NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/04/08
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Bad news from Tennessee, where antievolution legislation passed the House and is under consideration by a Senate committee. Plus the winner of NCSE's UpChucky award for 2010.
TENNESSEE ANTIEVOLUTION BILL PASSES THE HOUSE Tennessee's House Bill 368 passed the House of Representatives on a 70-23 vote on April 7, 2011. "The debate ranged over the scientific method, 'intellectual bullies,' hair spray and 'Inherit the Wind,'" reported the Chattanooga Times Free Press (April 7, 2011). 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 sponsor of HB 368, Bill Dunn (R-District 16), claimed that the teaching of "intelligent design" would not be protected by the bill. Its chief lobbyist, David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, claimed otherwise in the Chattanoogan (February 21, 2011). The Tennessean (in its editorial of March 29, 2011), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee have all expressed their opposition to HB 368, with the Tennessee Science Teachers Association -- representing the supposed beneficiaries of the bill -- characterizing it as "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional." The TSTA's Becky Ashe, who is also the executive director of curriculum and instruction for Knox County Schools, told the Knoxville Metro Pulse (April 6, 2011) that in her decade of service there, no teacher has been disciplined for mentioning alternative beliefs to evolution in the classroom. She added that the science standards already emphasize critical thinking, making the bill completely unnecessary. The Senate version of the bill, SB 893, was discussed, but not voted on, by the Senate Education Committee on March 30, 2011; according to the Metro Pulse, a committee vote is not expected until April 20, 2011. For the story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, visit: http://timesfreepress.com/news/2011/apr/07/tennessee-house-oks-bill-shielding-teachers-who-do/ For Fowler's op-ed in the Chattanoogan, visit: http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_195128.asp For the editorial in The Tennessean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110330/OPINION01/103300339/Editorial-Science-legislation-makes-monkeys-all-us For NCSE's coverage of the opposition to HB 368, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2011/03/opposition-to-antievolution-bill-continues-tennessee-006541 For the story in the Knoxville Metro Pulse, visit: http://www.metropulse.com/news/2011/apr/06/critical-thinking-or-creationism-tennessee-classro/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee THE LATEST ON TENNESSEE'S ANTIEVOLUTION BILLS Tennessee's Senate Bill 893 was discussed, but not voted on, by the Senate Education Committee on March 30, 2011. The Chattanooga Times Free Press (March 31, 2011) reported that its sponsor Bo Watson (R-District 11) denied that SB 893 -- recently dubbed "the monkey bill" by a fellow legislator -- attacks evolution. But high school biology teacher Wesley Roberts, who testified against the bill, told the committee, "part of our rich cultural history in Tennessee is opposition to evolution education. This bill is part of that tradition. It is not inviting students to discuss the controversy of the Vietnam war. It's not encouraging students to discuss the true value of pi. It's aimed at science and evolution." Speaking to reporters afterward, Watson acknowledged, "evolution is the most legitimate scientific process that we have to explain how the world works around us," but claimed "there are competing ideas" such as creationism. "They may not meet the scientific standard," Watson was quoted as saying, "but if they come up in a science class ... and it's not listed in the state's curriculum, a teacher should not be off-putting and say that's not in the curriculum -- if you want to talk about intelligent design you should go down the hall to the religious studies class. Teachers should be able to say, look, there are people who view that as a competing idea." House Bill 368, the counterpart of SB 893, passed the House Education Committee on March 29, 2011, and referred to the House Calendar and Rules Committee, chaired by its sponsor Bill Dunn (R-District 16). In a stinging editorial published the same day, the Nashville Tennessean (March 29, 2011) denounced the antievolution legislation in Tennessee, writing, "when a piece of legislation is so distorted in fact, so misleading in its intent, and so fraught with the potential to do more harm than good to the people and the reputation of Tennessee, it must be shown for what it is," and describing it as "not only an attack on science but on First Amendment guarantees of speech and religious freedoms." A later article in The Tennessean (April 3, 2011) -- headlined "TN bill would let God into science classrooms" -- discussed the legislation in the context of the state science standards, which include evolution but not creationism. Bo Watson told the newspaper, "Teachers should be able to answer [questions] without feeling they violate the curriculum standards," but Molly Miller, a professor of geology at Vanderbilt University, who testified against SB 893, told the Senate Education Committee, "This bill is unnecessary ... Teachers are already mandated to teach all sides of scientific controversies. Why should legislators change the science standards, overruling those that worked hard?" For the story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, visit: http://timesfreepress.com/news/2011/mar/31/watson-says-bill-not-attack-evolution/ For the editorial in The Tennessean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110330/OPINION01/103300339/Editorial-Science-legislation-makes-monkeys-all-us For the story in The Tennessean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20110403/NEWS0201/104030365/TN-bill-would-let-God-into-science-classrooms And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee ANNOUNCING THE UPCHUCKY AWARD FOR 2010 Not content only to honor those who have valiantly defended the teaching of evolution in the public schools with its annual Friend of Darwin award (presented for 2010 to Niles Eldredge), NCSE also presents the annual UpChucky, bestowed on the most noisome creationist of the year. "It's a spoof award, of course," explained NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, "but even so there's a lot of competition out there, unfortunately." The nominees for 2010, as announced in a press release issued on March 29, 2011, were: Answers in Genesis, for its proposed Ark Encounter theme park; John Freshwater, the Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school science teacher who was fired over his inappropriate religious activity in the classroom, including teaching creationism; and the Louisiana Family Forum, for its unremitting attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution in Louisiana's public schools. And the winner is ... Answers in Genesis, whose "Ark Park" project is already controversial not only because of the threat it poses to the state's reputation but also because of the prospect of its receiving state tourism development incentives, to the tune of 37.5 million dollars over ten years. "I don't remember Noah asking for a government handout to build his ark," joked NCSE's Scott. "Why isn't Answers in Genesis following his model?" For the UpChucky press release, visit: http://ncse.com/evolution/second-annual-upchucky-awards-announced For the 2010 Friend of Darwin award announcement, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2011/03/friend-darwin-award-niles-eldredge-006559 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://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/membership