NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/02/10
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Speculations and recommendations about the creationist bill in Indiana; the (partial) return of evolution to Science and Engineering Indicators; and the advent of Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR INDIANA'S CREATIONISM BILL? Indiana's Senate Bill 89, passed by the Senate on January 31, 2012, is off to the House of Representatives, and speculations and recommendations about its fate are circulating. As amended by the Senate, the bill would allow local school districts to offer "instruction on various theories of origins of life" which "must include theories from multiple religions" -- prompting the Times of Munster (January 31, 2012) to predict, "Hoosier public school students soon may be taught life was created by God, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, the human mind and/or Xenu, dictator of the Galactic Confederacy." The Times of Munster subsequently reported (February 2, 2012) that the bill "probably will not be voted on by the Republican-controlled House" on the grounds that House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-District 88) "has not made a final determination on whether Senate Bill 89 will get a hearing and vote, but said he believes the General Assembly should not mandate what's taught in science classrooms." So far, the bill has not been assigned to a House committee; it would have to be approved by its committee and by the full House by March 5, 2012, in order to be passed by the legislature. Newspapers around the state have been critical of the Senate's passage of the bill. The Indianapolis Star (February 1, 2012) described SB 89 as a "toxic mix of religion and science" and called on the state attorney general and the state superintendent of public instruction to speak out against it. The Evanston Courier & Press (February 3, 2012), insisted that "it is clear that those lawmakers attempting to push creationism into the public school biology class want it taught on equal footing with evolution, which is based on scientific research and evidence. Creationism brings no such scientific evidence to the science class." Why was the bill, which originally would have allowed school districts to require instruction in creation science, amended? A blogger for the Village Voice (February 1, 2012), after interviewing state senator Vi Simpson (D-District 40), who introduced the amendment, explained that it "was a brilliant attempt to sabotage the bill. By adding in other religions (Islam, in Indiana!), her wording would probably make the bill completely unattractive to local school boards, who are under no obligation to follow its suggestion anyway." Simpson added, "My number one intention is to kill the bill or at least kill the effectiveness of it." For the 1/3/2012 story in the Times of Munster, visit: http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/ind-senate-votes-for-schools-to-teach-creationism/article_fab659bf-98ce-53b4-af5d-836dac998c89.html For the 2/2/2012 story in the Times of Munster, visit: http://www.nwitimes.com/news/state-and-regional/indiana/creationism-bill-may-not-get-indiana-house-vote/article_e3b1a130-cf35-5e41-9e33-b403dcd5529a.html For the two editorials, visit: http://www.indystar.com/article/20120202/OPINION08/202020332/Toxic-mix-religion-science http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/feb/03/teaching-creationism-belongs-in-history-lit-not/ For the post on the Village Voice's blog, visit: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/02/vi_simpson_the.php EVOLUTION (PARTLY) RESTORED TO NSB REPORT Almost half -- 47% -- of Americans surveyed in 2010 agreed that "human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals," and 38% agreed that "the universe began with a huge explosion." Those results are reported in Science and Engineering Indicators 2012, a biennial report from the National Science Board. The figures are basically unchanged through the years for which data is provided, from 1985 for evolution and from 1988 for the Big Bang. The report also contains a brief discussion of the public controversies over evolution education. Science Engineering Indicators 2010 deleted a section similarly describing the survey results about the American public's beliefs about evolution and the Big Bang, a decision which drew criticism at the time, including from veteran science literacy researcher Jon Miller, who originally devised the question about evolution, and from NCSE's Joshua Rosenau, who told Science (April 9, 2010), "Discussing American science literacy without mentioning evolution is intellectual malpractice ... It downplays the controversy." The National Science Board later acknowledged to Science (July 22, 2011) that deleting the text was a mistake. But although the new report discusses the survey data, those questions are excluded from its measure of science literacy. Eleven factual questions, covering a variety of topics in addition to evolution and the Big Bang, were used to assess science literacy in previous versions of Science Engineering Indicators; nine questions, excluding evolution and the Big Bang, are used in the 2010 and 2012 versions. In 2010, the then chair of the Science and Engineering Indicators committee told Science that the questions were excluded as "flawed indicators because the responses conflated knowledge and beliefs." The 2012 report, however, argues that they were excluded as unnecessary: "the social science foundation for using either 11 items or 9 items together in one scale is well-supported," adding, "Whether or not these two questions are included in a scale of factual science knowledge has little bearing on the summary portrait of Americans' knowledge that the scale portrays." For Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 (PDF), visit: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/pdf/c07.pdf For the longitudinal data (PDF), visit: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/append/c7/at07-09.pdf For the articles from Science (subscription required): http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5975/150.full http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6041/394.full DARWIN DAY IS NEARLY HERE It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: Darwin Day 2012 is practically here! 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, 560 congregations in all fifty states (and ten foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events. For the Darwin Day registry, visit: http://darwinday.org/events/ http://darwinday.org/wp-login.php?action=register For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ 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 and climate education and threats to them. -- 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