NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2015/12/25
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear friends of NCSE, A milestone for NCSE on Facebook; a Darwin Day bill in the United States Senate; and a slew of stories about Matzke's Kitzmas tree.
FACEBOOK: N > 140,000 A milestone: there are now over 140,000 fans of NCSE's Facebook page. Why not join them, by visiting the page and becoming a fan by clicking on the "Like" box by NCSE's name? You'll receive the latest NCSE news delivered straight to your Facebook Home page, as well as updates on evolution-related and climate-related topics. Or if you prefer your news in 140-character chunks, follow NCSE on Twitter. And while you're surfing the web, why not visit NCSE's YouTube channel, with hundreds of videos for your watching pleasure? It's the best place on the web to view talks by NCSE's staff. For NCSE's Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel, visit: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://twitter.com/ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd DARWIN DAY BILL IN THE SENATE Senate Resolution 337, introduced in the United States Senate on December 17, 2015, would, if passed, express the Senate's support of designating February 12, 2016, 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." Introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), S. Res. 336 is the second Darwin Day resolution ever to appear in the Senate. A string of similar bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives, the most recent of which -- H. Res. 548 -- was introduced by Representative Jim Himes (D-Connecticut) on December 3, 2015. In a December 18, 2015, press release from the Secular Coalition of America, which worked with Blumenthal on the resolution, Kelly Damerow, the organization's interim executive director, commented, "This resolution celebrates the intellectual bravery and scientific discovery that contribute to the well-being of all people." For information about Senate Resolution 337, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-resolution/337 For NCSE's story about House Resolution 548, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2015/12/darwin-day-resolution-congress-0016790 And for the Secular Coalition of America's press release, visit: https://www.secular.org/news/senate-introduces-darwin-day-resolution MATZKE'S KITZMAS TREE IN THE NEWS Nick Matzke's "The Evolution of Antievolution Policies after Kitzmiller v. Dover," a new paper forthcoming in Science, is receiving plenty of press coverage. As NCSE previously reported, the paper shows that even though creationism is getting stealthier in the wake of legal defeats such as Kitzmiller v. Dover, techniques from modern evolutionary biology reveal how creationist legislation is evolving. Here is a sampling of the coverage. The Los Angeles Times (December 17, 2015) reported, "The forces opposed to teaching evolution in U.S. public schools just got a new reason to resent the bedrock scientific theory: A researcher has used the principles of evolutionary biology to show that laws ostensibly aimed at improving science education are firmly rooted in efforts to make classrooms safe for creationism." The Washington Post (December 17, 2015) explained, "Matzke swapped out genomes and morphological traits with text from legislative proposals designed to keep evolution out of schools and let creationism in. ... The efforts to push creationism as a valid alternative to evolutionary biology can be traced back almost a century, when teaching evolution was banned, but Matzke analyzed only the 65 bills proposed in the past decade." In a podcast with Scientific American's Steve Mirsky (December 18, 2015), Matzke commented, "I took all those bills, lined up all those texts, coded all the characteristics, all the variations between these texts, and then ran them through the standard phylogenetic analyses that we use for DNA. We use them for dinosaurs, they get used to study virus evolution. Those same programs can be used on texts that have been copied and modified." Matzke told CityLab (December 17, 2015), "It is one thing to say that two bills have some resemblances, and another thing to say that bill X was copied from bill Y with greater than 90 percent probability ... I do think this research strengthens the case that all of these bills are of a piece -- they are all 'stealth creationism,' and they all have either clear fundamentalist motivations, or are close copies of bills with such motivations." Ars Technica (December 17, 2015) summarized, "Matzke concludes that opponents of evolution have reinvented themselves twice over the last dozen years or so, starting with academic freedom bills and later switching to science education acts. During that time, there were also some successful innovations, such as bringing along climate change in an attempt to attract wider conservative support." Matzke told Vox (December 17, 2015) that the comparison with evolution was apt. "We know that microbes evolve. They evolve to get around the immune system. They evolve to become sneakier. Animals evolving camouflage to avoid predators and stuff like that. We're really seeing that happen with these creationist bills. The more obvious forms of these bills got shot down." But sneakier versions pass, he added, as in Louisiana and Tennessee. Slate added (December 22, 2015), "While these bills are sneaky, Matzke's handy chart shows that it's possible to find the common roots of these sorts of anti-science efforts. In his words: 'They are not terribly intelligently designed.' So thank you, Dr. Matzke, for revealing these bills for what they truly are: religion in disguise. And thank you, creationists, for providing a robust teaching tool for a theory you claim does not exist." Now a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellow at the Australian National University, Matzke previously worked at NCSE from 2004 to 2007, where he was the staffer who worked most closely with the legal team for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case that established the unconstitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" creationism in the public schools. The case was decided on December 20, 2005 -- a date jokingly remembered as Kitzmas. For "The Evolution of Antievolution Policies after Kitzmiller v. Dover" (PDF; subscription required), visit: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/12/16/science.aad4057.full.pdf For NCSE's previous story on the paper, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2015/12/matzkes-kitzmas-tree-0016809 For the cited stories, visit: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-evolution-of-creationism-in-schools-20151217-story.html https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/12/17/how-have-anti-evolution-tactics-evolved-over-time-theyve-gotten-sneakier/ http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/anti-evolution-legislation-shows-descent-with-modification/ http://www.citylab.com/politics/2015/12/creationism-evolution-darwin-intelligent-design-public-school-science/420825/ http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/12/an-evolutionary-analysis-of-anti-evolution-legislation/ http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2015/12/17/10434458/creationism-is-evolving http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/12/anti_evolution_bills_to_teach_creationism_have_evolved.html And for information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/intelligent-design-trial-kitzmiller-v-dover WHAT'S NEW FROM THE SCIENCE LEAGUE OF AMERICA Have you been visiting NCSE's blog, The Science League of America, recently? If not, then you've missed: * Josh Rosenau explaining the merger between the Discovery Institute and the Foundation for Thought and Ethics: http://ncse.com/blog/2015/12/marriage-made-heaven-0016830 * Steven Newton waxing less than enthusiastic at the prospect of a new creationist "museum" in Dallas: http://ncse.com/blog/2015/12/just-what-america-needs-another-creationist-museum-0016832 * Stephanie Keep describing a strange exchange on Science Friday: http://ncse.com/blog/2015/12/say-what-bizarre-potentially-harmful-exchange-science-friday-0016811 http://ncse.com/blog/2015/12/say-what-bizarre-potentially-harmful-exchange-science-friday-0016812 And much more besides! For The Science League of America, visit: http://ncse.com/blog 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. -- With best wishes for the holiday season, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x303 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Check out NCSE's new blog, Science League of America: http://ncse.com/blog 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