NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/05/20
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Kentucky plans to grant tax incentives to a creationist theme park. Meanwhile, Missouri's antievolution bill died in committee, NCSE is offering a preview of Steve Jones's The Darwin Archipelago, and seats are still available for NCSE's next trip down the Grand Canyon.
KENTUCKY TO GRANT TAX INCENTIVES TO ARK PARK The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted unanimously on May 19, 2011, to grant tax incentives to Ark Encounter, according to the Associated Press (May 19, 2011). Ark Encounter is the proposed creationist theme park in northern Kentucky. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 1, 2010), "Ark Encounter, which will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah's Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes, is projected to cost $150 million and create 900 jobs ... The park, to be located on 800 acres in Grant County off Interstate 75, also will include a Walled City, live animal shows, a replica of the Tower of Babel, a 500-seat special-effects theater, an aviary and a first-century Middle Eastern village." Collaborating on the project are Ark Encounter LLC and the young-earth creationist ministry Answers in Genesis, which already operates a Creation "Museum" in northern Kentucky. The tax incentives will allow Ark Encounter to recoup 25 percent of its development costs by retaining the sales tax generated by the project. With the development costs of the park estimated at 150 million dollars, the incentives would amount to 37.5 million dollars over ten years. Whether it is consistent with the federal and Kentucky constitutions for the state to grant the incentives to the project is still not clear; Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law told The New York Times (December 5, 2010) that "if it's the Bible's account of history that they’re presenting, then the government is paying for the advancement of religion," while Bill Sharp of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky told USA Today (December 5, 2010), "Courts have found that giving such tax exemptions on a nondiscriminatory basis does not violate the establishment clause, even when the tax exemption goes to a religious purpose." In a May 19, 2011, press release, the Reverend Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, declared, "The state of Kentucky should not be promoting the spread of fundamentalist Christianity or any other religious viewpoint ... Let these folks build their fundamentalist Disneyland without government help." Lynn said that Americans United would investigate whether the incentives violated the separation of church and state, but argued that the state's funding of the project was bad policy in any case. "[Governor] Beshear wants to launch this ark on a sea of tax breaks -- money that will ultimately have to be made up by Kentucky taxpayers," Lynn said. "This misguided project deserves to sink." He added, "I feel sorry for the children of Kentucky. At a time when they should be learning modern science, their public officials are subsidizing fundamentalist religion." For the Associated Press's story (via the Lexington Herald-Leader), visit: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/05/19/1745884/noahs-ark-theme-park-gets-go-ahead.html For the stories in The New York Times and USA Today, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/us/06ark.html http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2010-12-05-noahs-ark-kentucky-creation-museum_N.htm For Americans United's press release, visit: http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2011/05/americans-united-criticizes.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, visit: http://ncse.com/news/kentucky MISSOURI ANTIEVOLUTION BILL DIES When the Missouri General Assembly adjourned on May 13, 2011, House Bill 195 died in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee without receiving a hearing. If enacted, the bill would have required state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." HB 195 was the second of the nine antievolution bills introduced in seven states in 2011 so far. Of the remaining bills, Florida's SB 1854, Kentucky's HB 169, New Mexico's HB 302, and Oklahoma's SB 554 and HB 1551 are dead; Texas's HB 2454 is still in committee but is expected to die when the legislature adjourns on May 30, 2011; and Tennessee's HB 368 passed in the House of Representatives, but its counterpart SB 893 is on hold until 2012. In the meantime, Louisiana's Senate Bill 70, which if enacted would repeal the state's antievolution bill enacted in 2008, is in the Senate Education Committee -- currently chaired by Ben Nevers (D-District 12), who shepherded the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act through the state senate in 2008. For the text of Missouri's House Bill 195, visit: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills111/biltxt/intro/HB0195I.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncse.com/news/missouri A GLIMPSE OF DARWIN'S ARCHIPELAGO NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Steve Jones's The Darwin Archipelago: The Naturalist's Career Beyond Origin of Species (Yale University Press, 2011). The preview consists of the first two pages of each of the nine chapters -- "The Queen's Orang-Utan," "The Green Tyrannosaurs," "Shock and Awe," "The Triumph of the Well Bred," "The Domestic Ape," "The Thinking Plant," "A Perfect Fowl," "Where the Bee Sniffs," and "The Worms Crawl In" -- and thus conveys a sense of how Jones approaches his task of exploring and updating the more obscure works in Darwin's oeuvre, from The Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilised by Insects to The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms. The publisher writes, "Charles Darwin is of course best known for The Voyage of the Beagle and The Origin of Species. But he produced many other books over his long career, exploring specific aspects of the theory of evolution by natural selection in greater depth. The eminent evolutionary biologist Steve Jones uses these lesser-known works as springboards to examine how their essential ideas have generated whole fields of modern biology. ... Through this delightful introduction to Darwin's oeuvre, one begins to see Darwin's role in biology as resembling Einstein's in physics: he didn't have one brilliant idea but many and in fact made some seminal contribution to practically every field of evolutionary study." For the preview of The Darwin Archipelago (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/pub/evolution/Excerpt--archipelago.pdf For information about the book from its publisher, visit: http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300155402 NCSE AND THE GRAND CANYON 2011 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: http://ncse.com/about/excursions/gcfaq For NCSE's report on the story in The New York Times, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2005/10/seeing-creation-evolution-grand-canyon-00771 For NCSE's YouTube site, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCen4ScienceEd 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 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.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