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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2013/01/25

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A busy week! A bill requiring equal time for "intelligent design" is
filed in Missouri. A Darwin Day resolution is introduced in the United
States Congress. A documentary about the Texas state board of
education comes to PBS. Not one but two antiscience bills in Oklahoma
and one antiscience bill in Colorado are introduced. Plus a
creationist loses his lawsuit against the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
and a reminder about Darwin Day.


House Bill 291, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on
January 23, 2013, would, if enacted, require "the equal treatment of
science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design,"
according to the legislature's summary of the bill. The equal
treatment provision would apply to both public elementary and
secondary schools and to "any introductory science course taught at
any public institution of higher education" in Missouri.

HB 291's text is about 3000 words long, beginning with a declaration
that the bill is to be known as the Missouri Standard Science Act,
followed by a defectively alphabetized glossary providing
idiosyncratic definitions of "analogous naturalistic processes,"
"biological evolution," "biological intelligent design," "destiny,"
"empirical data," "equal treatment," "hypothesis," "origin,"
"scientific theory," "scientific law," and "standard science."

Among the substantive provisions of the bill, applying both to
Missouri's public elementary and secondary schools and to introductory
science courses in public institutions of higher education in the
state: "If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in
a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent
design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin
may be taught."

For public elementary and secondary schools, HB 291 also provides, "If
scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a
textbook, the textbook shall give equal treatment to biological
evolution and biological intelligent design." After the bill is
enacted, new textbooks purchased for the public schools will have to
conform to the equal treatment requirement. A committee will develop
supplementary material on "intelligent design" for optional interim

HB 291 is apparently a descendant of HB 911 in 2004, which was also
dubbed the Missouri Standard Science Act, began with a glossary of the
same eleven terms (and also "extrapolated radiometric data"), would
have required equal treatment of "intelligent design" in the public
elementary and secondary schools (although not in public higher
education), and would have required textbooks to conform to the equal
treatment requirement.

HB 911 was widely criticized, including by the Science Teachers of
Missouri. A sequel bill, HB 1722, also introduced in 2004, contained
the same language as HB 911, but omitted provisions that would have
required the text of the bill to be posted in high school science
classrooms and that would have enabled the firing of teachers and
administrators who failed to comply with the law. Both bills died when
the legislative session ended.

In 2012, HB 1227, also dubbed the Missouri Standard Science Act, was
introduced by Rick Brattin (R-District 55). In discussing HB 1227 with
the Kansas City Star (January 14, 2012), Brattin insisted that his
bill was not about religion, but was also quoted as saying, "I keep
pointing to a Gallup poll that shows 90 percent of Americans believe
in a higher power." HB 1227 died in committee when the legislature
adjourned in May 2012.

Brattin is the main sponsor of HB 291, which is identical to HB 1227
in 2012; its cosponsors are Andrew Koenig (R-District 99) and Kurt
Bahr (R-District 102), both of whom were cosponsors of HB 1227. HB 291
is the sixth antievolution bill of 2013, joining Colorado's HB
13-1089, Missouri's HB 179 (with Brattin, Koenig, and Bahr among its
cosponsors), Montana's HB 183, and Oklahoma's HB 1674 and SB 758.

For the text of Missouri's HB 291 as introduced, visit: 

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


House Resolution 41, introduced in the United States House of
Representatives on January 22, 2013, would, if passed, express the
House's support of designating February 12, 2013, as Darwin Day, and
its recognition of "Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to
celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of
human knowledge." Rush Holt (D-New Jersey), one of the few members of
Congress with a Ph.D. in a scientific field, is the sole sponsor of
the bill. After its introduction, H. Res. 41 was referred to the House
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Holt, in a January 23, 2013, press release from the American Humanist
Association, commented, "Only very rarely in human history has someone
uncovered a fundamentally new way of thinking about the world -- an
insight so revolutionary that it has made possible further creative
and explanatory thinking. Without Charles Darwin, our modern
understandings of biology, ecology, genetics, and medicine would be
utterly impossible, and our comprehension of the world around us would
be vastly poorer. By recognizing Darwin Day, we can honor the
importance of scientific thinking in our lives, and we can celebrate
one of our greatest thinkers.?

Except for the date, H. Res. 41 is identical to 2011's H. Res. 81,
introduced by Pete Stark (D-California) on February 9, 2011.
Explaining the earlier resolution, Stark said, "Charles Darwin is
worthy of recognition and honor. His birthday should be a time for us
to celebrate the advancement of human knowledge and the achievements
of reason and science." Like H. Res. 41, H. Res. 81 was referred to
the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. From there, it
proceeded to the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education, where
it eventually died.

"I'm glad to see a Congressional proposal to recognize the importance
of Darwin and of the teaching of evolution," commented NCSE's
executive director Eugenie C. Scott, "and I encourage members and
friends of NCSE to urge their representatives to support H. Res. 41."
She added, "But let's remember that the real action occurs in the
classroom, where 13% of high school biology teachers are explicitly
advocating creationism and 60% are sadly reluctant to teach evolution
in the way that the scientific community understands it. Support H.
Res. 41, but don't neglect the many ways to defend the teaching of
evolution locally."

For the text of H. Res. 41, visit: 

For the press release from the American Humanist Association, visit: 

For NCSE's coverage of H. Res. 81 in 2011, visit: 

And for ways to defend the teaching of evolution locally, visit: 


The Revisionaries -- Scott Thurman's acclaimed documentary about the
controversy over the Texas state board of education's efforts to
undermine the scientific and historical integrity of the textbooks
used in the state's public schools -- airing on PBS.

The documentary focuses on the events of 2009 and 2010, when the
antievolution faction on the Texas state board of education sought to
consolidate its gains despite encountering increasing opposition. As
the film's description explains:


In Austin, Texas, fifteen people influence what is taught to the next
generation of American children. Once every decade, the highly
politicized Texas State Board of Education rewrites the teaching and
textbook standards for its nearly 5 million schoolchildren. And when
it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the nation as a
whole. Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and avowed
young-earth creationist, leads the Religious Right charge. After
briefly serving on his local school board, McLeroy was elected to the
Texas State Board of Education and later appointed chairman. During
his time on the board, McLeroy has overseen the adoption of new
science and history curriculum standards, drawing national attention
and placing Texas on the front line of the so-called "culture wars."
In his last term, McLeroy, aided by Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney from
Houston and professor of Law at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University,
finds himself not only fighting to change what Americans are taught,
but also fighting to retain his seat on the board. Challenged by Kathy
Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, and Ron Wetherington,
an anthropology professor from Southern Methodist University in Texas,
McLeroy faces his toughest term yet. The Revisionaries follows the
rise and fall of some of the most controversial figures in American
education through some of their most tumultuous intellectual battles.


Among the familiar faces in The Revisionaries are Chris Comer, Raymond
Eve, Barbara Forrest, the Texas Freedom Network's Kathy Miller, Ken
Miller, Texas Citizens for Science's Steven Schafersman, Gerald Skoog,
Ron Wetherington, and NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott.

The Revisionaries will be aired on Independent Lens, the
Emmy-award-winning series on PBS airing a different original
documentary film every week, starting on January 28, 2013 -- but dates
and times vary, so check your local listings!

For information about The Revisionaries, visit: 

For local listings of Independent Lens, visit: 


Two antiscience bills, Senate Bill 758 and House Bill 1674, have been
prefiled in the Oklahoma legislature.

First, Senate Bill 758, styled the Oklahoma Science Education Act,
would, if enacted, require state and local educational authorities to
"assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science
curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies" and permit
teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review
in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific
weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course
being taught." Unusually but not uniquely, no scientific topics are
specifically identified as controversial, but the fact that the sole
sponsor of SB 758 is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced
specifically antievolution legislation in the two previous legislative
sessions, is telling.

In late 2010, Brecheen announced his intention to file antievolution
legislation in a column in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19,
2010): "Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with
errors are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to teach the
unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is
incomplete and unacceptable." In a subsequent column in the newspaper
(December 24, 2010), he indicated that his intention was to have
creationism presented as scientifically credible, writing, "I have
introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma
school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known
science, even that which conflicts with Darwin's religion."

What Brecheen in fact introduced in 2011, Senate Bill 554, combined a
version of the now familiar "academic freedom" language -- referring
to "the scientific strengths [and] scientific weaknesses of
controversial topics ... [which] include but are not limited to
biological origins of life and biological evolution" -- with a
directive for the state board of education to adopt "standards and
curricula" that echo the flawed portions of the state science
standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature of
science and evolution. SB 554 died in committee. In 2012, Brecheen
took a new tack with Senate Bill 1742, modeled in part on the
so-called Louisiana Science Education Act; SB 1742 likewise died in

With SB 758, Brecheen seems now to be following the lead of
Tennessee's "monkey law" (as it was nicknamed by House Speaker
Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh), enacted (as Tenn. Code Ann. 49-6-1030) over
the protests of the state's scientific and educational communities in
2012. The major difference is that SB 758 omits the monkey law's
statement of legislative findings, which cites "biological evolution,
the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as
among the topics that "can cause controversy" when taught in the
science classroom of the public schools. The history of Brecheen's
legislative efforts clearly demonstrates that it is evolution which is
primarily the target of the new bill, however.

Second, House Bill 1674, styled the Scientific Education and Academic
Freedom Act, would, if enacted, similarly require state and local
educational authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective
ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific
controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand,
analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific
strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories
pertinent to the course being taught." Unlike SB 768, however, HB 1674
specifically mentions "biological evolution, the chemical origins of
life, global warming, and human cloning" as subjects which "some
teachers may be unsure" about how to teach.

The sole sponsor of HB 1674 is Gus Blackwell (R-District 61). In 2012,
Blackwell revived House Bill 1551, which was originally introduced in
the Oklahoma House of Representatives by Sally Kern (R-District 84) in
2011. HB 1551 was rejected in the House Common Education Committee in
2011, but Blackwell resurrected the bill in 2012, adding a reference
to controversial "premises in the areas of biology, chemistry,
meteorology, bioethics and physics." The revised bill quickly passed
the House Common Education Committee, which amended it slightly to
provide "Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to exempt
students from learning, understanding, and being tested on curriculum
as prescribed by state and local education standards."

HB 1551 passed the House of Representatives on March 15, 2012, by
which time it managed to attract condemnation from national scientific
and educational organizations. The American Association for the
Advancement of Science's chief executive officer Alan I. Leshner
expressed his concerns with the bill, for example, writing in a March
21, 2012, letter, "There is virtually no scientific controversy among
the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global
warming and evolution," and adding, "asserting that there are
significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these
concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten
them." HB 1551 died in the Senate Education Committee in April 2012.

The new bill, HB 1674, is apparently identical to the final version of
HB 1551 as passed by the House of Representatives and unconsidered by
the Senate, and only slightly different from Oklahoma's Senate Bill
320 from 2009, which a member of the Senate Education Committee
memorably described to the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009) as one of
the worst bills that he had ever seen. In its detailed critique of SB
320, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education argued, "Promoting
the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain
dishonest." With respect to the supposed "weaknesses" of evolution,
OESE added, "they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by
people who don't like evolution."

Concerned Oklahomans are urged to get in touch with Eric Meikle at
NCSE and Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education.

For the text of Oklahoma's Senate Bill 758 (document), visit: 

For Brecheen's columns in the Durant Daily Democrat, visit: 

For the text of Oklahoma's House Bill 1674 (document), visit: 

For Alan I. Leshner's comments on House Bill 1551 (PDF), visit: 

For the Tulsa World's story and OESE's comments on Senate Bill 320 (PDF), visit: 

For the website of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: 

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


House Bill 13-1089, introduced in the Colorado House of
Representatives on January 16, 2013, and assigned to the House
Committees on Education and Appropriations, would create "Academic
Freedom Acts" for both K-12 public schools and institutes of higher
education in the state of Colorado. If enacted, the bill would, in the
words of the summary, "direct teachers to create an environment that
encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore
scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to
biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning."

HB 13-1089 is a typical instance of the "academic freedom" strategy
for undermining the teaching of evolution. As NCSE's Glenn Branch,
Eugenie C. Scott, and Joshua Rosenau explained in 2010, such bills
tacitly license and encourage teachers "to miseducate students about
evolution, whether by teaching creationism as a scientifically
credible alternative or merely by misrepresenting evolution as
scientifically controversial." The effect on the teaching of climate
change is similar. Colorado's new bill is unusual in targeting higher
education as well as K-12 education, however.

The primary sponsors of HB 13-1089 are Stephen Humphrey (R-District
48) in the House and Scott Renfroe (R-District 13) in the Senate -- in
Colorado, bills in either house of the legislature will have a sponsor
in the other house. Listed as cosponsors are Perry Buck (R-District
49), Justin Everett (R-District 22), Chris Holbert (R-District 44),
Janak Joshi (R-District 16), Dan Nordberg (R-District 14), Lori Saine
(R-District 63), and James D. Wilson (R-District 60) in the House, and
Kevin Grantham (R-District 2), Ted Harvey (R-District 30), and Owen
Hill (R-District 10) in the Senate.

HB 13-1089 is possibly the first antievolution measure introduced in
the Colorado state legislature since 1972, when House Concurrent
Resolution 1011 would have put a measure on the state ballot to amend
the state constitution to require "equal time" for creationism in the
state's public schools and institutes of higher education, with the
intention of "allowing all students and teachers academic freedom of
choice as to which of these two theories, creation or evolution, they
wish to choose." HCR 1011 was indefinitely postponed by the House
Judiciary Committee.

For the text of HB 13-1089 (PDF), visit: 

For Branch, Scott, and Rosenau's 2010 article in Annual Review of
Genomics and Human Genetics, visit: 

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


"A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ... confirmed an earlier ruling
that found Jet Propulsion Laboratory administrators did not
discriminate against a longtime staffer when they laid him off in
2011," reports the La Cañada Valley Sun (January 17, 2013). The
initial complaint, filed on April 11, 2010, alleged that JPL
discriminated against and unfairly demoted David Coppedge because of
his discussion of "intelligent design" as well as religious and
political issues in the workplace. After Coppedge was laid off from
his job in January 2011, the complaint was amended to add a claim of
wrongful termination, although JPL replied that Coppedge was laid off
as part of a natural attrition.

Ernest Hiroshige, the judge presiding over the case, was unconvinced
by Coppedge's arguments, however, and adopted the defendant's proposed
statement of decision and proposed statement of judgment on January
15, 2013. The decision was not unexpected: in November 2012, Judge
Hiroshige tentatively ruled in favor of the defendant. The proposed
statements, running fifty-seven pages, declare that Coppedge failed to
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Caltech (which operates
JPL for NASA) engaged in religious discrimination against, retaliated
against, failed to prevent discrimination against, wrongfully demoted,
or wrongfully terminated Coppedge.

Reporting on the case before it went to trial, the Pasadena Star-News
(November 30, 2011) described Coppedge as "[a] well-known figure among
proponents of 'intelligent design'" and noted that he operates the
Creation-Evolution Headlines website, although the newspaper
overlooked the fact that he is also on the board of Illustra Media,
which produces "intelligent design" films such as Unlocking the
Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet, and Darwin's Dilemma. It was,
in part, Coppedge's distribution of such films to his coworkers that
prompted JPL to take disciplinary action against him. Documents from
the case, David Coppedge v. Jet Propulsion Laboratory et al., are
available on NCSE's website.

For the story in the La Cañada Valley Sun, visit:,0,2898922.story 

For the proposed statement of decision and proposed statement of
judgment (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of documents in the Coppedge case, visit: 


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
underway in Colorado, Missouri, Montana, and Oklahoma. 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, 506
congregations in forty-seven states (and eleven foreign countries)
were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, 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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