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