Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2013/02/08

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Good news from Montana and Colorado. The New York Times discusses the
proposed Congressional resolution about Darwin Day while the Guardian
discusses the current spate of antievolution legislation. And a
reminder about Darwin Day.


Montana's House Bill 183, which purports to "encourage critical
thinking regarding controversial scientific theories" such as
"biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation,
natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries," was tabled in the
House Education Committee on February 5, 2013. As NCSE previously
reported, the bill was originally intended to "[r]equire public
schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution," which would
presumably conflict with the decision in the 2005 case Kitzmiller v.
Dover, in which requiring the public schools to teach "intelligent
design" was held to be unconstitutional.

The House Education Committee discussed HB 183 in its January 25,
2013, meeting. According to the Associated Press (January 25, 2013),
the bill's sponsor, Clayton Fiscus (R-District 46), explained, "This
is just a bill to instruct what we have presently in the science on
the origins of life. ... We should teach what we do know. We should
also teach what we don't know." Over twenty people attending the
hearing, including scientists, teachers, theologians, school board
members, and concerned parents, testified against the bill; none
testified for it. Highlights from the hearing are available on NCSE's
YouTube channel.

For the text of Montana's House Bill 183, visit: 

For the Associated Press story (via the Great Falls Tribune), visit: 

For the highlights from the hearing, visit: 

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


House Bill 13-1089, which would have encouraged teachers in Colorado
to misrepresent the scientific status of evolution and climate change,
was rejected by a 7-6 vote in the House Committee on Education on
February 4, 2013. The committee also voted 7-6 to postpone further
consideration of the bill indefinitely. Otherwise a typical instance
of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the integrity of
science education, HB 13-1089 was unusual in targeting higher
education as well as K-12 education. The primary sponsors of HB
13-1089 were 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. Among
those testifying for the bill was a representative of the Discovery
Institute, who claimed that his organization helped to draft the bill.
Among those testifying against the bill were representatives of the
Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado Education
Association, and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.

"One down, seven to go," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie
C. Scott, alluding to the seven bills still active -- Arizona's Senate
Bill 1213, Indiana's House Bill 1283, Missouri's House Bill 179 and
House Bill 291, Montana's House Bill 183, and Oklahoma's Senate Bill
758 and House Bill 1674 -- that would undermine the teaching of
evolution and climate change in the public schools. (A further bill,
Texas's House Bill 285, which would protect faculty and students in
higher education from persecution over their acceptance of
"intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and
development of organisms," is also still active.) "But this victory in
Colorado was too close," Scott added. "People in Colorado and
elsewhere need to understand that these bills would be nothing but
trouble: scientifically misleading, pedagogically unnecessary, and
likely to produce administrative, legal, and economic headaches." She
expressed NCSE's appreciation to all those who testified at the
committee hearing and contacted their representatives to express their
opposition to HB 13-1089.

For the text of Colorado's House Bill 13-1089 (PDF), visit: 

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


"Two congressmen, two Christians and two very different views of the
man who in 1859 published 'On the Origin of Species,'" writes Mark
Oppenheimer in The New York Times (February 1, 2013). The two opposing
figures of his article are Rush Holt (D-New Jersey), who introduced a
resolution to designate February 12, 2013, as Darwin Day, and hopes to
hold hearings "where people can hear about Darwin and science and the
jobs it creates, the lives it saves, everything," and Paul Broun
(R-New Jersey), who was in the news in 2012 for describing evolution
as "lies, straight from the pit of hell ... lies to try to keep me and
all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a

Attitudes such as Broun's are not new, of course, and they are
primarily motivated by moral, rather than scientific, concerns. The
historian Ronald L. Numbers told Oppenheimer that the 1925 Tennessee
law banning evolution was passed because "people were concerned about
its ethical teaching," and the science journalist Chris Mooney
suggested that evolution reemerged as a target for evangelical
Christians in the 1970s due to a perceived connection with abortion.
Thus while many Christians "believe that Darwin's theory of evolution
by natural selection is compatible with a Christian worldview," Darwin
"still gets a whupping from politicians trying to scare up the votes
of conservative Christians."

For Oppenheimer's column in The New York Times, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of Holt's resolution, visit: 


"Four US states are considering new legislation about teaching science
in schools, allowing pupils to be taught religious versions of how
life on earth developed in what critics say would establish a backdoor
way of questioning the theory of evolution," the Guardian (January 13,
2013) summarizes. The states in question are Colorado (House Bill
13-1089), Missouri (House Bill 179 and House Bill 291), Montana (House
Bill 183), and Oklahoma (Senate Bill 758 and House Bill 1674) -- to
which should be added Arizona (Senate Bill 1213) and Indiana (House
Bill 1283), for a grand total of eight bills in six states.

Missouri's HB 179 and HB 291 target evolution only, with HB 291
requiring, "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." Arizona's SB 1213, Colorado's HB
13-1089, Oklahoma's HB 1674, and Montana's HB 183 target, in varying
wording, "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global
warming, and human cloning." Oklahoma's SB 758 and Indiana's HB 1283
mention no specific topics, although evolution is clearly the implicit

Except for Missouri's HB 291, all of the bills share three features,
expressed in more or less the same language. First, they are
permissive, allowing rather than requiring teachers to help pupils
understand the supposed "scientific strengths and scientific
weaknesses" of scientific theories. Second, they are protective,
forbidding state and local educational authorities from prohibiting
teachers to do so. (Oklahoma's HB 1674 also protects students from
being penalized for subscribing "to a particular position on
scientific theories.") Third, they disavow any intention to promote
any religious or antireligious view.

Discussing the bills, NCSE's Joshua Rosenau commented, "Taken at face
value, they sound innocuous and lovely: critical thinking, debate and
analysis. It seems so innocent, so pure. But they chose to question
only areas that religious conservatives are uncomfortable with. There
is a religious agenda here." Rob Boston of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State concurred, telling the Guardian, "This
is just another attempt to bring creationism in through the back door.
The only academic freedom they really want to encourage is the freedom
to be ignorant."

Although over forty such bills have been introduced over the last
decade, only two have been enacted: in Louisiana in 2008 and in
Tennessee in 2012. Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at
Southeastern Louisiana University (and a member of NCSE's board of
directors) attributed the popularity of such bills to the outcome of
the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, in which teaching "intelligent
design" in the public schools was found to be unconstitutional.
"Creationists never give up. They never do. The language of these
bills may be highly sanitized but it is creationist code," she said.

"The laws can have a direct impact on a state," the Guardian reported,
citing the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology's boycott of
Louisiana (recently rescinded for the city of New Orleans, after the
New Orleans City Council and the Orleans Parish School Board both took
firm stands against teaching creationism). Zack Kopplin, the young
Lousiana activist, argued that similar bills risk the economy and the
reputation of states considering them. "It really hurts students. It
can be embarrassing to be from a state which has become a laughing
stock in this area," Kopplin remarked.

For the story in the Guardian, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in the six states with
antievolution legislation, visit: 


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than a week
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 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, 591
congregations across the country (and in thirteen foreign countries)
were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: 


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

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: 

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!