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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/04/22

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Good news from all over. Tennessee's "monkey bill" is on legislative
hold in the state senate. There are still seats available on the NCSE
expedition down the Grand Canyon. Tennessee's antievolution
legislation was criticized twice in the pages of the Knoxville News
Sentinel. Louisiana's antievolution law is the target of a repeal
effort -- led by a high school senior. And the first issue of Reports
of the National Center for Science Education in its new on-line format
is now available.


Tennessee's Senate Bill 893 -- nicknamed, along with its counterpart
House Bill 368, the "monkey bill" -- is on hold, "almost certainly
postponing any action until next year," according to the Knoxville
News Sentinel's Humphrey on the Hill blog (April 21, 2011). Its
sponsor, Bo Watson (R-District 11), assigned the bill to the general
subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee on April 20, 2011,
which was the last scheduled meeting of the committee; he told the
blog, "Practically speaking, I probably am not going to be able to run
the bill this year," although it is still possible that the committee
might have a further meeting.

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."

While still regarding SB 893 as "a good bill," Watson told the News
Sentinel's blog that he was deferring it because of concerns expressed
by faculty at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga -- where he
received a B.A. in biology -- and because of possible proposed
amendments: "I want to listen some more," he explained. The Tennessee
House of Representatives passed HB 368 on a 70-23 vote on April 7,
2011, after a debate ranging over "the scientific method,
'intellectual bullies,' hair spray, and 'Inherit the Wind,'" as the
Chattanooga Times Free Press (April 7, 2011) reported.

A particularly noteworthy moment of the House debate occurred when
Frank Niceley (R-District 17) misinvoked the authority of Albert
Einstein in support of HB 368, quoting the physicist as saying,
according to the Knoxville News Sentinel (April 8, 2011), "A little
knowledge would turn your head to atheism, while a broader knowledge
would turn your head to Christianity." Beyond the fact that the
passage is a paraphrase of a saying of the philosopher Francis Bacon,
not a quotation from Einstein, it suggests that Niceley understood the
bill to involve the promotion of Christianity, despite the
protestations of its sponsors.

Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Tennessee and a leader in the opposition to the antievolution
legislation, testifying before legislative committees and writing
op-eds against the bills, was relieved by Watson's decision to place
his bill on hold. "It's taken eighty-six years," she told NCSE, "but
perhaps at last the Tennessee legislature is learning the lesson of
the Scopes trial." She added a note of caution, though: "This is the
first step in the right direction, but it isn't the end of the story.
Science education in Tennessee won't be truly safe until the
legislature adjourns next year."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott also hailed the decision,
praising the activists in Tennessee. "This couldn't have happened
without the hard work of the ACLU of Tennessee, the Tennessee Science
Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, and all the teachers, scientists, parents, students, and just
plain folks who volunteered their time and effort to defend the
teaching of evolution in the Volunteer State." She warned, however,
"They'll need to stay sharp, though, to make sure that such
legislation can't sneak its way back to the legislative agenda."

For the text of the bills, visit: 

For the report in the Knoxville News Sentinel's Humphrey on the Hill
blog, visit: 

For the stories on the House vote on HB 368, visit: 

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


Explore the Grand Canyon with Scott, Newton, and Gish! Seats are still
available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured
in The New York Times (October 6, 2005). From June 30 to July 8, 2011,
NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a
Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott, NCSE's Steven
Newton, and paleontologist Alan ("Gish") Gishlick. Because this is an
NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the
Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history,
brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good
company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we
provide both the creationist view of the Grand Canyon (maybe not
entirely seriously) and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up
your own mind. To get a glimpse of the fun, watch the short videos
filmed during the 2009 trip, posted on NCSE's YouTube site. The cost
of the excursion is $2545; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot.
Seats are limited: call, write, or e-mail now.

For information about the trip, visit: 

For NCSE's report on the story in The New York Times, visit: 

For NCSE's YouTube site, visit: 


The Knoxville News Sentinel published back-to-back criticisms of
Tennessee's antievolution legislation -- shortly before the Senate
Education Committee was expected to resume discussion of Senate Bill
893 on April 20, 2011. Like its counterpart House Bill 368, SB 893
would, if enacted, 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."

In his April 17, 2011, op-ed, the News Sentinel's editor Jack McElroy
described the idea of critical thinking about controversial issues as
"Fair enough," but noted that the Tennessee antievolution legislation
"narrows down the 'controversial issues' to scientific subjects
including origins of life and evolution," adding, "What's up with
that?" Taking examples from history, English, and mathematics, he
argued that there are both appropriate and inappropriate controversies
to address in the classroom. "Thus we come to science," he concluded.
"There is plenty of room for critical thinking in each step in this
process. But if the thinking involves criticizing the process itself
-- and arguing there is a source of knowledge beyond the scientific
method -- then we've moved outside of science, and should move out of
the science classroom."

In its April 18, 2011, editorial, the News Sentinel described the bill
as "as best unnecessary and at worst a deceptive attempt to undermine
science education in Tennessee," adding, "The bill is not needed to
promote critical thinking because the state curriculum already
promotes critical thinking. Competent teachers are not, as the bill's
language suggests, 'unsure' about how they should teach topics like
evolution. This is a solution in search of a problem." Referring to
the verdict in the Kitzmiller case, in which teaching "intelligent
design" in the public schools was found to be unconstitutional, the
News Sentinel observed, "The judge noted that the focus only on
scientific controversies was a clue about the intent. Tennessee's
proposed bill suffers from the same shortcoming." The editorial
concluded, "The Senate should reject this needless bill and let
science teachers teach science."

For the op-ed and the editorial, visit: 

For the text of Tennessee's Senate Bill 893, visit: 

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


Senate Bill 70, prefiled in the Louisiana Senate on April 15, 2011,
and provisionally referred to the Senate Committee on Education,
would, if enacted, repeal Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which
implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and
enacted in 2008. SB 70 was introduced by Karen Carter Peterson
(D-District 5), but the driving force behind the repeal effort is
Baton Rouge high school senior Zack Kopplin, working with the
Louisiana Coalition for Science. The repeal effort is endorsed by the
National Association of Biology Teachers and the Louisiana Association
of Biology Educators.

"Louisiana's 'job killing' creationism law undermines our education
system and drives science and technology based companies away from
Louisiana," Peterson said in a press release dated April 17, 2011,
with Kopplin adding, "Louisiana public school students deserve to be
taught accurate and evidence based science which will prepare them to
take competitive jobs." The press release pointedly asked further,
"How many businesses will locate elsewhere because they want well
trained scientists? How many researchers will take their talents
elsewhere or never come to Louisiana because of this anti-science

The targeted law calls on state and local education administrators to
help to promote "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open
and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied
including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global
warming, and human cloning"; these four topics were described as
controversial in the original draft of the legislation. It also allows
teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional
materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review
scientific theories in an objective manner" if so permitted by their
local school boards.

Since 2008, antievolutionists have not only sought to undermine the
law's provision allowing challenges to unsuitable supplementary
materials but have also reportedly invoked the law to support
proposals to teach creationism in at least two parishes -- Livingston
and Tangipahoa -- and to attack the treatment of evolution in biology
textbooks proposed for adoption by the state. Meanwhile, the Society
of Vertebrate Paleontology urged Louisianans to repeal the law in
2008, and the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology decided
to hold its conferences elsewhere while the law remains on the books.

The Louisiana Coalition for Science, in a press release dated April
18, 2011, wrote, "In solidarity with Baton Rouge Magnet High School
senior Zachary Kopplin's effort to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science
Education Act ..., the Louisiana Coalition for Science supports
Senator Karen Carter Peterson's bill, SB 70, which will repeal the law
in its entirety. In the interest of Louisiana public school students,
the legislature should pass the bill and Gov. Jindal should sign it,"
urging concerned Louisianans to "call Senate Education Committee
members and their respective House and Senate representatives and ask
them to vote in favor of SB 70."

For Louisiana's SB 70 (PDF), visit: 

For Repeal Creationism's press release, visit: 

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

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


NCSE is pleased at last to announce the first issue of Reports of the
National Center for Science Education in its new on-line format. The
issue -- volume 31, number 1 -- includes Michael A. Buratovich's
"Recent Advances on the Origin of Life -- Making Biological Polymers";
Kevin C. Armitage's "How to Humanize Knowledge, or CSI: Evolution and
Climate Change"; and, in his regular People and Places column, Randy
Moore's "Don Aguillard."

Plus Mike Klymkowsky reviews Matt Young and Paul K. Strode's Why
Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails); Joel W. Martin reviews
Francisco Ayala's Am I a Monkey?; David A. Reid reviews Randy Moore,
Mark Decker, and Sehoya Cotner's Chronology of the
Evolution-Creationism Controversy; Robert H. Rothman reviews Allene S.
Phy-Olsen's Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design; Stephen P.
Weldon reviews Mano Singham's God vs. Darwin; and Matt Young reviews
Joel W. Martin's The Prism and the Rainbow.

All of these articles, features, and reviews are freely available in
PDF form from Members of NCSE will shortly be 
receiving in the mail the print supplement to Reports 31:1, which
contains, in addition to summaries of the on-line material, news from
the membership, a new column in which NCSE staffers offer personal
reports on what they've been doing to defend the teaching of
evolution, and thanks to our donors and supporters. (Not a member?
Join today!)

For the table of contents for RNCSE 31:1, visit: 

For information about joining NCSE, 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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