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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/03/09

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The effort to repeal Louisiana's antievolution law is back. A
creationist teacher in Ohio receives a further legal defeat. NCSE
announces the 2012 recipients of its Friend of Darwin award. And a
court ruling protects a climate scientist undergoing what he called a
"witch hunt."


Senate Bill 374, prefiled in the Louisiana Senate on March 1, 2012,
and provisionally referred to the Senate Committee on Education,
would, if enacted, repeal Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which
implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and
enacted in 2008. The bill was introduced by Karen Carter Peterson
(D-District 5), who sponsored the identical SB 70 in 2011. That bill
died in committee when the Louisiana state legislature adjourned in
2011, but Zach Kopplin, the student who spearheaded the effort, then
vowed, "we'll come back with an even stronger repeal next session."

True to his word, Kopplin (who was recently named as a recipient of
NCSE's Friend of Darwin Award for 2012) announced in a March 6, 2012,
press release that the repeal effort was back -- now with "the
unprecedented support of 75 Nobel laureate scientists -- nearly 40% of
all living Nobel laureate scientists in physics, chemistry, or
physiology or medicine." Peterson commented, "This year the Governor
has asked the Louisiana legislature to focus on education ... If this
Legislative session is truly about improving Louisiana?s education
system, then the first place to start is to repeal the Louisiana
Science Education Act."

The law targeted for repeal calls on state and local education
administrators to help to promote "critical thinking skills, logical
analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories
being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of
life, global warming, and human cloning"; these four topics were
described as controversial in the original draft of the legislation.
It also allows teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other
instructional materials to help students understand, analyze,
critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" if so
permitted by their local school boards.

Since 2008, antievolutionists have not only sought to undermine the
law's provision allowing challenges to unsuitable supplementary
materials but have also reportedly invoked the law to support
proposals to teach creationism in at least two parishes -- Livingston
and Tangipahoa -- and to attack the treatment of evolution in biology
textbooks proposed for adoption by the state. Meanwhile, the Society
of Vertebrate Paleontology urged Louisianans to repeal the law in
2008, and the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology decided
to hold its conferences elsewhere while the law remains on the books.

Endorsing the repeal effort in 2011 were the National Association of
Biology Teachers, the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators, the
Louisiana Coalition for Science, the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, the American Institute for Biological
Sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology,
the American Society for Cell Biology, the Society for the Study of
Evolution together with the Society of Systematic Biologists and the
American Society of Naturalists, the Clergy Letter Project, the New
Orleans City Council, and the Baton Rouge Advocate.

For Louisiana's Senate Bill 374 (PDF), visit: 

For the press release, visit: 

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


John Freshwater's legal challenge to the decision to terminate his
employment as a middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio,
was defeated again, on March 5, 2012, when Ohio's Fifth District Court
of Appeals upheld a lower court's rejection of his challenge. It is
still open to Freshwater to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court
of Ohio, however, so the case -- which ultimately stems from a
complaint against Freshwater lodged in 2008 -- may continue to linger
in the Ohio court system.

In 2008, a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in
inappropriate religious activity -- including teaching creationism --
and sued Freshwater and the district. The Mount Vernon City School
Board then voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment.
After thorough administrative hearings that proceeded over two years
and involved more than eighty witnesses, the referee presiding over
the hearings issued his recommendation that the board terminate
Freshwater's employment with the district, and the board voted to do
so in January 2011.

Freshwater challenged his termination in the Knox County Court of
Common Pleas in February 2011, but the court found "there is clear and
convincing evidence to support the Board of Education's termination of
Freshwater's contract(s) for good and just cause." Freshwater then
appealed the decision to Ohio's Fifth District Court of Appeals in
December 2011. NCSE filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the
appellate court, arguing that Freshwater's materials and methods
concerning evolution "have no basis in science and serve no
pedagogical purpose."

Documents relevant to Freshwater's termination and the subsequent
court case are available on NCSE's website. Extensive blog coverage of
the Freshwater saga, including Richard B. Hoppe's day-by-day account
of Freshwater's termination hearing, is available at The Panda's Thumb
blog; search for "Freshwater". Hoppe also recently contributed "Dover
Comes to Ohio" -- a detailed account from a local observer of the
whole fracas, from the precipitating incident to Freshwater's appeal
-- to Reports of the National Center for Science Education 32:1.

For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: 

For The Panda's Thumb blog, visit: 

For Hoppe's "Dover Comes to Ohio" (PDF), visit: 

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


NCSE is pleased to announce the winners of the Friend of Darwin award
for 2012: Judy Scotchmoor, the Assistant Director for Education and
Public Programs at the University of California Museum of Paleontology
who led the development of the popular Understanding Evolution
website, and Zach Kopplin, the young activist who as a high school
student in Baton Rouge in 2011 launched a drive to repeal Louisiana's
antievolution law.

In a March 5, 2012, press release, NCSE's executive director Eugenie
C. Scott commented, "It would be difficult to think of another person
who has done more, and in such a sustained way, to promote and improve
the teaching of evolution" than Scotchmoor. The release also quoted
Kopplin as vowing that despite the failure of the repeal effort in
2011, "[i]n 2012 I plan to fight the LSEA and keep fighting every year
until it is repealed."

Scotchmoor and Kopplin join Carl Zimmer, Brian Alters, Marjorie Esman,
Kenneth R. Miller, Niles Eldredge, Philip Kitcher, Lawrence Krauss,
Howard Van Till, Steven Schafersman, and the Texas Freedom Network, to
name a few, as NCSE's Friends of Darwin. The Friend of Darwin award is
presented annually to a select few whose efforts to support NCSE and
advance its goal of defending the teaching of evolution in the public
schools have been truly outstanding.

For the press release, visit: 

For the list of Friends of Darwin, visit: 


Climate scientist Michael Mann's private e-mails and research notes
will remain private, thanks to a ruling by the Virginia Supreme Court.
"Virginia's highest court has ruled that Attorney General Ken
Cuccinelli cannot compel the University of Virginia to turn over
records dealing with the work of a former university climate
scientist," reports the Roanoke Times (March 2, 2012). The Guardian
(March 2, 2012) explains, "The court rejected Ken Cuccinelli's demand
for Mann's email, research notes, and even handwritten memos from his
time at the University of Virginia, ruling that the official did not
have the legal authority to demand such records."

Mann, who departed the University of Virginia for Penn State
University in 2005, expressed his pleasure at the ruling, telling the
Richmond News Leader (March 2, 2012), "I'm pleased that this
particular episode is over." He added, "It's sad, though, that so much
money and resources had to be wasted on Cuccinelli's witch hunt
against me and the University of Virginia, when it could have been
invested, for example, in measures to protect Virginia's coast line
from the damaging effects of sea level rise it is already seeing."

Mann rose to scientific prominence as well as a degree of popular fame
thanks to his reconstruction of global temperature over the last
thousand years, based on ice cores, lake sediment cores, and tree ring
data as well as instrumental records. But his research drew fire from
climate change deniers, who, as the Guardian explains, "accuse him of
manipulating data. Such accusations multiplied after emails to and
from Mann were made public as part of a batch released without
authorisation from the University of East Anglia's climate research
unit. Mann was cleared of wrongdoing by several investigations."

The suit began two years ago, only months after Cuccinelli took
office. Cuccinelli, described by the Richmond News Leader as "a global
warming skeptic," claimed that a state law related to taxpayer fraud
gave the state a right to review private e-mails stored on university
servers. Mann resisted the request for documents, citing academic
freedom. The University of Virginia joined Mann's resistance, "arguing
that the demand exceeded Cuccinelli's authority under state law and
intruded on the rights of professors to pursue academic inquiry free
from political pressure," according to the Washington Post (March 2,

The state supreme court voided Cuccinelli's request on narrow terms,
ruling that the university is not covered by the law in question.
Cuccinelli decried the court's decision, insisting, "From the
beginning, we have said that we were simply trying to review documents
that are unquestionably state property to determine whether or not
fraud had been committed." In August 2010, a lower court judge
concluded, "What the Attorney General suspects Mr. Mann did that was
false or fraudulent ... is simply not stated," a conclusion affirmed
in a concurrence to the Supreme Court ruling.

Mann's allies in the fight celebrated the ruling. Kent Willis of the
ACLU of Virginia told the News Leader, "If academic freedom means
anything, it is that scientists and other scholars should be able to
communicate freely without fear that the government is looking over
their shoulders." The ACLU of Virginia filed an amicus brief
supporting Mann, joined by the American Association of University
Professors, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free
Expression, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The UCS also
provides a timeline of the lawsuit and links to original documents on
its website.

For the article in the Roanoke Times, visit: 

For the article in the Guardian, visit: 

For the article in the Richmond News Leader, visit: 

For the article in the Washington Post, visit: 

For the lower court's 2010 ruling (PDF), visit: 

For the amicus brief supporting Mann (PDF), visit: 

For information on the case from the Union of Concerned Scientists, 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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