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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/01/27

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

South Dakota's antiscience bill passes the Senate after passing the
Senate Education Committee. There's antievolution activity in Indiana,
Turkey, and Oklahoma. NCSE bids farewell to Josh Rosenau. And a
reminder that Darwin Day is less than two weeks away!

SOUTH DAKOTA'S ANTISCIENCE BILL PASSES THE SENATE

South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 passed the Senate on a 23-12 vote on
January 25, 2017, "despite guidance from the State Department of
Education, state school boards, school administrators, teachers and
scientists," according to the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader (January 25,
2017).

If enacted, SB 55 would provide, "No teacher may be prohibited from
helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an
objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific
information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with
the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48 [the section
of the state code that governs the state education standards revision
cycle]."

Although no specific scientific topics are mentioned, the language of
the bill matches the language in bills aimed at evolution and/or
climate change, including South Dakota's SB 114 in 2015. And the
sponsorship is similar: Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), a sponsor of SB
55, also sponsored SB 112 in 2014, which would have prevented school
boards and administrators from prohibiting teachers from teaching
"intelligent design."

Troy Heinert (D-District 26), who voted against the bill in the Senate
and previously in the Senate Education Committee, commented, "With the
passage of this bill, that teacher hired by the school district to
teach what the school board deems appropriate could go off on other
tangents and there would be no way that the principal who does the
evaluation by law would have to either reprimand them or bring them
in."

Describing the bill's language as "unclear and flabby," NCSE's Glenn
Branch told the Argus-Leader that SB 55's passage could allow teachers
to present creationism, climate change denial, or white supremacy with
impunity. He also observed that local school boards could be put in a
legal bind whether or not they tried to prevent maverick teachers from
miseducating their students about science, warning, "This is a recipe
for legal disaster."

SB 55 now proceeds to the South Dakota House of Representatives, where
Blaine Campbell (R-District 35), Julie Frye-Mueller (R-District 30),
Tim Goodwin (R-District 30), Leslie J. Heinemann (R-District 8), and
Taffy Howard (R-District 33) are its sponsors.

For information about South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 from the legislature, visit:
http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/Bill.aspx?File=SB55P.htm&Session=2017 

For the story from the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, visit:
http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/25/sd-senate-oks-alternative-teachings-scientific-theories/97031900/ 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Dakota, visit:
https://ncse.com/news/south-dakota 

UPDATE FROM SOUTH DAKOTA

South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 passed the Senate Education Committee on
a 4-3 vote on January 24, 2017, despite the opposition of the state's
educational communities, according to the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader
(January 24, 2017).

If enacted, SB 55 would provide, "No teacher may be prohibited from
helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an
objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific
information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with
the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48 [the section
of the state code that governs the state education standards revision
cycle]."

Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), a sponsor of SB 55, told the Argus-Leader
that he was told by teachers that they were uncomfortable teaching
(unspecified) alternatives to climate change or unable to teach about
the development of embryos. In 2014, Monroe introduced a similar bill,
SB 112, which would have prevented school boards and administrators
from prohibiting teachers from teaching "intelligent design" in their
classes.

Troy Heinert (D-District 26), a member of the Senate Education
Committee who voted against the bill, noted that local school boards
would lose any ability to oversee maverick teachers when it comes to
teaching science, telling the newspaper, "What this is saying is you
can bypass what your local school board is saying ... A vote for this
is a vote against your local school board."

Confirming Heinert's diagnosis was the fact that Wade Pogany, the
executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota,
was among those testifying against the bill, according to KELO AM
(January 24, 2017).

For information about South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 from the legislature, visit:
http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/Bill.aspx?File=SB55P.htm&Session=2017 

For the stories from the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader and KELO AM, visit:
http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/24/lawmakers-approve-alternative-teachings-evolution-climate-change-sd-schools/96983444/ 
http://kelo.com/news/articles/2017/jan/24/lawmakers-advance-scientific-alternatives/ 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Dakota, visit:
https://ncse.com/news/south-dakota 

ANTIEVOLUTION RESOLUTION IN INDIANA

Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, introduced and referred to the Senate
Committee on Education and Career Development as of January 23, 2017,
would, if adopted, ostensibly urge the state department of education
"to reinforce support of teachers who choose to teach a diverse
curriculum." But the teaching of evolution is the specific target of
the bill.

That the teaching of evolution is the target of SR 17 is apparent from
its preamble, which cites the so-called Santorum language from the
report to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 -- "Where topics are
taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution),
that the curriculum should help students to understand the full range
of scientific views that exist, why such topics can generate
controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect
society" -- and claims, "the ACLU and like organizations agree in
principle that any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any
explanation of life may be taught."

The sponsors of SR 17 are Jeff Raatz (R-District 27) and Dennis Kruse
(R-District 14). Both legislators have a history of antievolution
activity in Indiana. Kruse sponsored three bills -- HB 1356 in 2000,
HB 1323 in 2001, and SB 89 in 2012 -- that would have allowed local
school districts to require the teaching of creation science. In 2015,
Raatz and Kruse sponsored Senate Bill 562, which would have deprived
administrators of the ability to prevent teachers from miseducating
students about "scientific controversies." Unusually, SB 562 mentioned
only human cloning by way of example. All of these bills failed to win
passage.

SR 17's preamble resembles the provisions of SB 562. Speaking to the
Lafayette Journal & Courier (January 20, 2015) about the latter, Raatz
acknowledged that it could be called, as the reporter called it, "a
back-door approach to failed attempts to chip away at state standards
on teaching evolution and to bring creationism into the public school
classroom."

For the text of Indiana's Senate Resolution 17 as introduced, visit:
https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2017/resolutions/senate/simple/17#document-d4dbc845 

For NCSE's collection of information on the so-called Santorum language, visit:
https://ncse.com/taking-action/analysis-santorum-language 

For the 2015 story in the Lafayette Journal & Courier, visit:
http://www.jconline.com/story/opinion/columnists/dave-bangert/2015/01/20/evolution-science-back-bills-cross-hairs/22064443/ 

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

EVOLUTION EDUCATION UNDER ATTACK IN TURKEY

A draft of a new national curriculum in Turkey omits evolution,
according to soL international (January 15, 2017). A unit entitled
"The Origin of Life and Evolution" will be replaced with a unit
entitled "Living Beings and the Environment." The final decision on
the curriculum is expected in February 2017.

"[T]he Minister of National Education, Ismet Yilmaz[,] said that the
draft is open for feedback ... and the Evolution Theory is not an
exception," soL International reported, adding, "Yilmaz claimed that
'whether it is scientific, merely a hypothesis, or just theoretical,
all these are debatable.'"

The teaching of evolution has been periodically contentious in Turkey,
owing in part to the efforts of Islamic fundamentalist groups and
politicians. Perhaps as a result, Turkey enjoys the lowest rate of
acceptance of evolution in the developed world, according to a 2005
study published in Science.

For the report from soL International, visit:
http://news.sol.org.tr/government-remove-evolution-high-school-curriculum-171440 

For the Science article on rates of acceptance of evolution
(subscription required), visit:
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5788/765.full 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events overseas, visit:
https://ncse.com/news/international 

ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN OKLAHOMA

Senate Bill 393, styled the Oklahoma Science Education Act, is the
latest antievolution bill in the Sooner State. SB 393 would, if
enacted, in effect encourage science teachers with idiosyncratic
opinions to teach anything they pleased -- proponents of creationism
and climate change denial are the usual intended beneficiaries of such
bills -- and discourage responsible educational authorities from
intervening. No scientific topics are specifically identified as
controversial, but the fact that the sole sponsor of SB 393 is Josh
Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced similar legislation that
directly targeted evolution in previous legislative sessions, is
suggestive.

SB 393 would require state and local educational authorities to
"assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science
curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and permit
teachers to "help students 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";
it would prevent such authorities from "prohibit[ing] any teacher in a
public school district in this state from helping students understand,
analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific
strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in
the course being taught."

In late 2010, Brecheen announced his intention to file antievolution
legislation in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010):
"Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors
are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown,
without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and
unacceptable." In a later column in the newspaper (December 24, 2010),
he indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented as
scientifically credible, writing, "I have introduced legislation
requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate
of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which
conflicts with Darwin's religion."

What Brecheen in fact introduced in 2011, Senate Bill 554, combined a
version of the now familiar "academic freedom" language -- referring
to "the scientific strengths [and] scientific weaknesses of
controversial topics ... [which] include but are not limited to
biological origins of life and biological evolution" -- with a
directive for the state board of education to adopt "standards and
curricula" that echo the flawed portions of the state science
standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature of
science and evolution. SB 554 died in committee. In 2012, Brecheen
took a new tack with Senate Bill 1742, modeled in part on the
so-called Louisiana Science Education Act; SB 1742 likewise died in
committee.

In 2013, Brecheen modified his approach again. Senate Bill 758
followed the lead of Tennessee's "monkey law" (as it was nicknamed by
House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh), enacted (as Tenn. Code Ann.
49-6-1030) over the protests of the state's scientific and educational
communities in 2012. The major difference is that SB 758 omitted the
monkey law's statement of legislative findings, which cites
"biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming,
and human cloning" as among the topics that "can cause controversy"
when taught in the science classroom of the public schools. The bill
died in the Senate Education Committee.

The failure of SB 758 notwithstanding, Brecheen persisted. In 2014, he
introduced the virtually identical SB 1765. Like SB 758, it died in
the Senate Education Committee, but not before eliciting opposition
from the American Institute of Biological Sciences, which described
the bill as "bad for science and bad for science education," and the
National Association of Biology Teachers, which warned that it "could
easily permit non-science based discussions of 'strengths and
weaknesses' to take place in science classrooms, confusing students
about the nature of science." In 2015 and 2016, he introduced the
virtually identical SB 655 and SB 1322, respectively; both died in the
Senate Education Committee.

For the text of Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393 as introduced (PDF), visit:
http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2017-18%20INT/SB/SB393%20INT.PDF 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit:
https://ncse.com/news/oklahoma 

FAREWELL TO JOSH ROSENAU

NCSE bids farewell to Josh Rosenau, who joined NCSE as a Programs and
Policy Director in 2007. Equipped not only with his substantive
knowledge of biology but also with his experience resisting
creationist assaults on science education in Kansas, he was
particularly valuable to grassroots activists across the country,
testifying before the Texas state board of education in 2011 and 2013,
and conducting a series of webinars for science education activists.
Rosenau also significantly contributed to a number of projects at
NCSE, including the addition of climate science as a focus, the
creation of NCSE's blog, the teacher scholarships on NCSE's Grand
Canyon excursions, and the development and analysis of the NCSE/Penn
State survey of climate change education in the United States. A
gifted writer, he published articles on evolution and climate
education in venues ranging from the Washington Post to Trends in
Microbiology. All of us at NCSE wish him the best in his new
endeavors.

For the series of webinars, visit:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEY5FNAfU6XDtKlSIQI_KDaBnC-9dsTPj 

For Rosenau's posts on NCSE's blog, visit:
https://ncse.com/blog?f[0]=author%3A10 

And for the report of the NCSE/Penn State survey, visit:
https://ncse.com/files/MixedMessages.pdf 

DARWIN DAY APPROACHES

It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than two weeks
remain before Darwin Day 2017! 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
already under way in state legislatures. 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 10-12, 2017, 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, 306
congregations in forty-five states (and seven foreign countries) were
scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit:
http://darwinday.org/events/ 
http://darwinday.org/events/community/add 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit:
http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ 

WHAT'S NEW AT NCSE'S BLOG?

Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed:

* Emily Schoerning describing the national expansion of NCSE's Science
Booster Club program:
https://ncse.com/blog/2017/01/were-going-national-0018442 

For NCSE's blog, 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.

--
Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
510-601-7203
fax 510-788-7971
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

Check out NCSE's blog:
http://ncse.com/blog 

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