NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/04/06
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Calls from civil liberties groups for a veto of the "monkey bill" in Tennessee. A new attack on science education in Oklahoma. A survey on the perceived importance of science education. The Los Angeles Times's view of Tennessee's antiscience legislation. The death of a second antiscience bill in Oklahoma. Views from across Tennessee on the state's antiscience legislation. And congratulations to Lawrence Krauss.
AMERICANS UNITED CALLS FOR "MONKEY BILL" VETO Americans United for Separation of Church and State is calling on Governor Bill Haslam to veto House Bill 368, according to a post on the organization's Wall of Separation blog (April 5, 2012). If enacted, HB 368 would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The bill passed the Tennessee legislature and is now on the governor's desk. In the letter, posted on the Nashville Tennessean's politics blog (April 5, 2012), Americans United's Amanda Rolat warned, "HB 368 invites discussion of religion, veiled by the term 'controversial issues,' into the science classroom," arguing, "The strategy in this bill is a common attempt to skirt the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on the teaching of creationism in public schools. ... Thus, when there is a challenge, either to the law itself or to its implementation, it will likely be struck down after costly litigation." Rolat added, "HB 368 does not even purport to improve science education -- it practically acknowledges that its purpose is to discredit scientific theories. HB 368, in fact, significantly changes Tennessee's science curriculum -- it calls into question the veracity of the entire discipline. Arguments that students should learn about 'scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories' are unwarranted based on the overwhelming evidence that supports such theories ... and will only harm students' education." For the post on American United's blog, visit: http://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/trouble-in-tennessee-gov-haslam-please-stand-up-for-the-constitution-and For the letter as posted on the Tennessean's politics blog, visit: http://blogs.tennessean.com/politics/2012/americans-united-for-separation-of-church-and-state-asks-haslam-to-veto-three-bills/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee ACLU OF TENNESSEE CALLS FOR "MONKEY BILL" VETO "Tennessee is dangerously close to enacting a law that would gut science education in public schools," writes the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee in the Knoxville News-Sentinel (April 5, 2012). Hedy Weinberg is warning, of course, of House Bill 368, which passed the Tennessee legislature and is now on Governor Bill Haslam's desk. If enacted, HB 368 would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Arguing that "this legislation seeks to subvert scientific principle to religious ideology by granting legal cover to teachers who wish to dress up religious beliefs on the origin of life as pseudo-science," Weinberg observes, "Prestigious scientific and educational organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the National Earth Science Teachers Association and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, agree that there is no scientific controversy regarding the theory of evolution, only a political controversy that does not belong in the science classroom." Weinberg concludes, "This legislation is the latest line of attack against evolution in a long-standing campaign waged by certain religious interests to promote creationism and intelligent design in Tennessee public schools. As the Supreme Court has stated, families 'entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.' This legislation represents a betrayal of that trust and, accordingly, Haslam must veto it." For Weinberg's column, visit: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/apr/05/hedy-weinberg-gov-bill-haslam-should-veto-monkey/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee A RENEWED ASSAULT ON SCIENCE IN OKLAHOMA The attack on the teaching of evolution and of climate change in Oklahoma continues, despite the failure of House Bill 1551 and Senate Bill 1742. As introduced, House Bill 2341 would, if enacted, have extended by two years a deadline by which local school districts are required to meet certain standards for media, equipment, and textbooks. The bill passed the House on a 81-8 vote on March 7, 2012, and proceeded to the Senate Education Committee, where it passed on March 26, 2012. But on March 28, 2012, Steve Russell (R-District 45) proposed to amend HB 2341 with the addition of a new section containing the language of HB 1551, encouraging teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution" and "global warming." The proposal will be considered when the bill comes to a floor vote in the Senate; it is currently on the Senate calendar, but not on the Senate agenda, for April 3, 2012. For information about HB 2341 from the Oklahoma legislature, visit: http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=HB2341 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma POLLING SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION In a recent survey, voters overwhelmingly accepted that improving the quality of science education is important to the competitiveness of the United States in the global scene -- and a majority agreed that there's a lot of room for improvement. According to a March 30, 2012, press release from Achieve, the nonprofit education reform organization that commissioned the survey: *** * There is virtual unanimity among voters (97%) that improving the quality of science education in our public schools is important to our country's ability to compete globally. * A majority of voters give the quality of science education a grade of "C" or below -- both nationally (67%) and in their local schools (50%). * Most voters (56%) ... believe science education in the United States ranks behind most other countries. This includes majorities across all major sub-groups, including gender, education, region or political affiliation. * Similar to voters' views on English and mathematics standards, by a margin of almost 2 to 1 (62% to 36%), voters prefer for states to have the same science standards so that students across the country have to meet the same expectations. * When informed that a group of states are leading the effort to develop new standards that are internationally-benchmarked, more challenging, and will require students to apply their science knowledge and understand how science concepts fit together, voters show broad support (87%) for the new standards. *** Stephen Pruitt, Achieve's vice president of content, research, and development, was quoted as saying, "Science teachers have long understood the value to students of a high-quality science education and it's encouraging to see that voters also understand the value of a robust science education -- for students as well as for our nation's ability to compete." Achieve is currently coordinating the development of a set of science standards based on the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The survey was conducted for Achieve by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research between February 22 and February 26, 2012, among 800 registered voters. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.46%. For the press release from Achieve, visit: http://www.achieve.org/new-poll-shows-strong-support-improving-science-education For the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science Education, visit: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165 LOS ANGELES TIMES ON TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILL" Tennessee "is seeking to join a number of states in which evolution is being questioned," the Los Angeles Times (April 1, 2012) editorially observed. "That's dumb." Referring to House Bill 368, which would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning," the Times wrote, "The governor should heed the plea of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and veto the bill." Despite the claims of its backers, the editorial explained, "In deciding whether the bill advances a religious agenda, the governor needs to look at context and history as well as the text," recommending the decision in the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which Judge John E. Jones III "concluded that intelligent design and teaching about 'gaps' and 'problems' in evolutionary theory are 'creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism." The editorial concluded, "The truth in this case, discomfiting as it may be to some Tennesseans, is that evolution is not 'just a theory.'" For the editorial in the Los Angeles Times, visit: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/01/opinion/la-ed-evolution-discovery-tennessee-20120401 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee OKLAHOMA ANTISCIENCE BILL DIES 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, is now in effect dead, according to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. Originally introduced in 2011, HB 1551 was rejected by the House Common Education Committee in that year, but revived and passed by the committee in 2012, and then passed by the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on March 15, 2012, and sent to the Senate Education Committee, where it died. April 2, 2012, was the last meeting of the Senate Education Committee in the present legislative session, and April 5, 2012, is the deadline for single-assigned house bills (such as HB 1551) to be reported from their senate committees. OESE credited the victory to the outcry, prompted by national and state organizations, from concerned Oklahomans to their state senators: "The result of these efforts resulted in HUNDREDS of messages being sent to members of the Senate committee. The messages were still arriving at committee members' offices on Monday morning as the Committee was meeting. These messages, along with some direct lobbying efforts with committee members by individuals and organizations, were certainly responsible for the defeat. All who helped are thanked for their important help. Thus, in influencing legislation, NUMBERS DO COUNT." But OESE also warned, "The creationists are not likely to stop," adding, "we must be prepared to continue the opposition in future years." For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education's discussion of HB 1551, visit: http://www.oklascience.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma CONTINUED OPPOSITION TO TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILL" Tennessee's House Bill 368 was sent to Governor Bill Haslam on March 29, 2012 -- and columnists in newspapers across the state are continuing to press the case against the bill. Nicknamed the "monkey bill" by former Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh, HB 368 would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Haslam now has till April 10, 2012, to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it. The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal (March 29, 2012) editorially lamented, "At a time when Tennessee is becoming a national center for technological and alternative fuel research and development, it is odd -- to say the least -- that our state Legislature would push scientific debate back more than 85 years," adding, "Science and teacher associations across the state and nation oppose this legislation, yet our Legislature is determined to impose its will on the classrooms of Tennessee, showing a general disrespect for scientific academia in favor of running its religious views up a flagpole." Writing in The Tennessean (March 29, 2012), Leslie Brunetta -- a science writer and cancer survivor -- argued that antievolution bills such as Tennessee's "are bad for my health and the health of each of the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year," for while evolutionary theory helps to guide cancer research, the "challengers of evolution theory" provide no actual research program. She concludes, "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." And writing in the Knoxville News Sentinel (March 30, 2012), columnist Pam Strickland commented, "Tennessee has already tried this teaching creationism once before, The story is known worldwide as the Scopes Monkey Trial and is told through the play and movie 'Inherit the Wind.'" She added, "if Haslam or his staff is reading, they need to know that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of Bioscience Teachers and the National Earth Science Teachers Association are all against HB 368." For the three columns, visit: http://www.dnj.com/article/20120330/OPINION/303300022/EDITORIAL-Legislature-wants-Scopes-trial-rerun http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120329/OPINION03/303290057/Anti-evolution-movement-imperils-medical-research http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/mar/30/pam-strickland-tennessee-gov-bill-haslam-needs/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee KRAUSS HONORED BY NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD NCSE is delighted to congratulate Lawrence Krauss for receiving the National Science Board's 2012 Public Service Award. "Lawrence Krauss'[s] broad public outreach bridges science and popular culture through various media and intellectual pursuits, and we are proud to name him as the recipient of the 2012 NSB Public Service Award presented to an individual," said the NSB chair's Ray Bowen in a March 28, 2012, press release. Krauss is the Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and physics director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is the author of nine books, including The Physics of Star Trek, Beyond Star Trek, Quintessence, Quantum Man, and, most recently, A Universe for Nothing. He also received NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in recognition of his efforts to uphold the integrity of science education in Ohio and nationally. The NSB Public Service Award honors individuals and groups that have made substantial contributions to increasing public understanding of science and engineering in the United States. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott received the award in 2002; the citation read, "For her promotion of public understanding of the importance of science, the scientific method, and science education and the role of evolution in science education." For the NSB's press release, visit: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123633&org=NSF&from=news 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