Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2013/01/04

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A mutation in the expected antievolution bill in the Montana
legislature, and sad news of the death of Carl R. Woese.


The bill in Montana that was intended to "[r]equire public schools to
teach intelligent design along with evolution" instead now purports to
"encourage critical thinking regarding controversial scientific
theories." On November 5, 2012, Clayton Fiscus (R-District 46), a new
member of the Montana House of Representatives, asked for a bill to be
drafted to require the teaching of "intelligent design," which would
presumably conflict with the decision in the 2005 case Kitzmiller v.
Dover, in which requiring the public schools to teach "intelligent
design" was held to be unconstitutional.

The draft bill now produced in response to Fiscus's request contains a
preamble, which invokes "academic freedom," the lack of scientific
agreement, and "critical thinking" in support of the bill's
provisions, and five sections, of which the first is the most
substantive. Claiming that "some teachers may be unsure of the
expectations concerning how they should present information on these
subjects," the bill in its first section encourages state and local
education administrators "to assist teachers in finding effective ways
to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific
controversies" and forbids them to prohibit teachers from presenting
"the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific
theories covered in the course being taught." The remaining sections
of the bill integrate it with existing state code and provide that it
will take effect on passage and approval.

Although the draft bill provides that it "may not be construed to
promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine," it is silent on
whether "intelligent design" constitutes a religious doctrine. From
the list of controversial topics -- "biological evolution, the
chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and
fossil discoveries" -- it is clear that the teaching of evolution in
Montana's public schools is still Fiscus's target. The legislature
convenes on January 7, 2013.

For the text of the bill (not yet assigned a number), visit: 

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


The distinguished microbiologist Carl R. Woese died on December 30,
2012, at the age of 84, according to the Institute for Genomic Biology
at the University of Illinois. Born on July 15, 1928, he earned his
B.A. in mathematics and physics at Amherst College in 1950 and his
Ph.D. in biophysics from Yale University in 1953. After a postdoctoral
appointment at Yale and a stint at the General Electric Research
Laboratory, he spent the rest of his career at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a professor of microbiology. In 1977,
Woese and his colleagues published work "that overturned a universally
held assumption about the basic structure of the tree of life. They
reported that the microbes now known as Archaea were as distinct from
bacteria as plants and animals are. Prior to this finding, scientists
had grouped Archaea together with bacteria, and asserted that the tree
of life had two main branches ? the bacteria (which they called
prokarya), and everything else (the eukarya). The new discovery added
Archaea as a third main branch of the evolutionary family tree." In
recognition of his achievements, he received a John D. and Catherine
T. MacArthur Foundation "genius" award in 1984, the Leeuwenhoek Medal
from the Dutch Royal Academy of Science in 1992, the National Medal of
Science in 2000, and the Craaford Prize in Biosciences in 2003.

As is common with trailblazing biologists, Woese's scientific work was
steadily misrepresented by creationists as showing that evolution is a
theory in crisis. In 2004, for example, after the Discovery
Institute's Stephen C. Meyer told a Wired reporter that a paper of
Woese's showed (in the reporter's words) that "the Darwinian emperor
has no clothes," Woese responded by scoffing, "To say that my
criticism of Darwinists says that evolutionists have no clothes ... is
like saying that Einstein is criticizing Newton, therefore Newtonian
physics is wrong." "Intelligent design," he added, "is not science. It
makes no predictions and doesn't offer any explanation whatsoever,
except for 'God did it.'" Woese also was concerned about creationism's
effect on the integrity of science education. In a 1998 interview with
Science Spectra, for example, he observed, "Biology is poorly taught
in general at the high school level ... Scientifically, the matter is
simple. The essence of biology is evolution, and biology should be
taught from an evolutionary perspective. Yet, although evolution is
covered to some extent in high school biology courses, it bears the
scarlet letter and is taught in a guarded fashion, embalmed in
caveats. The reason for this is obvious, as are the pressures on
textbook publishers." Woese was a member of NCSE.

For the Institute for Genomic Biology's obituary, visit: 

For the Wired article, visit: 

For the Science Spectra article, 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

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: 

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!