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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/02/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A Darwin Day resolution is introduced in Congress. The documentary
Kansas vs. Darwin is freely available on-line for a limited time. In
Mount Vernon, Ohio, a controversy involving creationism promises to
continue to linger, with a complaint filed by John Freshwater. And the
sixth antievolution bill of 2011 makes its appearance, in Tennessee.


House Resolution 81, introduced in the United States House of
Representatives on February 9, 2011, would, if passed, express the
House's support of designating February 12, 2011, as Darwin Day, and
its recognition of "Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to
celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of
human knowledge." Pete Stark (D-California) was originally the sole
sponsor of the bill; he was later joined by Edward J. Markey
(D-Massachusetts). After its introduction, H. Res. 81 was referred to
the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and then to the
Subcommittee on Research and Science Education.

Introducing the resolution, Stark commented, "Charles Darwin was born
on February 12, 1809, and his life has had a profound impact on the
course of human history. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural
selection has not only provided a compelling explanation for the
diversity of life, it is also the foundation of modern biology and
genetics. Darwin exemplified the scientific curiosity that has led to
new scientific breakthroughs that have helped humanity solve numerous
problems and improve our quality of life. Charles Darwin is worthy of
recognition and honor. His birthday should be a time for us to
celebrate the advancement of human knowledge and the achievements of
reason and science."

Stark told the San Jose Mercury (February 11, 2011) that he was "just
trying to get people to understand that we're trying to get our kids
to be scientists, were pushing for green jobs and green development,
and you can't stick your head in the sand and not recognize that we're
in a modern age. To get there, it seems to me, we have to understand
that science is all part of what we're doing." The resolution was
promptly endorsed by the American Humanist Association and the Center
for Inquiry. The Mercury's reporter predicted that the resolution
would fail, however: "in this conservative, Republican-dominated
House," he quipped, "it'll surely be deemed not fit to survive."

"I'm glad to see a Congressional proposal to recognize the importance
of Darwin and of the teaching of evolution," commented NCSE's
executive director Eugenie C. Scott, "and I encourage members and
friends of NCSE to urge their representatives to support H. Res. 81."
Alluding to Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer's recent commentary in
Science, she added, "But let's remember that the real action occurs in
the classroom, where 13% of high school biology teachers are
explicitly advocating creationism and 60% are sadly reluctant to teach
evolution in the way that the scientific community understands it.
Support H. Res. 81, but don't neglect the many ways to defend the
teaching of evolution locally."

For the text of House Resolution 81, visit: 

For Stark's remarks on introducing the resolution (PDF), visit: 

For the story in the San Jose Mercury, visit: 

For the AHA's and the CFI's endorsements, visit: 

For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit: 

And for a list of ways to support evolution education, visit: 


In honor of Darwin Day 2011, the documentary Kansas vs. Darwin is
freely available on-line for thirty days, from February 12 to March
14, 2011. Simply visit the film's website and click on the yellow
sunflower or visit the film's Facebook page and click on the Events
icon. Directed by Jeff Tamblyn, Kansas vs. Darwin covers the May 2005
hearings of proposed revisions to the Kansas state science standards.

The hearings, orchestrated by three antievolutionist members of the
board, were widely condemned as a kangaroo court, intended only to
provide political cover for the antievolution faction on the board to
override the consensus of the committee of scientists, science
educators, and citizens appointed to revise the science standards in
order to undermine the treatment of evolution and allied topics in the

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott praised the documentary as
"a thoughtful and thorough introduction to a greatly misunderstood
event: the 2005 Kansas Board of Education hearings on intelligent
design and evolution. With remarkable footage of the hearings
themselves along with candid interviews of the principals, the film
presents both sides accurately and fairly, and with a healthy dollop
of humor."

For the film's website and Facebook page, visit: 

For NCSE's report on the hearings, visit: 


John Freshwater is now challenging the Mount Vernon City Schools Board
of Education's decision to terminate his employment as a middle school
science teacher. The Mount Vernon News (February 11, 2011) reports
that on February 8, 2011, Freshwater "filed a complaint, which could
also be considered an appeal, with the Knox County Common Pleas Court
... asking the court for a reversal of the Mount Vernon school board's
decision to terminate his teaching contract."

After a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate
religious activity -- including teaching creationism -- and sued
Freshwater and the district in 2008, the board voted to begin
proceedings to terminate his employment. After administrative hearings
that proceeded sporadically over two years, the referee presiding over
the hearings finally issued his recommendation that the board
terminate his employment with the district, and the board voted to do
so in January 2011.

Freshwater's thirty-three page complaint asks the court for "a
reversal of the board's resolution to terminate him, monetary damages
in an amount to be determined, damages for defamation, false light,
emotional distress, constitutional violations, reinstatement to his
teaching position, and other relief" (pp. 32-33). Among the plethora
of allegations contained in the complaint: "Creationism and/or
Intelligent Design are NOT religions, nor is either reflective of
beliefs or tenets unique to any particular religion" (p. 10).

For the story in the Mount Vernon News, visit: 

For Freshwater's complaint (PDF), visit: 


House Bill 368, introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives
on February 9, 2011, is the sixth antievolution bill introduced in a
state legislature in 2011, and the first introduced in Tennessee since
2007. The bill, if enacted, would require state and local educational
authorities to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the
science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and
permit teachers 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." The only examples provided of "controversial" theories are
"biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming,
and human cloning." The sole sponsor of HB 368 is Bill Dunn
(R-District 16), who, according to Project Vote Smart, answered yes to
the question “Should Tennessee require its public schools to teach
evolution as theory rather than scientific fact?” in 1996 -- the same
year in which the Tennessee legislature considered a bill (SB 3229/HB
2972) that would have provided for the suspension or dismissal of any
teacher or administrator who taught evolution as a fact rather than a

For the text of Tennessee's HB 368 (PDF), visit: 

For Project Vote Smart's report, visit: 

For the text of 1996's SB 3229 and HB 2972, visit: 

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

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

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