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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/01/27

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Bills, bills, bills. Indiana's creation science bill passes through
committee; Leslie Brunetta argues that antievolution bills are bad for
your health; opposition to Indiana's creationist bill comes from a
variety of perspectives; the St. Louis Beacon sheds further light on
Missouri's "intelligent design" bill; and a new bill in Oklahoma
attacks both evolution and climate science. And a reminder that Darwin
Day is on its way.


Indiana's Senate Bill 89, which if enacted would allow local school
districts to "require the teaching of various theories concerning the
origin of life, including creation science," was passed by the Senate
Committee on Education and Career Development on January 25, 2012. The
vote was 8-2, with the bill's sponsor and committee chair Dennis Kruse
(R-District 14), Carlin Yoder (R-District 12), Jim Banks (R-District
17), Jim Buck (R-District 17), Luke Kenley (R-District 20), Jean
Leising (R-District 42), Scott Schneider (R-District 30), and Frank
Mrvan Jr. (D-District 1) voting for and Earline S. Rogers (D-District
3) and Tim Skinner (D-District 38) voting against the bill.

Testimony against the bill stressed the unconstitutionality of
teaching creation science, established by the Supreme Court in 1987.
Among those testifying against the bill were John Staver, professor of
chemistry and science education at Purdue University; Chuck Little,
executive director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association; David
Sklar, the Director of Government Relations for the Jewish Community
Relations Council; the Reverend Charles Allen, a chaplain for Grace
Unlimited, a campus ministry in the Indianapolis area; and Reba Boyd
Wooden, executive director of the Indiana Center for Inquiry.

For the text of Indiana's Senate Bill 89, visit: 

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


In a column for the Concord Monitor (January 22, 2012), Leslie
Brunetta criticized the latest spate of proposed antievolution
measures, writing, "these bills are bad for my health and the health
of each of the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every
year." She explains, "Although most such bills die in committee, they
legitimize the idea that the theory of evolution is just an opinion.
It is actually a robust explanation for the diversity of life on
earth, supported by thousands of observations and experiments, used to
make testable predictions about nature -- which includes our bodies."

After reviewing how evolutionary theory helps to guide cancer
research, Brunetta observed, "Meanwhile, creationists, 'intelligent
design' advocates, and other 'challengers' of evolution theory propose
no research program," and concluded, "If you're looking for a cure for
your cancer, don't look to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I
give thanks to Darwin and the researchers who have stood on his
shoulders." Brunetta is the author, with Catherine L. Craig, of Spider
Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging,
and Mating (Yale University Press, 2010).

For Brunetta's column, visit: 

For information on Spider Silk (and a sample from it), visit: 


Opposition to Indiana's Senate Bill 89, which if enacted would allow
local school districts to "require the teaching of various theories
concerning the origin of life, including creation science," is
mounting -- and coming, moreover, from a variety of perspectives.

In a letter dated January 18, 2012, the Center for Inquiry -- which
seeks to "foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom
of inquiry, and humanist values" -- wrote to the sponsor of SB 89,
Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) to request that he withdraw the bill. The
CFI's letter explained, "SB 89 would allow school boards and other
authorized educational administrators in Indiana to require that
religious belief be taught in public school classrooms as valid and
true. This would violate both the spirit and letter of the
Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution," adding, "SB 89 would
also blatantly contradict the Supreme Court's ruling in the 1987 case
Edwards v. Aguillard that teaching creationism as science in public
schools is unconstitutional." In addition to Ron Lindsay and Michael
DeDora of the CFI national office, the letter was signed by Reba Boyd
Wooden, the executive director of CFI Indiana.

In a column for the Indianapolis Star (January 20, 2012), James
McGrath offered to leave it to scientists to explain that "creation
science" is anything but scientific and to legal experts to explain
that the provisions of SB 89 are unconstitutional. "But as a professor
who teaches biblical studies," he wrote, "I want to get the word out
that 'creation science' or young-earth creationism is problematic for
another reason: It involves poor, and at times deceitful, biblical
interpretation." He recommended, "Instead of listening to charlatans
propounding pseudoscience of their own invention that is neither
biblical nor scientific, I would like to encourage people of faith in
Indiana to listen to people who share their faith and who also have
expertise in biology." McGrath is Associate Professor of Religion and
Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at
Butler University.

And Jacob Homan, in a column for the Munster, Indiana, Times (January
23, 2012), wrote, "Ratification of this bill would be both an
embarrassment to Indiana and do a tremendous disservice to students
across the state," explaining, "It would be an embarrassment because
the theory of evolution maintains a very high degree of confidence
among the scientific community and because creationism is not a
science." Noting that various religious leaders and organizations have
denounced the teaching of creationism, Homan called on the religious
community to speak out against the bill: "Religious leaders also share
the responsibility to look out for the best interest of public school
students, and SB89 is a clear deviation from that responsibility that
merits response." Homan, who hails from Whiting, Indiana, and earned
his undergraduate degree at Purdue University, is a graduate student
in political science at the University of Chicago.

SB 89 is scheduled for a committee hearing on January 25, 2012. Its
sponsor Dennis Kruse told the Indianapolis Star (January 22, 2012), "I
believe in creationism ... Just because there are constitutional
concerns doesn't mean you don't try to get something done you believe

For the text of Indiana's Senate Bill 89, visit: 

For CFI's letter (PDF), visit: 

For McGrath's column, visit: 

For Homan's column, visit: 

For the Star's column, visit: 


The St. Louis Beacon (January 19, 2012) shed light on Missouri's House
Bill 1227, which if enacted would require "intelligent design" to be
taught alongside evolution in the state's public schools. The sponsor
of the bill, Rick Brattin (R-District 124), told the Beacon, "We're
trying to say intelligent design is a very viable theory, much like
evolution." Both he and his fellow sponsor Sue Allen (R-District 92)
stressed that in their view evolution was just a theory.

But Charles Granger, a professor of biology of the University of
Missouri, St. Louis, replied, "I don't know of any practicing
biologist who has actually studied evolution who believes that
evolution is not the best explanation ... I don't think anybody argues
against the general idea. What they do argue about is mechanisms,
about how it can happen faster or slower. But as far as the general
principles, I don't know of anybody who has published anything
negative in a peer-reviewed journal."

As for Brattin and Allen's contention that evolution is just a theory
and therefore ought to be open to challenge in the classroom, NCSE's
deputy director Glenn Branch explained that as scientists use the
word, "a theory is not a hunch or conjecture. It is a systematic
explanation." He added, "In many ways, theories are more important
than facts. Facts are isolated. If you want to make sense of the
natural world, you need to have systematic explanations."

HB 911 and HB 1722, ancestors of HB 1227, died in 2004, and Allen
acknowledged that HB 1227 is not likely to be passed. Asked why such
bills are introduced, Granger speculated, "They can pull out this bill
and show it to their constituents and say see, my name is on this. I
tried." Unmentioned in the Beacon's article was Missouri's House Bill
1276, a version of the "academic freedom" antievolution bill, of which
Brattin and Allen are also sponsors.

For the article in the St. Louis Beacon, visit: 

For the text of Missouri's House Bill 1227, visit: 

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


Senate Bill 1742, prefiled in the Oklahoma Senate, is apparently the
sixth antievolution bill of 2012, following on the heels of two bills
in New Hampshire, two bills in Missouri, and one bill in Indiana. The
bill would, if enacted, require the state board of education to assist
teachers and administrators in promoting "critical thinking, logical
analysis, open and objective discussion of scientific theories
including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global
warming, and human cloning" upon request of the local school district.
The bill also provides that teachers "may use supplemental textbooks
and instructional materials to help students understand, analyze,
critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."

SB 1742 is evidently modeled in part on the so-called Louisiana
Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008 as Louisiana Revised
Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1; indeed, the bill itself declares,
"This act is modeled on a Louisiana law which has not been invalidated
by the highest court of the State of Louisiana or a federal district
court," adding, "Legal challenges to academic freedom bills have
historically alleged that such bills are intended to allow the
teaching of creationism or intelligent design. This bill does not
propose that schools teach creationism or intelligent design, rather,
it is the intent to foster an environment of critical thinking in
schools including a scientific critique of the theory of evolution."

The sole sponsor of SB 1742 is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6). In 2011,
Brecheen introduced Senate Bill 554, which combined a different
version of the "academic freedom language" -- referring to "the
scientific strengths [and] scientific weaknesses of controversial
topics ... [which] include but are not limited to biological origins
of life and biological evolution" -- with a directive for the state
board of education to adopt "standards and curricula" that echo the
flawed portions of the state science standards adopted in Texas in
2009 with respect to the nature of science and evolution. SB 554
apparently died in committee on February 28, 2011, when a deadline for
senate bills to be reported from committee passed.

Before Brecheen filed SB 554, he announced his intention to file
antievolution legislation in a column in the Durant Daily Democrat
(December 19, 2010): "Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution
is laden with errors are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to
teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific
findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable." In a subsequent column in
the newspaper (December 24, 2010), he indicated that his intention was
to have creationism presented as scientifically credible, writing, "I
have introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma
school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known
science, even that which conflicts with Darwin's religion."

Oklahomans concerned about SB 1742 are urged to get in touch with Eric
Meikle at NCSE and the grassroots organization Oklahomans for
Excellence in Science Education.

For the text of Oklahoma's Senate Bill 1742 (document), visit: 

For Brecheen's columns in the Durant Daily Democrat, visit: 

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education's website, visit: 

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


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than a month
remains before Darwin Day 2012! Colleges and universities, schools,
libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks
across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate
Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of
Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only
to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach
about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education --
which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education
currently ongoing in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma.
NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and
even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a
local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and
the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day
Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with
the Darwin Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of
congregations all over the country and around the world are taking
part in Evolution Weekend, February 10-12, 2012, by presenting sermons
and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science.
Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution
Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the
relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to
elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to
move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that
religious people from many faiths and locations understand that
evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.
Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it
clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and
science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 491
congregations in all fifty states (and ten foreign countries) were
scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.


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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