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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/08/17

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new survey on Canadian public opinion on climate change. Plus
potentially bad news for evolution education in both Missouri and


A new survey addresses the views of Canadians on climate change.
Conducted by Insightrix Research, Inc. for IPAC-CO2 Research Inc.,
which describes itself as "an environmental non-government
organization (ENGO) created to provide ndependent risk and
performance assessments of CO2 storage projects," the survey asked its
respondents, "Where do you stand on the issue of climate change?" Of
the respondents, 32% agreed that climate change is occurring due to
human activity, 54% agreed that climate change is occurring partially
due to human activity and partially due to natural climate variation,
9% agreed that climate change is occurring due to natural climate
variation, and 2% agreed that climate change is not occurring at all;
4% of respondents were not sure.

According to the report, the results were consistent with the results
from a survey conducted in 2011. Regionally, residents of Alberta,
Saskatchewan, and Manitoba were least likely to agree that climate
change is occurring due to human activity, while residents of Quebec,
the Atlantic provinces, and British Columbia were most likely to
agree. The report added, "Younger respondents are most likely to
believe that climate change is occurring due to human activity and
least likely to believe that it is occurring due to natural climate
variation. Men are more likely than women to believe that climate
change is occurring due to natural climate variation. No significant
differences in beliefs by level of education are noted."

The poll was conducted between May 29 and June 11, 2012. Reporting on
the survey, the Canadian Press (August 15, 2012) explained, "Unlike
traditional telephone polling, in which respondents are randomly
selected, the Insightrix survey was conducted online among 1,550
respondents, all of whom were chosen from a larger pool of people who
agreed to participate in ongoing research. They were compensated for
participating. The survey set quotas by age, gender, region and
education to match the general population. The polling industry's
professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence
Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error
because they do not randomly sample the population."

By way of comparison, a survey from Angus Reid Public Opinion,
conducted in May and June 2012, asked respondents in Canada (as well
as the United States and the United Kingdom), "Which of the following
statements comes closest to your view of global warming (or climate
change)?" "Global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by emissions
from vehicles and industrial facilities" was preferred by 58% of
Canadians, "global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by natural
changes" was preferred by 20% of Canadians, "global warming is a
theory that has not yet been proven" was preferred by 14% of
Canadians, and 8% of Canadians were not sure. The Angus Reid survey
was also conducted on-line with the results weighted to ensure a
representative sample.

For the report of the Insightrix Research survey (PDF), visit: 

For the Canadian Press's story (via the CBC), visit: 

For the report of the Angus Reid Public Opinion survey (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys on climate change, visit: 


Is a new amendment to the Missouri state constitution going to
undermine the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools? On
August 7, 2012, voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to revise a
portion of the state constitution that concerns freedom of religion.
Among the revisions was the addition of a provision "that no student
shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments
or educational presentations that violate his or her religious
beliefs." And that provision, as NCSE's Joshua Rosenau told Science
Insider (August 14, 2012), is worrisome from the point of view of
science education: "Those words give students the legal right to skip
assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with
their beliefs, Rosenau says."

Evolution was not mentioned in the proposal and was not apparently
mentioned in the legislature's discussion of House Joint Resolution 2,
the instrument that placed the proposal on the ballot. Opponents of
the proposal warned, however, that the integrity of science education
was at stake. Michael McKay of the Skeptical Society of St. Louis told
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (July 30, 2012) that if the amendment
passes, students could graduate from school without having taken an
important science class, avoid learning about evolution," and The New
York Times (August 6, 2012) editorially expressed a similar concern
that the proposal "would allow students who believe in creationism,
for example, to opt out of assignments on evolution."

Susan German, president of the Science Teachers of Missouri, told
Science Insider, "It could be an issue. There are teachers that work
in very conservative districts and they already have students on a
yearly basis that voice their concerns about having to learn some of
these concepts," and recommended that her colleagues "wait and see
what the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
advises them to do" before taking any action in light of the new
amendment. It remains to be seen whether teachers will be expected to
provide substitute assignments for students who object to assignments
on evolution and whether schools and the state will be prohibited from
testing such students from their understanding of the material covered
in such assignments.

"It's a recipe for disaster," commented NCSE's executive director
Eugenie C. Scott. "With the new amendment in place, Missouri's biology
teachers are bound to receive a flurry of requests -- or demands --
for students to be excused from learning about evolution. And that's
going to create trouble, since nothing in biology makes sense except
in the light of evolution." Citing a 2008 article she and NCSE's Glenn
Branch published in Evolution: Education and Outreach 1(2), she argued
that if teachers are forced to accommodate such requests, the result
would be disruptive for the classroom, burdensome for teachers, and
problematic for administrators, as well as harmful to the scientific
literacy of the students excused.

For the proposal that was approved (PDF), visit: 

For the Science Insider story, visit: 

For the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story, visit: 

For the editorial in The New York Times, visit: 

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


Legislators in the Kentucky state senate are concerned about the
presence of evolution in the state science standards and associated
end-of-course testing. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader
(August 14, 2012), "Several GOP lawmakers questioned new proposed
student standards and tests that delve deeply into biological
evolution during a Monday meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on
Education. In an exchange with officials from ACT, the company that
prepares Kentucky's new state testing program, those lawmakers
discussed whether evolution was a fact and whether the biblical
account of creationism also should be taught in Kentucky classrooms."

State senator David Givens (R-District 9) told the Herald-Leader, "I
would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom,
in a science classroom, alongside evolution," while state
representative Ben Waite (R-District 10) went so far as to dispute the
inclusion of evolution. "The theory of evolution is a theory, and
essentially the theory of evolution is not science -- Darwin made it
up," Waide was quoted as saying. "My objection is they should ensure
whatever scientific material is being put forth as a standard should
at least stand up to scientific method. Under the most rudimentary,
basic scientific examination, the theory of evolution has never stood
up to scientific scrutiny."

But Vincent Cassone, chair of the University of Kentucky's biology
department, told the Herald-Leader, "The theory of evolution is the
fundamental backbone of all biological research. ... There is more
evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity, than
the idea that things are made up of atoms, or Einstein's theory of
relativity. It is the finest scientific theory ever devised." David
Helm, president of the Kentucky Science Teachers Association, declined
to comment, but referred the newspaper to the National Science
Teachers Association's statement on evolution, which "strongly
supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in
science and should be included in the K-12 science education
frameworks and curricula."

In a subsequent editorial headlined "Keep religious beliefs out of
science class if we want Ky. kids to compete," the Herald-Leader
(August 16, 2012) observed, "It is unlikely that the pleas by Sen.
David Givens, R-Greensburg, and others that creationism or other
unscientific, faith-based beliefs about the origins of the universe
and its species should be taught along with evolution will gain enough
traction to change Kentucky's standards," adding, "Parents will always
be free to teach their children as they see fit in their homes. But
religious beliefs cannot be substituted for, or equated with,
scientific understanding in public schools. At least, not if we want
our children to compete on a national level."

Previous legislative activity aimed at undermining the teaching of
evolution in Kentucky's public schools includes House Bill 169 in 2011
and House Bill 397 in 2010, both based on the so-called Louisiana
Science Education Act; both bills died in committee. Kentucky is
apparently unique in having a statute (Kentucky Revised Statutes
158.177) on the books that authorizes teachers to teach "the theory of
creation as presented in the Bible" and to "read such passages in the
Bible as are deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of
creation." Yet the Louisville Courier-Journal (January 11, 2006)
reported that in a November 2005 survey of the state's 176 school
districts, none was teaching or discussing "intelligent design."

For the Lexington Herald-Leader's article, visit: 

For the NSTA's statement on evolution, visit: 

For the Lexington Herald-Leader's editorial, visit: 

For the Biblical creation statute (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, 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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