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NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2013/02/01

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A preview of a graphic biography of Darwin. Antiscience legislation in
Arizona and in Indiana. And a reminder about Darwin Day.

A PREVIEW OF DARWIN: A GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Eugene Byrne and Simon
Gurr's Darwin: A Graphic Biography (Smithsonian Books, 2013). The
preview consists of pp. 60-75, in which Darwin, returned from his
five-year voyage around the world in the Beagle, debates whether to
marry, studies baboons and monkeys in the London Zoo, marries his
cousin Emma Wedgwood and moves to Downe in Kent, and studies barnacles
and pigeons. The excerpt concludes, "But now Darwin was ready to write
a book about the subject that he had been thinking about for all this
time -- the way that nature, unassisted by man, creates a new species.
In other words, NATURAL SELECTION. But then disaster threatened."

The publisher writes, "Darwin: A Graphic Biography is an inspiring
expedition into the physical and intellectual adventures of Charles
Darwin. ... Darwin's life presented in this form is an inspirational
tale for kids of all ages. They'll be sure to identify with a curious
young Darwin finding his way on youthful adventures in the fields near
his house. The ups, downs, and near-misses of Darwin's youth are
portrayed honestly and without foreshadowing of his later fame. This
is a key point for younger readers: that Darwin wasn't somehow
predestined to greatness. He was curious, patient, and meticulous. He
persevered -- a great lesson about what science is all about."

For the preview of Darwin: A Graphic Biography (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/book-excerpt 

For information about the book from its publisher, visit:
http://www.randomhouse.com/book/215394/darwin-by-eugene-byrne 

ANTISCIENCE LEGISLATION IN ARIZONA

A new antiscience bill was introduced in the Arizona Senate. A typical
instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the
teaching of evolution and climate change, Senate Bill 1213 would, if
enacted, call on state and local education administrators to endeavor
to "create an environment in 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" and to "assist
teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as
it addresses scientific controversies."

The targets of the bill are explicitly listed in a section that
presents as legislative findings that "1. An important purpose of
science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and
to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to become
intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens. 2. The
teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution,
the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can
cause controversy. 3. Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations
concerning how they should present information on such topics."

Somewhat redundantly, SB 1213 provides both that "teachers shall be
allowed to help pupils understand, analyze, critique and review in an
objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of
existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught" and
that state and local education administrators "shall not prohibit any
teacher in this state" from doing so. The bill also insists that it
"protects only the teaching of scientific information and does not
promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination
for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs or
promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

The prime sponsors of SB 1213 are Judy Burges (R-District 22) and
Chester Crandell (R-District 6), with Rick Murphy (R-District 21),
Steve Pierce (R-District 1), Don Shooter (R-District 13), and Steve
Yarbrough (R-District 17) as cosponsors. The bill is the first
antiscience bill introduced in Arizona in at least the past decade;
the last statewide controversy over the teaching of evolution was
evidently in 2004, when the Arizona state board of education was
lobbied, in the end unsuccessfully, to include a directive for
teachers to discuss "intelligent design" in the state science
education standards.

For the text of Arizona's Senate Bill 1213 as introduced, visit:
http://www.azleg.gov//FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/51leg/1r/bills/sb1213p.htm&Session_ID=110 

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

A STEALTH ANTISCIENCE BILL IN INDIANA

House Bill 1283, introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives on
January 23, 2013, and referred to the House Committee on Education, is
the seventh antiscience bill of 2013. Although evolution is not
specifically mentioned in the bill, the previous legislation
introduced by its sponsor, Jeff Thompson (R-District 28), and the
similarity of its language to the language of previous antievolution
bills together make it amply clear that the teaching of evolution in
the state's public schools is a main target.

HB 1283 begins by asserting as legislative findings that "(1) an
important purpose of education is to inform students about evidence
and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to
become intelligent, productive, and informed citizens; (2) some
subjects, including, but not limited to, science, history, and health,
have produced differing conclusions and theories on some topics; and
(3) some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how the
teachers should present information and evidence on these topics."

HB 1283 requires state and local education officials to "endeavor to
create an environment within accredited schools that encourages
students to explore questions, learn about evidence, develop critical
thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to
different conclusions and theories concerning" such topics, and also
requires them not to prohibit teachers from "helping students to
understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the
strengths and weaknesses of existing conclusions and theories being
presented in a course being taught by the teacher."

HB 1283 further provides, "A teacher shall be allowed to help students
understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the
strengths and weaknesses of conclusions and theories being presented
in a course being taught by the teacher." And, attempting to immunize
the bill from accusations of its permitting unconstitutional activity
in the classroom, it insists that it "may not be construed to promote:
(1) any religious or nonreligious doctrine; (2) discrimination for or
against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs; or (3)
discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

In 2012, the bill's author Jeff Thompson was the House sponsor of
Dennis Kruse's Senate Bill 89. As originally submitted, SB 89 would
have allowed local school districts to teach creation science, but the
Senate, before passing it, amended the bill to allow local school
districts to teach various theories of the origin of life, which "must
include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is
not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and
Scientology." SB 89 as amended eventually died in the House.

Also in 2012, Thompson was the author of House Bill 1140, which would
have required teachers to discuss "commonly held competing views" on
topics "that cannot be verified by scientific empirical evidence."
Although evolution was not specifically mentioned in the bill, its
coauthor Cindy Noe (R-District 87) cohosted a controversial dinner at
the Creation Evidence Expo in Indianapolis in 2009, according to the
Fort Wayne Reader (August 23, 2010): the Expo's organizer claimed that
Noe was a supporter of his organization. In any case, HB 1140 seems to
have died in committee.

HB 1283 is the only antiscience bill in Indiana in 2013. As NCSE
previously reported, state senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14)
disclosed in November 2012 that he intended to introduce a bill that
would encourage teachers to misrepresent evolution as scientifically
controversial. He subsequently changed his plan, saying that he would
introduce a bill that would allow students to challenge teachers to
provide evidence to support any claims the students found suspect.
Apparently, however, no such bill has been introduced, and deadlines
for filing Senate bills and for Senate bills to be assigned to
committee have passed.

For the text of Indiana's House Bill 1283 as introduced, visit:
http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2013/IN/IN1283.1.html 

For the story in the Fort Wayne Reader, visit:
http://www.fortwaynereader.com/story.php?uid=1727 

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

DARWIN DAY APPROACHES

It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than two weeks
remain 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 Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, 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, 578
congregations across the country (and in twelve 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
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

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