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.
ATTENTION, FILMMAKERS! 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 http://evolutionfilmfestival.org/. For information about the contest, visit: http://evolutionfilmfestival.org/ UPDATE FROM SOUTH DAKOTA 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 evolution." 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 controversial." 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: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/05/an-alternative-facts-south-dakota-bill-sparks-fears-for-science-education-in-the-trump-era For Americans United's letter (PDF), visit: https://ncse.com/files/2017-02-01%20-%20SD%20SB%2055%20-Academic%20Freedom%20FINAL.docx_.pdf For the two op-eds in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, visit: http://www.argusleader.com/story/opinion/voices/2017/02/01/voice-dumb-science-education/97359164/ http://www.argusleader.com/story/opinion/voices/2017/02/02/voice-sb-superfluous/97421678/ For the petition from Climate Parents, visit: https://sierra.secure.force.com/actions/ClimateParents?actionId=AR0068288 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Dakota, visit: https://ncse.com/news/south-dakota ANTI-NGSS BILL IN IOWA 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, 2015). 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 committee. For the text of Iowa's House Fill 140, visit: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=HF%20140 For the story in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, visit: http://thegazette.com/subject/news/educators-step-lightly-around-political-points-as-state-considers-new-science-standard-20150302 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Iowa, visit: https://ncse.com/news/iowa ANTISCIENCE LEGISLATION IN TEXAS 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 committee. For the text of Texas's House Bill 1485, visit: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/85R/billtext/html/HB01485I.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: https://ncse.com/news/texas DARWIN DAY APPROACHES 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: 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: * Glenn Branch discussing a surprising foreword to a creationist book: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/02/surprising-foreword-familiar-strategy-0018455 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 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Check out NCSE's blog: 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