Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/10/02

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

More bad news from Louisiana as the state continues to implement the
so-called Louisiana Science Education Act. Meanwhile, Judge Jones is
honored by the Geological Society of America, a new publication from
Americans United for Separation of Church and State summarizes the law
governing religion and the public schools, and a chance to hear
Jonathan Weiner discuss variation on-line.


The Louisiana Science Education Act opened the door for creationism to
be taught in the state's public schools, and now the Board of
Elementary and Secondary Education is propping the door open, the
Louisiana Coalition for Science charges. In a September 28, 2009,
press release, the LCS noted, "On September 16, the Board of
Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) ignored the recommendations
of science education professionals in the Louisiana Department of
Education (DOE) and allowed the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a
Religious Right lobbying group, to dictate the procedure concerning
complaints about creationist supplementary materials used in public
school science classes under the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act

Enacted in June 2008 over the protests of scientists and educators
across the state and around the country, the LSEA (enacted as
Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1) provides that "A teacher shall
teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the
school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other
instructional materials to help students understand, analyze,
critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as
permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board
unless otherwise prohibited by the State Board of Elementary and
Secondary Education."

Subsequently, in January 2009, BESE adopted a policy about what types
of supplementary classroom materials will, and will not, be allowable
under the LSEA. While the policy echoes the LSEA's requirement that
such materials "not promote any religious doctrine, promote
discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs,
or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion," a
provision that "materials 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 class" was deleted,
according to a report from the Associated Press (January 15, 2009).

Unaddressed by the policy, however, was the question of how to handle
complaints about inappropriate supplementary materials. The Baton
Rouge Advocate (September 17, 2009) reported, "The department [of
education] recommended that any complaints undergo an initial review
by a three-member panel named by the agency, then go to the state
board for a final decision." But a BESE committee revised the
procedure so that "two reviewers will be named by the department to
review the science materials in question as well as one reviewer each
named by the challenger, the school and the publisher" of the
challenged materials.

Thus, the Advocate summarized, "people bothered by materials in a
science classroom could file a complaint with the state Department of
Education. A hearing would then be set where each side could tell its
story. Reviewers, who are supposed to be experts, can ask questions.
The five reviewers would file reports on whether the materials violate
the rules. The department can also make a recommendation. The state
board would then make a final decision." There are conflicting reports
about whether the policy was adopted by BESE at its September meeting
or whether it will be considered for adoption by the BESE at its
October meeting.

In any case, the policy is seriously flawed, according to the
Louisiana Coalition for Science: "There is no guarantee that the three
non-DOE reviewers, especially the school district's and the
publisher's appointees, will have the requisite expertise to evaluate
contested materials. A school district that permits the use of
creationist materials is likely to choose a creationist reviewer. The
publisher of creationist materials is virtually certain to choose a
creationist. ... In short, as BESE's complaint procedure is now
drafted, DOE's expert reviewers will be in the minority, and DOE staff
will not be allowed to independently assess the reviewers' reports but
must instead transfer the reports directly to BESE for evaluation."

For the Louisiana Coalition for Science's press release, visit: 

For the story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: 

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


Judge John E. Jones III, who presided over Kitzmiller v. Dover, the
2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching
"intelligent design" creationism in the public schools, will receive
the Geological Society of America's President's Medal for 2009,
according to a September 28, 2009, press release from the GSA. "It is
particularly fitting that Judge Jones receive this medal in 2009, the
bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, whose work forms the basis
of modern evolutionary theory," said Judith Totman Parrish, the past
president of GSA. She added, "Using thorough analysis of the law,
in-depth analysis of the history and origin of intelligent design
theory and acute powers of reasoning, Judge Jones'[s] opinion
decisively laid to rest the notion that intelligent design should be
taught in science classes, alongside evolution, as an alternative
theory to the evolution of life."

Jones will receive his award on October 17, 2009, during the GSA's
annual meeting in Portland, Oregon. Two days later, he will
participate in a five-member panel discussion there on "Overcoming
Resistance to the Reality of Evolutionary Change in Nature," part of a
day-long 200th birthday celebration of Charles Darwin held in
conjunction with the meeting. Also participating will be Kevin Padian,
Professor of Integrative Biology and Curator, Museum of Paleontology,
University of California, Berkeley, and president of NCSE's board of
directors; Jeremy Jackson, Director, Center for Marine Biodiversity &
Conservation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Randy Olson, the
filmmaker behind Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design
Circus; and Ray Troll, fish artist extraordinaire and coauthor of
Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway (Fulcrum, 2007).

For the GSA's press release, visit: 

For information about the GSA's Darwin celebration, visit: 


A new book published by Americans United for Separation of Church and
State offers educators and families detailed information about the law
governing religion and the public schools -- and the topic of teaching
evolution is not neglected. Chapter 4 of Religion in the Public
Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents'
Legal Rights, by Anne Marie Lofaso, a professor of law at West
Virginia University, contains a detailed review of the legal issues
surrounding the teaching of evolution. Its central points:

* Schools can neither outlaw the teaching of evolution nor give "equal
time" for discussion of evolution and "creation science"
* The theory of evolution meets the definition of science
* It is long settled that public schools cannot forbid the teaching of
evolution as part of their high school science curriculum
* It is equally well settled that public schools cannot compel the
teaching of creationism alongside evolution as part of the high school
science curriculum
* Public schools may not teach "intelligent design" alongside
evolution as part of the high school science curriculum
* Nor may public school teachers claim an "academic freedom” right to
teach about “intelligent design"
* Public schools may limit the extent to which students raise
religious evidence against evolution in science class discussion in
the same manner by which those schools limit other class discussions
* Creationism and intelligent design cannot be taught in public
schools, but objective, academic discussion about religion, such as
its role in history, is permissible in some contexts as long as the
approach is educational and not devotional

"Religion in the Public Schools effectively explains the ins and outs
of how religion should be handled in the school setting. A must-read
for parents and educators alike!" writes someone who should know --
Tammy Kitzmiller, the lead plaintiff in the 2005 case establishing the
unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism in
the public schools. Barbara Forrest, a member of NCSE's board of
directors, adds, "This book should be on the desk of every public
school teacher, principal, and school board member."

For information about the book, including its full text, visit: 

For information about Americans United, visit: 


Hear Jonathan Weiner, the author of The Beak of the Finch, discuss
"Variation" on-line! From 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. (Eastern) on October 7,
2009, Weiner will deliver the second lecture of the 150th anniversary
Origin of Species lecture series, hosted by The Reading Odyssey and
the Darwin Facebook project -- and the whole lecture will be webcast

Sponsors of the lecture series include the National Center for Science
Education, National Geographic, Citrix Online and its HiDef
Conferencing Division, Campaign Monitor, the Harvard University Museum
of Comparative Zoology, SquareSpace, the movie Creation, and the New
York Academy of Sciences. Future speakers in the series include NCSE
Supporter Sean M. Carroll and E. O. Wilson.

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- 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

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

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