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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2013/01/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Antievolution legislation in Missouri and antievolution content in
Bible classes in Texas. But at least Darwin Day is on its way! Plus
the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology lifts its boycott
on New Orleans, and NCSE's Glenn Branch discusses the state of
evolution education in Kentucky in the pages of the Louisville
Courier-Journal.

ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN MISSOURI

House Bill 179, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on
January 16, 2013, and not yet referred to a committee, is the latest
antievolution bill in the Missouri state legislature. The bill would,
if enacted, call on state and local education administrators to
"endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and
secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific
questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking
skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of
opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical
evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective
ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific
controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall
be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and
review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific
weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical
evolution."

"It's ironic that creationist strategies continue to evolve,"
commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. "At first,
creationists tried to ban the teaching of evolution in the public
schools altogether. When they were no longer able to do so, they tried
to 'balance' it with the teaching of Biblical creationism, or
scientific creationism, or intelligent design. After the Kitzmiller
trial in 2005, in which teaching intelligent design was found by a
federal court to be unconstitutional, there's been a shift toward
belittling evolution -- as just a theory, or as in need of critical
analysis, or as the subject of scientific controversy." She explained
that over forty bills adopting the tactic of encouraging teachers to
misrepresent evolution as controversial have been introduced in the
last decade, successfully in Louisiana in 2008 and in Tennessee in
2012. Scott added, "The sponsors of House Bill 179 will doubtless
claim that there are good reasons for it. Missourians concerned with
the integrity of science education are going to be skeptically
replying: show me."

Andrew Koenig (R-District 99) is the main sponsor of HB 179; its
cosponsors are Kurt Bahr (R-District 102), Galen Higdon (R-District
11), Doug Funderburk (R-District 103), Paul Curtman (R-District 109),
Rick Brattin (R-District 55), David Wood (R-District 58), Steve
Cookson (R-District 153), Charlie Davis (R-District 162), Joe Don
McGaugh (R-District 39), and Scott Fitzpatrick (R-District 158). The
text of HB 179 is identical to the text of HB 1276 in 2012; Koenig,
Funderburk, Brattin, and Davis were among its sponsors. Koenig, Bahr,
and Brattin were also among the sponsors of HB 1227 in 2012, which if
enacted would have required "the equal treatment of science
instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design" in both public
elementary and secondary schools and introductory science courses in
public institutions of higher education in Missouri. Brattin, in
discussing HB 1227 with the Kansas City Star (January 14, 2012),
invoked "a Gallup poll that shows 90 percent of Americans believe in a
higher power." Both HB 1276 and HB 1227 died in committee in May 2012.

For the text of Missouri's House Bill 179, visit:

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/missouri 

CREATIONISM IN TEXAS BIBLE CLASSES

Is creationism taught as scientifically credible in Bible classes in
Texas's public schools? Yes, according to a new report from a Southern
Methodist University professor of religious studies and the Texas
Freedom Network Education Fund. The report, Reading, Writing &
Religion II: Texas Public School Bible Courses in 2011-12, explains,
"several courses incorporate pseudoscientific material, presenting
inaccurate information to their students and exposing their districts
to the risk of litigation." Among the material cited as problematic
were a tract repeating the missing day myth, a slide show arguing for
a young earth, videos produced by the Creation Evidence Museum,
websites contending that scientists are currently debating whether
there was a global flood, and charts that trace racial diversity to
Noah's sons -- a view that, as the report observes, is "a foundational
component of some forms of racism."

In a January 16, 2013, press release, the Texas Freedom Network
explained, "While some districts succeeded in offering legally
appropriate and academically sound Bible courses, most such courses in
Texas public schools continue to suffer from the same serious flaws
that were common six years ago." The author of the report, Mark
Chancey, added, "As a biblical scholar and especially as a parent, I
want our state's public schools to take the study of the Bible's
influence as seriously as they do the study of science or history. ...
But the evidence shows that Texas isn't giving the study of the Bible
the respect it deserves. Academically, many of these classes lack
rigor and substance, and some seem less interested in cultivating
religious literacy than in promoting religious beliefs. Their approach
puts their school districts in legal jeopardy and their taxpayers in
financial jeopardy.”

For the report (PDF), visit:
http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/TFNEF_ReadingWritingReligionII.pdf?docID=3461 

For a discussion of the missing day myth from NASA, visit:
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970325g.html 

For the Texas Freedom Network's press release, visit:
http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7191 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/texas 

DARWIN DAY APPROACHES

It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than a month
remains before Darwin Day 2013! Colleges and universities, schools,
libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks
across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate
Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of
Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only
to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach
about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education --
which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education
expected in Indiana, Montana, and New Mexico. NCSE encourages its
members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize
Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event,
check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry
of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website.
(And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day
Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of
congregations all over the country and around the world are taking
part in Evolution Weekend, February 8-10, 2013, by presenting sermons
and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science.
Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution
Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the
relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to
elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to
move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that
religious people from many faiths and locations understand that
evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.
Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it
clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and
science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 496
congregations in forty-seven states (and eleven foreign countries)
were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit:
http://darwinday.org/events/ 
http://darwinday.org/wp-login.php?action=register 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit:
http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ 

SICB LIFTS BOYCOTT ON NEW ORLEANS

The executive committee of the Society for Integrative and Comparative
Biology is again willing to consider New Orleans to host the society's
annual meetings. Back in 2009, the society decided not to hold any
future meetings in New Orleans owing to "the official position of the
state in weakening science education and specifically attacking
evolution in science curricula," according to a February 5, 2009,
letter from SICB's president, Richard Satterlie, to Louisiana's
governor Bobby Jindal. Particularly of concern to SICB was the
so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, enacted in 2008, which
threatens to open the door for creationism and scientifically
unwarranted critiques of evolution to be taught in the state's public
school science classes. The cost to Louisiana's economy in 2011, when
SICB held its meeting in Salt Lake City rather than New Orleans, was
estimated at $2.7 million.

Now, however, citing "the May 2011 New Orleans City Council's
unanimous vote rejecting the teaching of creationism as science and
the December 2012 Orleans Parish School Board's decision to prohibit
the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in classes
designated as science classes," SICB is lifting its boycott for the
city. In a column published by WWLTV (January 14, 2013), activist Zack
Kopplin, who helped to organize both of those votes as well as the
lifting of the SICB boycott, commented, "In this creationism-riddled
state, New Orleans is a bright spot," praising the city council and
the parish school board for "standing up for science." Kopplin
concluded, "Teaching creationism is wrong, and we must keep up
fighting it in Louisiana, but thanks to y'all our state's policy
appears to be evolving to a more scientific place."

For the 2009 letter from SICB to Jindal (PDF), visit:
http://www.sicb.org/resources/LouisianaLetterJindal.pdf 

For Kopplin's column at WWLTV, visit:
http://www.wwltv.com/news/opinion/Louisiana-students-must-learn-evolution-186187302.html 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/louisiana 

NCSE'S BRANCH ON EVOLUTION IN KENTUCKY

"Teach evolution as the fact it is," a column by NCSE's deputy
director Glenn Branch, appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal
(January 13, 2013). "The opening salvo in the evolution wars was fired
in Kentucky," Branch wrote, noting that Kentucky was the first state,
in 1922, to consider a law banning the teaching of evolution in the
public schools. "As 2013 begins, the evolution wars continue to rage,
with bills that are intended to undermine the teaching of evolution in
public schools already expected in Indiana, Montana and New Mexico."

"In Kentucky, there's good news and there's bad news," Branch
continued, reviewing the recent legislative assaults on evolution in
Kentucky, the quality of the state's science education standards, and
the likely prevalence of creationism in the state's science
classrooms. He warned, "Students cheated of their chance to attain a
proper understanding of evolution are at risk of not attaining a basic
level of scientific literacy. But the impact is broader. Due to the
mushrooming economic importance of fields such as medicine,
biotechnology and agriculture, the nation can't afford not to teach
evolution properly."

The column ended its plea to support the teaching of evolution in the
public schools by appealing also to the local pride of Kentuckians. "A
Kentucky native -- Thomas Hunt Morgan, who helped to lay the
foundation of the modern understanding of evolution -- was the first
American to be awarded a Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine,"
Branch wrote. "Supporting the teaching of evolution, undiluted by
creationist interference, in Kentucky's public schools may not ensure
the emergence of a new scientist of Morgan’s stature. But it is bound
to help."

In a sidebar, Branch also cast his gaze across the Ohio River,
observing, "Indiana is expected to see anti-evolution legislation in
2013, unlike Kentucky. Leading the charge is state Sen. Dennis Kruse,"
who, he explained, after pledging to remove evolution from the state
science standards and then repeatedly introducing legislation that
would allow local school districts to teach "creation science," now
"reportedly plans to introduce a bill allowing students to force their
teachers to provide evidence for any of the material presented in
class."

For Branch's column in the Louisville Courier-Journal, visit:
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013301130035 

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky and Indiana, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/kentucky 
http://ncse.com/news/indiana 

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
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

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