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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/04/21

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Sad news of the death of Walter R. Hearn. And Florida's antiscience
bills are hammered in a pair of op-ed columns.


Walter R. Hearn, a biochemist active in defending evolution within
evangelical circles, died on April 11, 2017, at the age of 91,
according to the American Scientific Affiliation (April 14, 2017). As
Ronald L. Numbers wrote in The Creationists (1992), "As one of the
first biochemists to play an active role in the ASA, Hearn felt a
God-given responsibility to inform members about the growing
importance [in the 1950s] of biochemistry in theories of evolution ...
Because of his outspokenness, he often found himself the center of
controversy with the ASA, but because of his unfailingly sweet temper,
he seldom made enemies."

"Everybody in the 'science-faith game' has a history," Hearn wrote in
a 2014 essay. "As a minor-league player recalling many seasons, what
'strikes' me is the number of 'big-leaguers' I've actually known." He
proceeded to relate his encounters with such figures as Harry Rimmer,
Henry Morris, Ronald L. Numbers, John C. Greene, John Polkinghorne,
Duane Gish, Francis Collins, Phillip Johnson, Michael Denton, Forrest
Mims, Robert Russell, Ian Barbour, and NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott.
Especially with regard to evolution, Hearn often stepped up to the
plate himself, though. In the last thirty years, for example, he
coauthored Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy (1986), which
sought -- with mixed success -- to advise teachers how to defuse
creationism/evolution controversies; appeared in the WGBH/NOVA series
Evolution (2001) to discuss the 1961 furor over evolution at Wheaton
College; and contributed a chapter to Darwin and the Bible: The
Cultural Confrontation (2009). He was a loyal member of the American
Scientific Affiliation for over fifty years, editing its newsletter
for twenty-three years, serving in the 1960s as the book review editor
of its journal (where he published negative reviews of Whitcomb and
Morris's The Genesis Flood), and regularly contributing to its

Hearn was born in Houston, Texas, on February 1, 1926. He attended
Rice University, where he earned his B.A. in chemistry in 1948, and
the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he received his Ph.D. in
biochemistry in 1951. He taught at the Yale School of Medicine, Baylor
College of Medicine, and finally Iowa State University from 1955 to
1971. He was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science in 1963. From 1978 to his death, he was
professor of Christianity and science at New College Berkeley, part of
the Graduate Theological Union. Hearn was the author also of Being a
Christian in Science (1997).

For the notice of Hearn's death from the ASA, visit: 

For Hearn's 2014 essay, visit: 


Florida's House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210 -- bills aimed at
empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional
materials in the public schools, with climate change and evolution
clearly among the targets -- were the subjects of sharp criticism in a
pair of commentaries.

Writing in the Tallahassee Democrat (April 14, 2017), Brandon Haught
of Florida Citizens for Science warned that if these bill become law,
"school boards will become inundated with demands that certain books
be banned and that schools must discontinue using textbooks that don’t
mesh with a vocal minority's ideological views." As evidence, he cited
affidavits submitted by the bills' supporters that complain, "I have
witnessed students being taught evolution as a fact of creation rather
than a theory," and "I have witnessed children being taught that
Global Warming is a reality." If legislators fail to recognize the
problems with the bill, he concluded, "school boards, teachers,
communities and students will suffer the consequences."

Writing in the Gainesville Sun (April 14, 2017), Jiri Hulcr, Andrea
Lucky, and Brandon Haught presented the case against HB 989 and SB
1210 vividly: "Imagine a crazy law that would empower anyone,
regardless of credentials or expertise, to alter their local school's
curriculum, and would require the school board to hire and pay a legal
specialist to be an arbiter between the school and special interest
groups. This is a very real possibility if the current instructional
materials bill, HB 989/SB 1210, passes." They asked, "Do our schools
need more legal burdens? Do we really want to force school boards to
have to hire, and pay for, hearing officials? Can we afford to allow
elected officials to support ideological interest groups in dictating
the quality of public education?"

HB 989 passed the House Education Committee on April 6, 2017, and may
be heard on the House floor as early as April 18, 2017. Its
counterpart, SB 1210, having passed the Senate Education Committee on
March 27, 2017, is presently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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

For Haught's and Hulcr, Lucky, and Haught's columns, 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:

* Stephanie Keep discussing a proposed major revision in dinosaur

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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