NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/03/06
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new antievolution bill in Florida. It's the seventh so far in 2009, joining bills in Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi (already dead), New Mexico, and Oklahoma (already dead). Meanwhile, faculty in Iowa decry the antievolution bill in their state. And a fresh crop of scientific and educational journals celebrating the Darwin anniversaries.
ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN FLORIDA Senate Bill 2396, filed on February 27, 2009, would, if enacted, amend a section of Florida law to require "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." The bill is sponsored by Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5), who was in the news earlier in February when he announced his intention to introduce a bill requiring "intelligent design" to be taught in Florida's public schools. "If you're going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking," he told the Jacksonville Times-Union (February 8, 2009). Wise acknowledged that his bill was likely to invite a legal challenge, but contended, "Someplace along the line you've got to be able to make a value judgment of what it is you think is the appropriate thing." Evidently he changed his mind about how to accomplish his goal, since "intelligent design" is not mentioned in the bill. But the phrase "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" is familiar from the previous legislative session in Florida. House Bill 1483, which originally purported to protect the right of teachers to "objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution," was eventually amended -- due to concerns about its constitutionality -- to require the public schools to provide "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." Challenged to justify the measure, its sponsor Alan Hays (R-District 25) claimed that it was necessary to protect teachers seeking to "provide a critical analysis" of evolution, although the St. Petersburg Times (March 6, 2008) reported that it was unable to substantiate any claims of persecution. During the previous legislative session, the House of Representatives preferred the "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" language of HB 1483 -- voting 71-43 to adopt the language on April 28, 2008 -- while the Senate preferred the "full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution" language of SB 2692. Wise was then dismissive of HB 1483's language, telling the Sarasota Herald Tribune (April 24, 2008) that Hays "must be hitting the sauce if he thinks he's going to send the bill back" to the Senate. In any case, the two chambers were unable to agree on the wording of a bill before the legislative session expired, prompting the Tampa Tribune (May 3, 2008) to comment in its editorial reviewing the accomplishments of the legislature, "The session will be remembered for what wasn't done to compromise the quality of education in Florida." The phrase "critical analysis" was used to undermine the teaching of evolution situation in Ohio from 2002 to 2006. As NCSE's Glenn Branch explains in Reports of the NCSE, in 2002 Ohio adopted a set of state science standards that included a controversial indicator calling for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." At the time, it was feared that the indicator would provide a pretext for the introduction of creationist misrepresentations of evolution; in 2004, those fears proved to be justified, when the state board of education voted to adopt a model lesson plan riddled with scientific inaccuracies and pedagogical infelicities. But after the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover and the revelation that the lesson plan was adopted despite warnings from experts at the Ohio Department of Education, the board voted in 2006 to rescind both the model lesson plan and the indicator. For the text of Florida's SB 2396 as introduced (PDF), visit: http://www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2009/Senate/bills/billtext/pdf/s2396.pdf For the story in the Jacksonville Times-Union, visit: http://www.jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-02-08/story/wise_to_introduce_intelligent_design_bill For the story in the St. Petersburg Times, visit: http://blogs.tampabay.com/schools/2008/03/the-persecution.html For the story in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, visit: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20080424/NEWS/804240377/1146 For the editorial in the Tampa Tribune, visit: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/may/03/na-session-was-no-great-success-but-kept-bad-bills/ For RNCSE's account of "critical analysis" in Ohio, visit: http://ncseweb.org/rncse/26/3/critical-analysis-defeated-ohio For the website and blog of Florida Citizens for Science, visit: http://www.flascience.org http://www.flascience.org/wp/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/iowa IOWA FACULTY DECRY ANTIEVOLUTION BILL Over two hundred faculty members at Iowa's colleges and universities have endorsed a statement calling on Iowa's legislature to reject House File 183, the so-called Evolution Academic Freedom Act. Responding to the bill's contention that "current law does not expressly protect the right of instructors to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution," the statement explains, "It is misleading to claim that there is any controversy or dissent within the vast majority of the scientific community regarding the scientific validity of evolutionary theory. Since there is no real dissent within the scientific community ... 'academic freedom' for alternative theories is simply a mechanism to introduce religious or non-scientific doctrines into our science curriculum." HF 183 contends that "instructors have experienced or feared discipline, discrimination, or other adverse consequences as a result of presenting the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution," and its sponsor, Rod A. Roberts (R-District 51), told the Iowa City Press-Citizen (February 27, 2009) that his bill is "about the freedom that an instructor and students can engage in without fear of criticism, censure or fear of losing one's job." But such claims of persecution have not been substantiated, the authors of the statement -- Hector Avalos of Iowa State University and James W. Demastes and Tara C. Smith of the University of Iowa -- explained to the Ames Tribune (February 25, 2009). NCSE's Glenn Branch told the Chronicle of Higher Education (February 25, 2009) that the new Iowa statement is apparently the first organized response to such a bill by college faculty members throughout a state. Between the opposition from college and university instructors and the opposition of the Iowa State Education Association -- the state affiliate of the National Education Association, representing over 34,000 education employees in Iowa -- the bill's prospects are dim. Although the University of Iowa is not taking a position on the bill, its legislative liaison was quoted by the Press-Citizen as saying, "From what I've heard, I don't anticipate it making it past the first funnel. We have concerns about the bill, but we are not expecting it to move." For the statement, visit: http://home.mchsi.com/~demastes/HF183/Faculty-against-HF183.html For the text of Iowa's HF 183, visit: http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=BillInfo&Service=Billbook&ga=83&hbill=HF183 For the story in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, visit: http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20090227/NEWS01/902270311/1079 For the story in the Ames Tribune, visit: http://www.amestrib.com/articles/2009/02/25/ames_tribune/news/doc49a58285c440e717982265.txt For the story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, visit: http://chronicle.com/daily/2009/02/12434n.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Iowa, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/iowa JOURNALS CELEBRATING THE DARWIN ANNIVERSARIES Scientific and educational journals are continuing to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin and the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species. As NCSE previously reported, Science is allocating a special section of its website to "a variety of news features, scientific reviews and other special content." Similarly, Nature is providing "continuously updated news, research and analysis on Darwin's life, his science and his legacy." A special issue of The Lancet for December 2008, entitled Darwin's Gifts, was "dedicated to Darwin's life and work and the enduring legacy of his theory of evolution" and is freely available in a special Flash-based format. And Evolution: Education and Outreach is devoting the whole year to the celebration. Herewith a sampling of further celebrations in the literature -- and let NCSE know of any worthwhile contributions to add! The February 2009 issue of The American Biology Teacher is focusing on Darwin and evolution, including articles on "The Struggle for Existence: 1859 & Today," "The Influence of Darwin on Evolutionary Algorithms from 'Dinner with Darwin'," "Putting Darwin in His Place: The Need to Watch Our Language," "Spork & Beans: Addressing Evolutionary Misconceptions," "A Suggested Project-Based Evolution for High Schools: Teaching Content Through Application," "Darwin, Earthworms, & Circadian Rhythms," and "Teaching Evolution Through Inquiry-Based Lessons of Uncontroversial Science." Two of the articles -- Randy Moore and Sehoya Cotner's "Rejecting Darwin: The Occurrence & Impact of Creationism in High School Biology Classrooms" and Paul M. Beardsley, Stephen R. Getty, and Paul Numedahl's "Explaining Biogeographic Data: Evidence for Evolution" -- are freely accessible on-line. The American Journal of Botany is celebrating by dedicating a whole issue (2009; 96 ), as its editor-in-chief explains, "to one of the number of botanical issues about which Darwin thought and wrote, the rapid appearance and diversification of the angiosperms, his so-called 'abominable mystery.' Invited Special Editors Ruth A. Stockey, Sean W. Graham, and Peter R. Crane have assembled a group of articles that review thinking and research on this subject from approaches as diverse as the history of science, anatomy, morphology, paleobotany, pollination biology, molecular systematics, genetics, and ecology. Authors of these papers variously address traditional or historical understanding of angiosperm origin, spread, and diversification, current thinking on these topics, and unresolved issues to stimulate future research." Subsequent issues of the journal in 2009 will include invited papers addressing botanical topics considered by Darwin. Current Biology (2009; 19 ) features "(Re)Reading the Origin": "Charles Darwin's 1859 book On the Origin of Species is much referenced, especially in this double anniversary year. But, does anyone still read it? And, if so, what is the book itself like as a text? We have asked biologists from a range of fields -- evolutionary biologists, but also geneticists, ecologists, paleontologists and molecular biologists -- to re-read (or read) The Origin for Current Biology. Below are the responses, contributed by: Andrew Berry, Matthew Cobb, Simon Conway Morris, Jerry Coyne, Hopi Hoekstra, Peter Lawrence, Robert May, Christiane N|sslein-Volhard, Mark Ptashne, Matt Ridley and Marlene Zuk." The same issue includes a discussion of the celebrations in Darwin's home town of Shrewsbury. The journal Heredity commemorates the sesquicentennial year of the publication of the Origin of Species with a special issue (2009; 102 ) on, appropriately, the genetics of speciation. R. K. Butlin and M. G. Ritchie explain in their editorial introduction, "As we approach the milestone of 2009, the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species, many questions concerning the causes of speciation remain open and speciation continues to be one of the most actively studied topics in modern evolutionary biology ... the papers in this special issue of Heredity reveal the breadth of current studies into the genetics of speciation. They contain a fascinating mixture of studies of familiar questions and issues in evolutionary biology, as well as new and exciting ideas and insights." All of the articles in the special issue are freely accessible. And the open-access Journal of Biology (2009; 8 ) features Paul Harvey's "Q&A: What did Charles Darwin prove?" -- posing and answering various questions about Darwin and his significance to modern biology. Answering the question What was so special about Darwin, Harvey commented, "Any of us can pick up one of his books and read it with ease and for pleasure. And we'll fairly rapidly find places where Darwin's clarity of style reveals errors of logic, and whether those are because we have learned more in the years since he wrote or because he made some obvious mistakes is for us his readers to decide. If we are up to it." In the same issue are Laurence D. Hurst's "Evolutionary genomics and the reach of selection," James F. Crow's "Mayr, mathematics and the study of evolution," Charles F. Stevens's "Darwin and Huxley revisited: the origin of allometry," and Jonathan C. Howard's "Why didn't Darwin discover Mendel's laws?" For Science's array of Darwin anniversary resources, visit: http://www.sciencemag.org/darwin/ For Nature's array of Darwin anniversary resources, visit: http://www.nature.com/news/specials/darwin/index.html For the special issue of The Lancet, visit: http://mag.digitalpc.co.uk/fvx/lancet/darwinsgifts/ For Education: Evolution and Outreach, visit: http://www.springerlink.com/content/120878/ For the table of contents and articles (PDF) from The American Biology Teacher, visit: http://www.nabt.org/websites/institution/index.php?p=30 http://www.nabt.org/websites/institution/File/pdfs/american_biology_teacher/2009/Feb%20online/071-02-0047.pdf http://www.nabt.org/websites/institution/File/pdfs/american_biology_teacher/2009/Feb%20online/071-02-0049.pdf For the table of contents and introduction to the American Journal of Botany, visit: http://www.amjbot.org/content/vol96/issue1/ http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/content/full/96/1/1 For the articles from Current Biology, visit: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2008.12.033 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2009.01.028 For the table of contents and introduction to Heredity, visit: http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v102/n1/index.html http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v102/n1/full/hdy200897a.html For the articles from the Journal of Biology, visit: http://jbiol.com/content/8/2/11 http://jbiol.com/content/8/2/12 http://jbiol.com/content/8/2/13 http://jbiol.com/content/8/2/14 http://jbiol.com/content/8/2/15 REMINDER If you wish to unsubscribe to these evolution education updates, please send: unsubscribe ncse-news email@example.com in the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to subscribe, please send: subscribe ncse-news email@example.com again in the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. Sincerely, 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 800-290-6006 email@example.com http://www.ncseweb.org Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism http://www.ncseweb.org/evc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://www.ncseweb.org/membership