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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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.
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For NCSE's Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel, visit: 


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

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,

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: 

For NCSE's story about House Resolution 548, visit: 

And for the Secular Coalition of America's press release, visit: 


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

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: 

For NCSE's previous story on the paper, visit: 

For the cited stories, visit: 

And for information about Kitzmiller v. Dover, visit: 


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: 

* Steven Newton waxing less than enthusiastic at the prospect of a new
creationist "museum" in Dallas: 

* Stephanie Keep describing a strange exchange on Science Friday: 

And much more besides!

For The Science League of America, visit: 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- 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

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