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 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