NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/03/23
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Tennessee's "monkey bill" passes the state senate. Plus a new resource on energy education. Opposition to Tennessee's "monkey bill" from the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and ten Tennessee members of the National Academies. And antievolution bills fail in New Hampshire but continue in Oklahoma.
"MONKEY BILL" PASSES TENNESSEE SENATE "The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories," the Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 19, 2012) reported, adding, "Critics call it a 'monkey bill' that promotes creationism in classrooms." The bill in question is Senate Bill 893, which, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Among those expressing opposition to the bill are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, whose president Becky Ashe described the legislation as "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional." The Senate vote was 24-8. According to the Tennesseean (March 20, 2012), Andy Berke (D-District 10) "noted the state?s history as a battleground over evolution -- the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 drew national attention and inspired the Oscar-winning film Inherit the Wind -- and said the measure would cast Tennessee in a bad light." Berke also objected that the bill would encourage inappropriate discussions of religious matters, saying, "If my children ask, ?How does that mesh with my faith?? I don?t want their teacher answering that question." The bill now proceeds to the House of Representatives, which passed the counterpart House Bill 368 on April 7, 2011. SB 893 was amended in committee before it passed the Senate, however, so the two houses of the legislature will have to resolve the discrepancies between the bills. Tennessee's governor Bill Haslam previously indicated that he would discuss the bill with the state board of education, telling the Tennesseean (March 19, 2012), "It is a fair question what the General Assembly?s role is ... That?s why we have a state board of education." For the story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, visit: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/mar/19/anti-evolution-class-discussions-get-senates-ok/ For the statement from the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1564 For the stories in the Tennesseean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120320/NEWS0201/303200034/TN-science-bill-protects-teachers-who-allow-debate-over-evolution http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120319/NEWS04/120319011/Gov-Haslam-faces-questions-about-evolution-bill-during-grant-announcement And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee INTRODUCING ENERGY LITERACY A new resource, Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education, offers educators with guidance to help individuals and communities make informed energy decisions -- including those related to climate change. *** Energy is an inherently interdisciplinary topic. Concepts fundamental to understanding energy arise in nearly all, if not all, academic disciplines. This guide is intended to be used across disciplines. Both an integrated and systems-based approach to understanding energy are strongly encouraged. Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education identifies seven Essential Principles and a set of Fundamental Concepts to support each principle. This guide does not seek to identify all areas of energy understanding, but rather to focus on those that are essential for all citizens. The Fundamental Concepts have been drawn, in part, from existing education standards and benchmarks. The intended audience for this document is anyone involved in energy education. Used in formal educational environments, this guide provides direction without adding new concepts to the educator's curriculum. This guide is not a curriculum. The Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts offer a framework upon which curricula can be based without prescribing when, where, or how content is to be delivered. *** The U.S. Department of Energy led the nationwide effort to develop Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education. Thirteen federal agencies and numerous education partners across the country participated in the effort. NCSE is among the education partners on the project. For Energy Literacy, visit: http://library.globalchange.gov/products/other/energy-literacy-essential-principles-fundamental-concepts-for-energy-education-high-resolution-booklet THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN ON THE "MONKEY BILLS" The Nashville Tennessean (March 21, 2012) editorially denounced Tennessee's "monkey bills" as "wedging open a door to include a radically divisive, ultra-conservative Christian agenda disguised in politically correct language." The bills -- House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 -- would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning"; both bills have passed their respective houses, but it is still necessary for discrepancies between the two versions of the bill to be reconciled before the legislation is sent to the governor. The editorial concluded, "these attempts to rewrite our curriculum by some legislators are not about helping our children become independent, rational thinkers capable of understanding and evaluating alternative theories of life; witting or not, these legislators are stooges for an agenda that would shackle our children to a life of ignorance." The Tennesseean earlier editorially opposed House Bill 368, writing (March 29, 2011), "when a piece of legislation is so distorted in fact, so misleading in its intent, and so fraught with the potential to do more harm than good to the people and the reputation of Tennessee, it must be shown for what it is." For the editorial in the Nashville Tennessean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120321/OPINION01/303210097/Evolution-debate-bill-religion-poorly-disguised NABT OPPOSES TENNESSEE'S MONKEY BILLS The National Association of Biology Teachers expressed its opposition to Tennessee's "monkey bills" -- House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 -- in a letter to Governor Bill Haslam. The bills, which if enacted would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning," have passed their respective houses; it is still necessary for discrepancies between the two versions of the bill to be reconciled before the legislation is sent to the governor. In its letter, NABT's Jaclyn Reeves-Pepin explained, "We feel that the wording of this legislation clearly allows non-scientific explanations for topics such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning to be introduced into the science classroom," adding, "Concepts like evolution and climate change should not be misrepresented as controversial or needing of special evaluation. Instead, they should be presented as scientific explanations for events and processes that are supported by experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision based on detectable and measurable data." The letter concludes, "We respectfully request that you reject HB 368 and SB 893 in support of science education that imparts to students an understanding of science based on the key components of the scientific method and content agreed upon by scientists and professional educators. As an organization dedicated to biology education, we are confident that students of your state are best served when curriculum reflects these issues appropriately and maintains scientific integrity in the science classroom." The NABT joins the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and ten Tennessee members of the National Academies (including Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986) in opposing the bills. For NABT's letter (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/news/2012/03/webfm_send/1767 GEOLOGY EDUCATORS OPPOSE TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILLS" Adding to the chorus of disapproval of Tennessee's "monkey bills" -- House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 -- are the two leading associations of K-12 geology educators: the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and the National Earth Science Teachers Association. The bills, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The NAGT's statement, signed by its president Elizabeth Wright, emphasized that "the scientific theory of evolution should be taught to students of all grade levels as a unifying concept without distraction of non-scientific or anti-scientific influence" and reiterated the organization's acceptance of the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its commitment to "intensive public education, increased awareness, and action" on the issue of climate change. The statement concludes, "We agree that critical thinking is an essential skill for all students, one which is already embedded in the teaching of science. But the content of science consists of peer-reviewed, tested and confirmed results, not debates based on political or religious convictions. We are convinced that rigorous science education in Tennessee is badly served by SB 893 or HB 368, and we urge Tennessee?s representatives, state senators and governor to reject this legislation." The NESTA's statement, signed by its executive director Roberta Johnson, similarly affirmed "that evolution is central to biology and to the earth sciences and that it is an essential component of science classes" and "that Earth's climate is changing, that human activities are responsible for much of the warming seen in recent years, and [that] the science of climate change is a fundamental part of earth science education." Consequently, it continues, "While scientific research continues to illuminate how evolution and climate change influence the world around us, there is no scientific debate about whether they do so, and these bills are wrong to suggest otherwise." The statement concludes by warning, "HB 368 and SB 893 would damage the scientific preparation of Tennessee?s students, harm Tennessee's national reputation, and weaken its efforts to participate in the 21st century economy." For the NAGT's statement and the NESTA's statement (both PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1765 http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1766 AIBS DENOUNCES TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILLS" The American Institute of Biological Sciences denounced Tennessee's "monkey bills" -- House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 -- as "bad for science, science education, and the future economic health of well being of Tennessee" in letters sent to the leadership of the Tennessee General Assembly and to Governor Bill Haslam. "It is important to note that there is no scientific controversy about the legitimacy of evolution or global climate change," the letters explained, adding, "These scientific concepts have repeatedly been tested and grown stronger with each evaluation. Any controversy around these concepts is political, not scientific." The letters concluded, "As the nation struggles to reignite our economy and prepare our children for the jobs of the 21st century, we should be working to strengthen our science education system -- not insert non-scientific concepts into the classroom to placate political special interests." AIBS also issued an action alert encouraging people in Tennessee to urge their state representatives and the governor to oppose HB 368 and SB 893. AIBS is a professional society whose approximately 160 member organizations represent the breadth of the biological sciences and have a combined membership of nearly 250,000 scientists and science educators. For the AIBS letters (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1763 http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1764 For the AIBS action alert, visit: http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=61102976 TENNESSEE'S TOP SCIENTISTS OPPOSE "MONKEY BILLS" Ten Tennessee members of the National Academies -- including a Nobel laureate -- have signed a statement expressing their firm opposition to House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893. Both bills, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." HB 368 was passed in April 7, 2011, but SB 893 was stalled in committee until March 14, 2012, when the Senate Education Committee passed a slightly amended version. The scientists object to the misdescription of evolution as scientifically controversial, insisting, "As scientists whose research involves and is based upon evolution, we affirm -- along with the nation's leading scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences -- that evolution is a central, unifying, and accepted area of science. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; there is no scientific evidence for its supposed rivals ('creation science' and 'intelligent design') and there is no scientific evidence against it." The scientists also object to the encouragement to teachers to present the so-called scientific weaknesses of evolution, which, they contend, "in practice are likely to include scientifically unwarranted criticisms of evolution. As educators whose teaching involves and is based on evolution, we affirm -- along with the nation's leading science education organizations, including the National Association of Biology Teachers and the National Science Teachers Association -- that evolution is a central and crucial part of science education. Neglecting evolution is pedagogically irresponsible." Their statement concludes, "By undermining the teaching of evolution in Tennessee's public schools, HB 368 and SB 893 would miseducate students, harm the state's national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy." The statement is signed by Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986, Roger D. Cone, John H. Exton, George M. Hornberger, Jon H. Kaas, Daniel Masys, John A. Oates, Liane Russell, Charles J. Sherr, and Robert Webster; all ten are members of the National Academies, one of the world's most prestigious scientific organizations. For the statement (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1759 EVOLUTION-AS-THEORY BILL DEFEATED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE "A bill that would have required public schools to teach evolution as a theory, a move often used by proponents of creationism to discredit the science of evolution, was handily shot down by the House of Representatives Thursday, 280-7," the Nashua Telegraph (March 16, 2012) reports. The bill was House Bill 1148, introduced by Jerry Bergevin (R-District 17), which would have charged the state board of education to "[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism." Bergevin told the Concord Monitor (December 29, 2011), "I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they've been pretty criminal domestically and internationally." He reportedly blamed the acceptance of evolution for the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the 1999 Columbine shooting, adding, "As a general court [the official term for the New Hampshire legislature] we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it." NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott responded, "Evolutionary scientists are Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians and Greens and everything. Similarly, their religious views are all over the map, too. ... If you replace atheism in the bill with Protestantism, or Catholicism, or Judaism or any other view, it's clear to see it's not going to pass legal muster." She also noted that the bill would presumably require teachers to ascertain the political and religious views of every scientist mentioned in their biology textbooks, a requirement which she characterized as "pretty dopey." The Telegraph added, "Another bill that also targeted the teaching of evolution in public schools, mandating instructions about 'proper scientific inquiry' (HB1457), was killed by voice vote last week." That bill would have charged the state board of education to "[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes." Although HB 1457 as drafted was silent about "intelligent design," the initial request of its sponsor Gary Hopper (R-District 7) was to have a bill drafted that would require "instruction in intelligent design in the public schools." Hopper later told the Concord Monitor (December 29, 2011) that although he would like to see "intelligent design" taught in classrooms, he was not able to find a successful legislative precedent. Instead, he explained, "I want the problems with the current theories to be presented so that kids understand that science doesn't really have all the answers. They are just guessing." For the story in the Nashua Telegraph, visit: http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/953675-196/evolution-as-theory-bill-not-fit-to-survive-in.html For the story in the Concord Monitor, visit: http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/300905/bills-aim-to-roll-back-teaching-evolution For the text of New Hampshire's HB 1148 and 1457 as introduced, visit: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1148.html http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Hampshire, visit: http://ncse.com/news/new-hampshire OKLAHOMA ANTISCIENCE BILL PASSES THE HOUSE Oklahoma's House Bill 1551 -- one of two bills attacking the teaching of evolution and of climate change active in the Oklahoma legislature during 2012 -- passed the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on March 15, 2012. If enacted, HB 1551 would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The bill was originally introduced in 2011 by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in the Sooner State; although it was rejected by the House Common Education Committee in 2011, it resurfaced in 2012 under the sponsorship of Gus Blackwell (R-District 61), and a slightly amended version was passed by the committee in February 2012. In its current incarnation, HB 1551 differs only slightly from Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320 from 2009, which a member of the Senate Education Committee described to the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009) as one of the worst bills that he had ever seen. Explaining his opposition to such bills in the Oklahoman (March 16, 2012), Douglas W. Mock, the George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the University of Oklahoma's Department of Zoology, wrote, "Wrapped in the deceptive language of promoting critical thinking, they aim to get the nose of a malodorous camel (pseudoscience) inside the tent of science. This camel has tried before, many times, and been rebuffed -- for good reason." He added, "The low scientific literacy of our citizens is a serious concern that's not helped by adding fake controversies." For information about Oklahoma's House Bill 1551, visit: http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb1551 For the story in the Tulsa World, visit: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20090217_16_A11_OKLAHO853574 For Douglas W. Mock's op-ed in the Oklahoman, visit: http://newsok.com/two-bills-in-oklahoma-legislature-promote-nonscience-agenda/article/3657912 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma 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