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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/02/10

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

A chance to make a film about evolution and win a prize! Plus the
latest news on legislation in South Dakota, Iowa, and Texas. And a
final reminder about Darwin Day.


Scientists and science educators of all stripes -- students, postdocs,
faculty, and full- or part-time science communicators -- are invited
to enter the Seventh Annual Evolution Video Competition, sponsored by
the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the BEACON
Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

To enter, please submit a video that explains a fun fact, key concept,
compelling question, or exciting area of evolution research in three
minutes or less. Entries may be related or unrelated to your own
research, and should be suitable for use in a classroom. Videos should
be both informative and entertaining.

The finalists will be screened at the Evolution 2017 meeting in
Portland, Oregon. (You do not need to attend the conference in order
to enter a video.) The winner will receive a prize of $1000; the
runner-up will receive a prize of $500. The deadline to submit a video
is 11:59 p.m. (EST), June 2, 2017. For further information and to view
entries from previous years, visit 

For information about the contest, visit: 


South Dakota's Senate Bill 55, which would empower science denial in
the classroom, is still awaiting a hearing in the House Education
Committee, currently scheduled for February 13, 2017. In the meantime,
the bill continues to attract state and national attention.

Writing for the Washington Post (February 5, 2017), Valerie Strauss
noted, "The bill has been blasted by scientific and education
organizations, including the South Dakota Department of Education, the
School Administrators of South Dakota, the National Science Teachers
Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the
National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Center for
Science Education, the American Institute of Biological Sciences,  the
National Coalition Against Censorship, the Associated School Boards of
South Dakota[,] and the South Dakota Education Association."

Adding its condemnation was Americans United for Separation of Church
and State, which in a February 3, 2017, letter to the chair and vice
chair of the House Education Committee, warned, "Rather than promote
scientific thought, [SB 55] would authorize teachers to discuss and
teach 'intelligent design' as a 'critique' or 'weakness' of evolution.
There is no scientific basis for intelligent design and federal courts
have made clear that teaching it in public school science classrooms
violates the Establishment Clause." The bill would thus "allow
creationists to continue to make non-scientific attacks against

Writing in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader (February 1, 2017), Mark
Sweeney, a geologiy professor at the University of South Dakota,
protested, "Spreading the false idea that evolution or climate change
is scientifically controversial does not reflect the reality among
scientists, and teaching the supposed 'controversy' does no one any
good other than to breed unnecessary and ill-informed skepticism. ...
If SB 55 is passed, there would be a real risk that many of South
Dakota’s students would receive the false impression that what they
are taught about evolution and climate change is scientifically

Eric Wells, a physics professor at Augustana University, added in the
Sioux Falls Argus-Leader (February 2, 2017), "Teachers of science have
the responsibility to present the best scientific understanding of the
natural world as well as to describe the self-correcting nature of the
scientific process. Local school boards should have the ability to
ensure that this happens. Could a teacher express any idea, scientific
or not, under protection of this bill? The ambiguous language of the
bill either renders it meaningless or quite possibly produces an
uncertain legal situation that could protect unscientific teaching. So
why bother?"

A petition organized by Climate Parents -- a national movement of
parents, grandparents and families mobilizing for clean energy and
climate solutions -- urges South Dakota's legislators to reject what
it describes as the "alternative facts" bill, warning that "SB 55
would allow political and ideological interference, and the teaching
of non-scientific opinions, in South Dakota science classrooms." The
petition is currently approaching its thousandth South Dakota
signatory, which is particularly impressive in light of the fact that
there are only about 850,000 residents in the state.

South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 is one of four similar bills currently
active, along with Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, Oklahoma's Senate
Bill 393, and Texas's House Bill 1485; South Dakota's is the only of
them to have been passed by a chamber of the legislature.

For Valerie Strauss's column for the Washington Post, visit: 

For Americans United's letter (PDF), visit: 

For the two op-eds in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, visit: 

For the petition from Climate Parents, visit: 

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


House File 140, introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives and
referred to the House Education Committee, would, if enacted, prohibit
the state board of education from "adopting, approving, or requiring
implementation of the [N]ext [G]eneration [S]cience [S]tandards by
school districts and accredited nonpublic schools."

The lead sponsor of House File 140 is Sandy Salmon (R-District 63). In
2015, Salmon introduced House File 272, which would have prevented
Iowa from adopting the NGSS, in part because they "present evolution
as scientific fact and shine a negative light on human impacts on
climate change," according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette (March 2,

House File 272 died in committee. Later in 2015, the Iowa state board
of education voted unanimously to adopt the NGSS, despite a few
comments objecting to their treatment of evolution and climate change.
In 2016, Salmon introduced House File 2054, which would have reversed
the state's decision to adopt the NGSS; that bill also died in

For the text of Iowa's House Fill 140, visit: 

For the story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, visit: 

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


House Bill 1485, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on
February 2, 2017, is the fourth antiscience bill of the year, joining
similar bills in Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.

If enacted, the bill would ostensibly provide Texas science teachers
with the academic freedom to teach "the scientific strengths and
scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories" covered in the
state science standards.

Specifically identified as controversial "subjects required to be
taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State Board of
Education" are "climate change, biological evolution, the chemical
origins of life, and human cloning."

The sole sponsor of the bill is Valoree Swanson (R-District 150), who
was just elected to the legislature in November 2016. The last similar
bill introduced in Texas was House Bill 4224 from 2009, which died in

For the text of Texas's House Bill 1485, visit: 

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


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: just a few days
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, 332
congregations in forty-five states (and seven foreign countries) were
scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: 


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

* Glenn Branch discussing a surprising foreword to a creationist book: 

For NCSE's blog, 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.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
fax 510-788-7971 

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