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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/07/29

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Survey questions about evolution and the Big Bang are restored to
Science and Engineering Indicators -- but questions linger about the
future. Plus Texas newspapers celebrate the state board of education's
recent vote -- and NCSE's own report on that vote.


Survey questions about the American public's beliefs about evolution
and the Big Bang will be restored to the 2012 edition of Science and
Engineering Indicators -- but concerns linger about their exact
wording in the future. As NCSE reported in 2010, although survey
results about evolution and the Big Bang have regularly appeared in
the National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators, its
biennial compilation of global data about science, engineering, and
technology, since 1985, they were absent from the 2010 edition.
Controversy ensued, with Jon Miller, a science literacy researcher at
the University of Michigan, charging that the removal of the section
was a clumsy attempt to downplay a national embarrassment.

Now, according to a report in Science (July 22, 2011), "The board now
says that deleting that text was a mistake and that the 2012 edition
of Indicators, which comes out in January next year, will contain an
analysis of the survey results relating to those questions."
José-Marie Griffiths, the new chair of the committee responsible for
Indicators, told Science, "In retrospect, we shouldn't have omitted
that text from the 2010 Indicators." But the 2012 Indicators will
compare "knowledge indices measured with and without the evolution and
big bang questions," and the survey for the 2014 Indicators will test
versions of the questions prefaced with "According to evolutionary
theory" and "According to astronomers."

Miller objected to the revisions, telling Science, "The idea that a
scale should be abandoned because Americans are not scoring high
enough flies in the face of the most basic principles of scientific
measurement. ... We don't make statements like, 'According to some
economists, we had a recession' or 'According to the weatherman, we
had a tsunami.'" NCSE's Joshua Rosenau added, "Whatever the cultural
context or reasons for it, rejection of evolution has profound
consequences for a person's ability to fully integrate new and
existing science into their own lives, to participate in their own
medical care and in the 21st century economy ... If NSF's surveys
downplay that fundamental concept, they will be measuring science
literacy in name only."

For NCSE's story on evolution at the NSB in 2010, visit: 

For the article in Science (subscription required), visit: 


In the wake of the Texas state board of education's July 22, 2011,
vote to approve scientifically accurate supplementary materials and to
reject creationist-inflected materials, newspapers around the state
are rejoicing.

The Austin American-Statesman (July 25, 2011) was relieved by the
absence of "the Bible-thumping rhetoric that has become a board
trademark." "We might miss the fireworks," the editorial concluded,
"but we'll gladly trade the show for balanced policymaking that will
enable Texas students to compete in an increasingly complicated and
increasingly global economy."

The Beaumont Enterprise (July 25, 2011) wrote, "Once again, public
school students and taxpayers in Texas dodged a bullet," adding, "The
recurring battles over evolution ... are something Texans can avoid.
The State Board of Education should remember the final word in its
title and promote classroom standards that give our children the best
chance to compete and win in the 21st century."

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (July 26, 2011), urged Texans to
remember July 22, 2011, as "the day the State Board of Education
decided not to impede the teaching of a theory that predates the Civil
War. Thus, on that day, science education leapt forward and a slight
but tectonic shift in the board may have occurred. We're talking, of
course, about evolution and the endless attempts by its religiously
motivated disbelievers to monkey with it."

And the San Antonio Express-News (July 27, 2011), headlining its
editorial "This time, SBOE gets science right," expressed its pleasure
that "the board largely stuck to scientific matters in its adoption of
supplemental science instructional materials," while deploring the
board's decision in 2009 to sabotage the state science standards in
such a way as to "ensure that students in Texas public schools will
receive an inferior science education."

What's next in Texas? The fight over evolution may resume when the
adoption process for textbooks resumes in a few years -- but Senate
Bill 6, recently signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, largely
erodes the state board of education's authority over textbooks.

For the editorials, visit: 

For the text of Texas's SB 6 as enrolled, visit: 

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


Pop the champagne corks. The Texas state board of education
unanimously came down on the side of evolution. In a 14-0 vote on July
22, 2011, the board approved scientifically accurate supplementary
material from established mainstream publishers -- and did not approve
the creationist-inflected supplementary material from International

"This is a huge victory for Texas students and teachers," said NCSE's
Joshua Rosenau, who testified before the board on July 21, 2011. In
his testimony, Rosenau urged the board to approve the supplements --
recommended by a review panel largely composed of scientists and
science educators -- without amendments, and to reject the submission
from International Databases. The board did just that, asking for only
minimal changes to the approved supplements.

Rosenau was not alone in testifying in support of the mainstream
supplementary material at the July 21, 2011, hearings; NCSE members
and allies -- including Texas Citizens for Science's Steven
Schafersman and Texas Freedom Network's Kathy Miller -- showed up in
force. At least four times as many people testified in favor of the
mainstream supplementary material as testified against it.

A contentious issue was the supplementary material from Holt McDougal.
A creationist member of the review panel released a list of supposed
errors in the Holt McDougal material involving evolution and common
descent. But in the hearing, the Texas Education Agency pointed out
that the full membership of the review panel had not agreed with the
complaint; it represented only that member's opinion.

Ultimately, the board approved the Holt McDougal material, while
directing Commissioner of Education Robert Scott to review the list of
supposed errors and to develop amended language for Holt McDougal to
incorporate. NCSE and Texas education groups are confident that
Scott's revisions will reflect the current state of evolutionary
biology, and not any creationist alternatives.

Eugenie C. Scott, NCSE's executive director, celebrated the board's
decision. "These supplements reflect the overwhelming scientific
consensus that evolution is the core of modern biology, and is a
central and vital concept in any biology class," she commented. "That
these supplements were adopted unanimously reflects a long overdue
change in the board. I commend the board for its refusal to politicize
science education."

For the Associated Press's report (via the Austin American-Statesman), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, 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 x305
fax: 510-601-7204

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