NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/06/03
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Texas's "intelligent design" bill dies in committee, while The New York Times worries that Kentucky's ark park "pushes the constitutional envelope" and the Arkansas Science Teachers Association adds its voice for evolution.
TEXAS "INTELLIGENT DESIGN" BILL DIES When the Texas legislature adjourned sine die on May 30, 2011, House Bill 2454 died in the House Committee on Higher Education without receiving a hearing. If enacted, HB 2454 would have provided, "An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member's or student's conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms." The sponsors of HB 2454 were Bill Zedler (R-District 96) and James White (R-District 12). In a March 9, 2011, post on its blog, the Texas Freedom Network commented, "Disingenuous efforts by creationists to portray themselves as persecuted in mainstream academia for their anti-evolution beliefs are getting a boost from a Texas lawmaker" and described the bill as emulating "the strategy by creationist/'intelligent design' proponents to portray themselves as martyrs." TFN added, "Zedler's bill would ... require our colleges and universities to aid and protect academic fraud. But with the State Board of Education promoting anti-science propaganda in public schools, we shouldn't be surprised that higher education is increasingly a target as well. Of the nine antievolution bills introduced in seven states in 2011 so far, seven -- Florida's SB 1854, Kentucky's HB 169, New Mexico's HB 302, Oklahoma's SB 554 and HB 1551, and Texas's HB 2454 -- are dead. Tennessee's HB 368 -- nicknamed "the monkey bill" by House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh -- passed in the House of Representatives, but its Senate 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, was shelved in the Senate Education Committee on a 5-1 vote on May 26, 2011, and is not expected to be heard again by the committee. For the text of Texas's HB 2454, visit: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/82R/billtext/html/HB02454I.htm For the TFN's blog post, visit: http://tfninsider.org/2011/03/09/bad-science-and-persecution-complexes/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncse.com/news/texas THE NEW YORK TIMES ON THE ARK PARK The New York Times offered its view on Kentucky's decision to grant tax incentives to Ark Encounter, the proposed creationist theme park in northern Kentucky. In its May 31, 2011, editorial, the Times wrote, "A project just approved in Kentucky pushes the constitutional envelope," arguing that although the incentives are likely to withstand a possible legal challenge, "granting tax incentives to the explicitly Christian enterprise clearly clashes with the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion. Public money is not supposed to pay to advance religion. Kentucky's citizens should certainly ask themselves if this is really the best use of taxpayer dollars." Kentucky's own newspapers have been concerned about the state's involvement with Ark Encounter -- as well as the message it sends about the state's commitment to science. For example, the Louisville Courier-Journal (December 2, 2010) editorially complained, "in a state that already suffers from low educational attainment in science, one of the last things Kentucky officials should encourage, even if only implicitly, is for students and young people to regard creationism as scientifically valid," and the Lexington Herald-Leader (December 3, 2010) editorially observed, "Hostility to science, knowledge and education does little to attract the kind of employers that will provide good-paying jobs with a future." For the editorial in The New York Times, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/opinion/31tue4.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, visit: http://ncse.com/news/kentucky ARKANSAS SCIENCE TEACHERS ADD THEIR VOICE FOR EVOLUTION The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a statement from the Arkansas Science Teachers Association, issued in 2008, updating its previous statement from 2006. In its statement, the ASTA expresses its strong support for "the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included and maintained in the state K-12 science education frameworks and curricula," adding, "Evolution is not taught in many Arkansas school districts. These students in these districts will not achieve the level of scientific literacy they needed in an increasingly technological and scientific society." The statement discusses the scientific invalidity of "creation science" and "intelligent design" as well as the constitutional barriers to teaching them as scientifically credible in the public schools, recommending that "[s]chool boards, district administrators[,] and teacher[s] need to understand that science and not religious ideas should be taught in science classrooms in our public schools" and warning of the legal and administrative consequences of not doing so. The ASTA's statement is now reproduced, by permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution. For the ASTA's statement (document), visit: http://www.arkscience.org/ASTAPositionSt2008.doc For Voices for Evolution, visit: http://ncse.com/voices 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/join