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.
"INTELLIGENT DESIGN" BILL IN MISSOURI 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 use. 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: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills131/biltxt/intro/HB0291I.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncse.com/news/missouri DARWIN DAY RESOLUTION IN CONGRESS 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: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:H.RES.41: For the press release from the American Humanist Association, visit: http://www.americanhumanist.org/news/details/2013-01-humanists-work-with-rep-rush-holt-to-introduce-darwi For NCSE's coverage of H. Res. 81 in 2011, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2011/02/darwin-day-resolution-congress-006494 And for ways to defend the teaching of evolution locally, visit: http://ncse.com/taking-action/29-ways-to-support-science-education THE REVISIONARIES ON PBS 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: http://www.therevisionariesmovie.com/ For local listings of Independent Lens, visit: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/broadcast.html TWO ANTISCIENCE BILLS IN OKLAHOMA 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 committee. 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: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf/2013-14%20int/sb/SB758%20int.doc For Brecheen's columns in the Durant Daily Democrat, visit: http://www.durantdemocrat.com/view/full_story/10717736/article-Brecheen-discusses-evolution-and-Darwinian-Theory http://www.durantdemocrat.com/view/full_story/10717736/article-Brecheen-discusses-evolution-and-Darwinian-Theory For the text of Oklahoma's House Bill 1674 (document), visit: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf/2013-14%20int/hb/HB1674%20int.doc For Alan I. Leshner's comments on House Bill 1551 (PDF), visit: http://www.aaas.org/programs/centers/pe/news_svc/media/2012/ok_hb_1551_senate_edu_march_2012.pdf For the Tulsa World's story and OESE's comments on Senate Bill 320 (PDF), visit: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20090217_16_A11_OKLAHO853574 http://www.oklascience.org/SB320_handout.pdf For the website of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: http://oklascience.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma ANTISCIENCE LEGISLATION IN COLORADO 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: http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2013a/csl.nsf/fsbillcont3/35B3E6449F0D1CB987257AEE00581D2A?open&file=1089_01.pdf For Branch, Scott, and Rosenau's 2010 article in Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics, visit: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-genom-082509-141815 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Colorado, visit: http://ncse.com/news/colorado DECISION IN COPPEDGE CASE "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: http://www.lacanadaonline.com/news/tn-818-0117-judge-confirms-earlier-ruling-sides-with-jpl-in-intelligent-design-case,0,2898922.story For the proposed statement of decision and proposed statement of judgment (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/files/20121130_Proposed-Statement-of-Decision.pdf And for NCSE's collection of documents in the Coppedge case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/coppedge-v-jpl 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 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: http://darwinday.org/events/ http://darwinday.org/wp-login.php?action=register For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ 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