Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/04/14

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Bad news from Oklahoma. NCSE discusses climate change denial for the
Union of Concerned Scientists. And the antiscience resolution in
Alabama and one of Florida's antiscience bills progress further in
their respective legislatures.


Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393, which would empower science denial in the
classroom, was passed on a 4-3 vote by the House General Government
Oversight and Accountability Committee on April 13, 2017. The bill
will presumably proceed to the floor of the House for consideration.

SB 393 would allow science teachers to teach anything they pleased,
while preventing responsible educational authorities from intervening.
No scientific topics are identified as controversial, but the main
sponsor is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced similar
legislation that directly targeted evolution in previous legislative

SB 393 was passed on a 34-10 vote by the Senate on March 22, 2017,
after which it was expected to move to the House Common Education
Committee. That committee, however, never scheduled a hearing for the
bill, and its sponsors withdrew it and submitted it to the General
Government Oversight and Accountability Committee instead.

Speaking to E&E News (April 13, 2017) before the vote, NCSE's Glenn
Branch speculated that Governor Mary Fallin might veto the bill even
if it passes the House. In 2014, Fallin approved a new set of state
science standards that acknowledge that human activity contributes to
climate change "by modifying the chemical makeup of the atmosphere."

"One of the objections to the bill is it would mean that the Oklahoma
government is giving mixed signals to parents and teachers and
students in that they have science standards that include evolution
and climate change," he said. If the bill were passed, Oklahoma would
be "freeing up their teachers to present material at odds with those

Speaking against the bill at the committee hearing were Aysha Prather
of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, Deborah Hill of the
Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, Beth Allan, a biology professor
at the University of Central Oklahoma, and Theresa Goughenour of
Climate Parents.

The sole person at the hearing to speak on behalf of the bill aside
from its House sponsor David Brumbaugh (R-District 76) confirmed the
suspicions of those opposed to the bill by emphasizing that its
passage would enable teachers to present material supposedly
challenging "neo-Darwinism" and climate change.

Committee members voting for SB 393 were George Faught (R-District 4),
Kevin McDugle (R-District 12), Kevin Calvey (R-District 82), and Jason
Murphey (R-District 31). Members voting against the bill were Cyndi
Munson (D-District 85), Roger Ford (R-District 95), and Greg Babinec
(R-District 33). Johnny Tadlock (D-District 1) was absent.

Among the state-level organizations opposing the bill are the Oklahoma
Science Teachers Association, the Oklahoma State School Boards
Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School
Administration, the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, and the
grassroots pro-science-education group Oklahomans for Excellence in
Science Education.

Among the national organizations opposing the bill are the National
Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology
Teachers, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the
National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Institute of
Biological Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement
of Science.

For Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393 (PDF), visit: 

For the story from E&E News, visit: 

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


NCSE's Ann Reid, Glenn Branch, and Steve Newton contributed a guest
commentary discussing the Heartland Institute's mailing of climate
change denial material to teachers to the blog of the Union of
Concerned Scientists (April 12, 2017).

"This wasn't Heartland's first unsolicited mailing of climate change
denial material to science teachers, and judging from the reactions
we've seen, teachers haven't been fooled by this outing," they wrote,
adding, "But here is how we're advising science teachers to explain
why using these materials in any science classroom would be a terrible

They then briefly listed five points: "Virtually every assertion is
false, controversial, or at best unclear"; "Heartland represents what
is, at best, a fringe position in science"; "Heartland even disparages
the well-respected, Nobel-Prize-winning, IPCC"; "Heartland's material
contradicts standards, textbooks, and curricula"; and "Heartland's
citations are shoddy and its tactics dishonest."

"In the end," they concluded, "the climate change deniers at the
Heartland Institute have no scientifically credible evidence of their
own, leaving them with no option but to lash out at the real
scientific literature, contributing nothing except vitriol, achieving
nothing except confusion. Science teachers know better -- and science
students deserve better."

Consulted about the Heartland mailing by Frontline (March 28, 2017)
and InsideClimate News (April 10, 2017), NCSE is in the process of
developing information for concerned teachers -- and happy to accept
donations to help it to do so.

For the post at the blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists, visit: 

For the Frontline and InsideClimate News stories, visit: 

And for the latest update on NCSE's efforts to counter the mailing, visit: 


Alabama's House Joint Resolution 78, which would, if adopted,
ostensibly urge state and local education authorities to promote the
academic freedom of science teachers in the state's public schools,
passed the House Committee on Rules and then the House on a voice vote
on April 6, 2017. After its passage on the House, HJR 78 was referred
to the Senate Committee on Rules.

Despite the caption "Urging teacher academic freedom regard scientific
evidence subjects" (sic), the text of the resolution is essentially
the now familiar text of the "science education act," recast as a
resolution with three "Whereas" clauses and two "Be it resolved"
clauses. "Biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global
warming, and human cloning" are specifically identified as

The lead sponsor of the resolution, Mack Butler (R-District 30), was
the lead sponsor of House Bill 592 in 2015, a "science education act"
evidently aimed at evolution primarily. Raw Story (May 7, 2015) noted
that Butler then explained on his Facebook page that his bill would
"encourage debate if a student has a problem learning he came from a
monkey rather than an intelligent design!"

Butler was similarly forthcoming with regard to HJR 78. He told the
Decatur Daily (February 28, 2017), "In the development of critical
thinking, we need to make it welcoming at least for a student or
teacher to bring up another theory" -- which the reporter explicitly
identified as "intelligent design" -- adding, "I've never minded
evolution being taught, but I think the door should be open to other
theories as well."

Like Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, which recently passed the Senate
there, the measure would have no legal effect. But, as NCSE's Glenn
Branch previously commented, "it would send a strong signal that the
state legislature approves of Alabama's public school teachers
presenting supposed alternatives to evolution, to climate change, and
to any of the material covered in the newly revised state science

For Alabama's House Joint Resolution 78 (PDF), visit: 

For Raw Story's report about Butler and House Bill 592 in 2015, visit: 

For the Decatur Daily's report, visit: 

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


One of the two bills aimed at empowering taxpayers to object to the
use of specific instructional materials in the public schools -- whose
supporters have evolution and climate change in their sights --
progressed further in the Florida legislature.

House Bill 989 passed the House Education Commitee on a 16-2 vote on
April 6, 2017. Its counterpart, Senate Bill 1210, having passed the
Senate Education Committee on March 27, 2017, is awaiting a hearing in
the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As introduced, HB 989 and SB 1210 would have allowed any Florida
taxpayer -- rather than only local parents -- to complain about
instructional materials, and would have rescinded the finality of the
local school board's decision on such complaints.

As amended in their various committees, however, both bills now would
allow only local parents or county residents to file complaints and
provide, "The school board's decision after convening a hearing is
final and not subject to further petition and review."

But passage of the bills even as amended would threaten to inundate
local school boards with scientifically unfounded attacks on climate
change and evolution, as Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for
Science emphasized in a March 27, 2017, blog post.

To demonstrate his point, Haught cited affidavits submitted in support
of the bills that complained, e.g., "I have witnessed students being
taught evolution as a fact ... rather than a theory ... I have
witnessed children being taught that Global Warming is a reality."

Opposition to HB 989 also came from the National Coalition Against
Censorship, which warned the House Education Committee, "The bill
threatens to undermine the quality of education in Florida by
potentially inviting and facilitating wasteful, expensive, and
viewpoint-based challenges."

Reacting to HB 989's passage in a subsequent blog post (April 6,
2017), Haught lamented, "The nightmare is getting closer and closer to
becoming a reality" even despite the "mountains of evidence" available
about the intended use and abuse of the bills.

For information on Florida's House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210, visit: 

For Brandon Haught's blog posts, visit: 

For the National Coalition Against Censorship's letter (PDF), visit: 

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


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

* Glenn Branch reviewing the backlash to the Heartland Institute's
climate change denial mailing: 

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 

Check out NCSE's blog: 

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: 

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!