote natural cause or intelligent cause, promote
undirected change or purposeful design, promote atheistic or theistic
belief, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious
beliefs or ideas, or promote discrimination for or against religion or
nonreligion. Scientific information includes physical evidence and logical
inferences based upon evidence."

The chief sponsor of HB 656 is Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155), joined
by Mike Sutherland (R-District 99), Ed Emery (R-District 126), Therese
Sander (R-District 22), Brian Nieves (R-District 98), and Stanley Cox
(R-District 118). Cooper was the sponsor of numerous failed antievolution
bills in the past. In 2008, he introduced the similar HB 2554. In 2006,
he introduced HB 1266, which if enacted would have required that "If a
theory or hypothesis of biological origins is taught, a critical analysis
of such theory or hypothesis shall be taught in a substantive amount." In
2004, he introduced two bills, HB 911 and HB 1722, that called for equal
time for "intelligent design" in Missouri's public schools. HB 911
moreover contained idiosyncratic definitions of various scientific and
philosophical terms as well as the draconian provision, "Willful neglect of
any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to
observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for
termination of his or her contract."

For the text of Missouri's HB 656, visit:

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit:


Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320, the so-called Scientific Education and Academic
Freedom Act, died in committee on February 16, 2009, according to a report
in the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009). The bill, if enacted, would have
required state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to
find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it
addresses scientific controversies" and permitted teachers to "help
students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner
the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific
theories pertinent to the course being taught." The only topics
specifically mentioned as controversial were "biological evolution, the
chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

In its critique of the bill, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education
argued, "This is a 'Trojan horse' bill intended to open the door for the
teaching of specific religious concepts in school science classes,"
observing that "[p]romoting the notion that there is some scientific
controversy is just plain dishonest ... Evolution as a process is supported
by an enormous and continually growing body of evidence. Evolutionary
theory has advanced substantially since Darwin's time and, despite 150
years of direct research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever
been found." With respect to the supposed "weaknesses" of evolution, OESE
added, "they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who
don't like evolution."

The bill's sponsor, Randy Brogdon (R-District 34), told the Tulsa World
that the bill was needed because science teachers in his district were
confused and fearful about how to address controversial topics, but Owasso
Public Schools Superintendent Clark Ogilvie told the newspaper, "I don't
think our teachers are confused at all, and I'm somewhat puzzled because
Sen. Brogdon and I have never had any dialogue on the subject." Richard
Lerblance (D-District 7), who sits on the Senate Education Committee,
called the bill "subterfuge," adding that it was one of the worst bills he
has seen. Lerblance was among the eight members of the committee to vote
to kill SB 320; under the rules of the Oklahoma Senate, the measure is dead
for two years.

For the story in the Tulsa World, visit:

For OESE's critique (PDF), visit:

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit:


Kenneth R. Miller was named as the winner of the 2008 Award for Public
Understanding of Science and Technology by the American Association for the
Advancement of Science in recognition of "his sustained efforts and
excellence in communicating evolutionary science," according to a February
11, 2009, press release. He received the award during a February 14
ceremony at the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago. A Supporter of NCSE
who testified for the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, Miller
"made an extraordinarily persuasive public case for the power of science in
general, and the validity of evolution in particular, to explain the
natural world," AAAS reported in announcing the award. "He did the
scientific community an immeasurable service" by helping to uphold the
integrity of U.S. science education. Miller is Professor of Biology and
Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown University,
coauthor of the most widely used high school biology textbook in the
country, and author, most recently, of Only a Theory: Evolution and the
Battle for America's Soul (Viking, 2008).

For the AAAS press release, visit:

For NCSE's collection of materials about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit:

And to buy Only a Theory from (and benefit NCSE in the process),


The February 13, 2009, evolution education update included a sampling of
coverage of the Darwin bicentennial in the mass media. Here are a few
further noteworthy articles.

Carl Zimmer, writing in Time magazine (February 12, 2009), noted that amid
the anniversary hoopla, "there's a risk to all this Darwinmania: some
people may come away with a fundamental misunderstanding about the science
of evolution. ... Today biologists are exploring evolution at a level of
detail far beyond what Darwin could, and they're discovering that evolution
sometimes works in ways the celebrated naturalist never imagined." Yet,
discussing some of the ways in which modern evolutionary biology is still
in a creative ferment, Zimmer concluded, "Time and again, biologists are
finding that Darwin had it right: evolution is the best way to explain the
patterns of nature."

Michael Shermer's column in the February 2009 issue of Scientific American
offered "A Skeptic's Take on the Public Misunderstanding of Darwin," in
which he debunks "two myths about evolution that persist today: that there
is a prescient directionality to evolution and that survival depends
entirely on cutthroat competitive fitness." (The latter topic allowed him
charmingly to quote Lincoln on "the better angels of our
nature.") Scientific American further celebrated the Darwin bicentennial
by posting a collection of its previous articles, as well as a few articles
originally published in the magazine's German version Spektrum, on Darwin
and evolution in a special section on its website.

In The New York Times (February 12, 2009), Olivia Judson began her
anniversary op-ed with, "My fellow primates, 200 years ago today, Charles
Darwin was born. Please join me in wishing him happy birthday!" She urged
that Darwin is admirable not only as a scientist but also as a man,
describing him as "one of those rare beings, as likeable as he was
impressive." In the same issue of the Times, Verlyn Klinkenborg of the
newspaper's editorial board reflected on Darwin's life as a scientist,
concluding, "Darwin recedes, but his idea does not. It is absorbed, with
adaptations, into the foundation of the biological sciences. In a very
real sense, it is the cornerstone of what we know about life on earth."

Thanks to all who wrote to suggest their favorites! The version of the
list posted on the NCSE website is now updated to include the above.

For Zimmer's article, visit:,9171,1879213,00.html

For Shermer's article, visit:

For Scientific American's collection of relevant articles, visit:

For Judson's article, visit:

For Klinkenborg's article, visit:

And for NCSE's summary of the Darwin bicentennial in the news, visit:


If you wish to unsubscribe to these evolution education updates, please send:

unsubscribe ncse-news

in the body of an e-mail to

If you wish to subscribe, please send:

subscribe ncse-news

again in the body of an e-mail to

Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site:

where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and
threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!