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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/12/21

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A school board in Louisiana votes to ban creationism from its schools.
Plus two new polls on climate change, the recrudescence of a bill in
Texas that ostensibly would shield proponents of "intelligent design"
in higher education from persecution, and a reminder that spaces are
still available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon.


The Orleans Parish School Board "OK'd policies that prohibit the
teaching of creationism or so-called 'intelligent design' in its
half-dozen direct-run schools, or the purchasing of textbooks that
promulgate those perspectives," according to the New Orleans
Times-Picayune (December 18, 2012). As specified in the documents for
the board's December 18, 2012, meeting, the new policies provide, in
part, that no "science textbook [shall] be approved which presents
creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories"
and that "[no] teacher of any discipline of science shall teach
creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science

Why were these policies proposed? Noting that they were the brainchild
of the outgoing president of the board, Thomas Robichaux, the
Times-Picayune (November 20, 2012) previously speculated, "The move
can be read in two ways": as a way for Robichaux "to leave his mark on
issues he feels passionately about" and as reflecting "a concern that
the board may eventually feel pressure to take a more religious bent."
The blog of the weekly Gambit (December 19, 2012) reported that the
only speaker on the textbook policy at the meeting was Zack Kopplin:
"'Creationism certainly is not science,' he said, warning that
students not only will not meet higher education standards, but they
'won't find New Orleans jobs in the Bio District.'"

Kopplin, the young activist who organized the effort to repeal the
so-called Louisiana Science Education Act (and who received NCSE's
Friend of Darwin award in 2011), told NCSE, "Between this and the New
Orleans City Council's rejection of the creationist Louisiana Science
Education Act, the city of New Orleans has fully rejected
creationism." (The New Orleans City Council adopted a resolution in
May 2011 endorsing the repeal effort.) Kopplin added, "It might also
be enough to prompt the Society for Integrative and Comparative
Biology to lift their boycott of New Orleans," which began in 2009,
owing to what SICB's president described as "the official position of
the state in weakening science education and specifically attacking
evolution in science curricula."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "This isn't the
first time that a local school board has felt the need to protect the
integrity of science education against a misguided antievolution
policy at the state level," citing the Manhattan-Ogden school board's
decision in 2006 to ignore the set of Kansas state science standards
rewritten by supporters of "intelligent design" in 2005. But, she
continued, "with laws such as those enacted in Louisiana and Tennessee
encouraging teachers to misrepresent the status of evolution and
climate change, it's increasingly important for school board members
and school district administrators to take the lead in ensuring that
these topics are taught properly in their schools."

For the December 18, 2012, story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit: 

For the policies (PDF, pp. 100 and 101), visit: 

For the November 20, 2012, story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit: 

For the New Orleans City Council's resolution, visit:{D5BF04A0-905F-4FAA-B525-9142A973504F}#story7 

For SICB's letter announcing the boycott (PDF), visit: 

For NCSE's story on the Manhattan-Ogden school board's decision, visit: 

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


A pair of new polls offers insights on public opinion about climate change.

First, a poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion
News Service asked, "From what you've read and heard, do you believe
there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been
getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?" Of the respondents,
75% answered yes, 21% answered no, 1% volunteered a mixed response,
and 2% said they didn't know or refused to answer. Of the respondents
who did not answer no, 60% agreed with "Climate change is caused
mostly by human activity such as burning fossil fuels," 34% agreed
with "Climate change is caused mostly by natural patterns in the
earth's environment," and 6% said that they didn't know or refused to

The PRRI/RNS poll also investigated the connection between opinion
about extreme weather and climate change on the one hand and religious
beliefs about the end of the world on the other hand. A RNS story
(December 13, 2012) reported, "More than a third of Americans believe
the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence that we are in
the 'end times' described in the New Testament -- a period of turmoil
preceding Jesus' Second Coming and the end of the world." NCSE's Peter
M. J. Hess expressed concern about the implications of such attitudes
for public policy on climate, telling RNS, "If you simply say, 'It's
God?s will,' it absolves people of taking serious responsibility for
their actions."

According to PRRI, "The survey was designed and conducted by Public
Religion Research Institute. Results of the survey were based on
bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted
between December 5, 2012 and December 9, 2012 by professional
interviewers ... Interviews were conducted among a random sample of
1,018 adults 18 years of age or older in the continental United States
(311 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The final sample
was weighted to five different parameters -- age, sex, geographic
region, education and telephone usage -- to ensure reliable and
accurate representation of the total adult population. The margin of
error for the survey is +/- 3.2 percentage points at the 95% level of

Second, a poll from Associated Press-GfK asked, "Do you think that the
world's temperature probably has been going up over the past 100
years, or do you think this probably has not been happening?" Of the
respondents, 78% thought that this probably has been happening, while
18% thought that this probably has not been happening, and 5% didn't
know. Those who accepted climate change were more confident of their
answers, with 57% being extremely sure or very sure, while those who
rejected it were less confident, with only 31% being extremely sure or
very sure. That represents a reversal from the results of a 2009 poll,
in which only 43% of those who accepted climate change were extremely
sure or very sure and 52% of of those who rejected it were extremely
sure or very sure.

In its own story about the poll, the Associated Press (December 14,
2012) observed, "The biggest change in the polling is among people who
trust scientists only a little or not at all. About 1 in 3 of the
people surveyed fell into that category. Within that highly skeptical
group, 61 percent now say temperatures have been rising over the past
100 years. That's a substantial increase from 2009, when the AP-GfK
poll found that only 47 percent of those with little or no trust in
scientists believed the world was getting warmer." Jon Krosnick of
Stanford University suggested that recent weather events may be
responsible for swaying such doubters, commenting, "They don't believe
what the scientists say, they believe what the thermometers say."

The poll was conducted from November 29 to December 3, 2012. According
to AP-GfK, the poll was "based on a nationally-representative
probability sample of 1,002 general population adults age 18 or older.
... The sample included the contiguous 48 states, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish, depending on
respondent preference. The combined landline and cell phone data were
weighted to account for probabilities of selection, as well as age,
sex, education and race, using targets from the March 2011 supplement
of the Current Population Survey. ... The margin of sampling error is
plus or minus 3.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for
results based on the entire sample of adults."

A section of NCSE's website contains previous coverage of such polls
and surveys.

For the PRRI/RNS poll (PDF), visit: 

For the RNS story, visit: 

For the Associated Press-GfK poll (PDF), visit: 

For the Associated Press story, visit: 

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


House Bill 285, prefiled in the Texas House of Representatives on
December 14, 2012, would, if enacted, add a provision to the state's
education code providing, "An institution of higher education may not
discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard
to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based
on the faculty member's or student's conduct of research relating to
the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the
origination and development of organisms." Filed by Bill Zedler
(R-District 96), the bill will not be considered until the legislature
convenes, on January 8, 2013, at the earliest.

HB 285 is identical to HB 2454, which Zedler introduced in 2011. At
the time, the Texas Freedom Network commented on its blog (March 9,
2011), "Institutions of higher education should -- and do -- protect
academic freedom. Rep. Zedler's bill would instead require our
colleges and universities to aid and protect academic fraud. But with
the State Board of Education promoting anti-science propaganda in
public schools, we shouldn't be surprised that higher education is
increasingly a target as well." HB 2454 died in the House Committee on
Higher Education without receiving a hearing when the legislature
adjourned sine die on May 30, 2011.

For the text of HB 285 as prefiled, visit: 

For the text of HB 2454, visit: 

For the Texas Freedom Network's comment, visit: 

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


Need a perfect holiday gift? Explore the Grand Canyon with NCSE!
Spaces are still available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand
Canyon -- featured in the documentary No Dinosaurs in Heaven. From
July 15 to 23, 2013, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation
and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie
Scott and Steve Newton. Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more
than just the typically grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular
scenery, fascinating natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting
rapids, delicious meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique
"two-model" raft trip, on which we provide both the creationist view
of the Grand Canyon (maybe not entirely seriously) and the
evolutionist view -- and let you make up your own mind. To get a
glimpse of the fun, watch the short videos filmed during the 2011
trip, posted on NCSE's YouTube channel. The cost of the excursion is
$2530; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot. Seats are limited: call,
write, or e-mail now.

For further information about the excursion, visit: 

For information about No Dinosaurs in Heaven, visit: 

For NCSE's YouTube channel, 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.

With best wishes for the holiday season,

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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