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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/05/12

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

NCSE discusses the fifty years since the repeal of the Butler Act at
Scientific American. And good news from Texas but bad news from


NCSE's Glenn Branch and Ann Reid contributed a column -- "50 Years
Ago: Repeal of Tennessee's 'Monkey Law'" -- to Scientific American's
Observations blog (May 10, 2017).

Taking the fiftieth anniversary of the repeal of Tennessee's Butler
Act in 1967 as their cue, Branch and Reid warn, "the schools are still
not entirely safe for evolution. From Scopes through [Gary] Scott [a
teacher whose lawsuit contributed to the repeal] to today, science
teachers have been in the trenches of the evolution wars, bearing the
brunt of conflicting forces from science and society."

"Fortunately, the treatment of evolution in state science standards
is, on the whole, improving, which means that textbooks, curricula,
and ideally teachers are following suit. But scientific knowledge and
pedagogical knowhow aren't the only equipment that teachers need in
order to teach evolution forthrightly. They also need the confidence
to persist, even in the face of doubt and denial."

Branch and Reid added, "Creationists are as active as ever, with a few
even in the bully pulpits afforded by high political office. ... So
the evolution wars are by no means over."

For Branch and Reid's column in Scientific American, visit: 


House Bill 1485, which ostensibly would have provided Texas science
teachers with the academic freedom to teach "the scientific strengths
and scientific weaknesseses of existing scientific theories" covered
in the state science standards, died in committee on May 8, 2017, when
a deadline for bills to pass committee expired.

The bill specifically identified four controversial "subjects required
to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the State
Board of Education" -- namely, "climate change, biological evolution,
the chemical origins of life, and human cloning" -- although "human
cloning" is not in fact included in the standards.

HB 1485 received a hearing in the House Public Education Committee on
May 2, 2017. At the hearing, the bill's sponsor, Valoree Swanson
(R-District 150), was reluctant to describe what teachers would be
allowed to present in their classes that they are not already allowed
to present in their classes, if her bill were to pass.

But not all of the supporters of HB 1485 were so reticent. Tom
Maynard, a member of the Texas state board of education testifying on
his own behalf, referred approvingly to the bill's allowing the
presentation of creationism, and a middle school science teacher
testifying on his own behalf offered a number of climate change denial
talking points.

Those testifying against the bill or registered to do so included
representatives of the League of Women Voters of Texas, the Mexican
American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Texas American
Federation of Teachers, the Texas Freedom Network, the Texas PTA, and
the Texas State Teachers Association.

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

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


A bill 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, is now headed to Governor Rick
Scott's desk for a signature.

The bill in question is House Bill 989, which the House of
Representatives passed in April 2017. A similar bill, Senate Bill
1210, was making its way through the Senate, but was abandoned in
favor of HB 989, which the Senate then passed on a 19-17 vote on May
5, 2017.

Supporters of the two bills submitted affidavits that complained, "I
have witnessed students being taught evolution as fact ... rather than
theory ... I have witnessed children being taught that Global Warming
is a reality," as Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science,
writing in the Tallahassee Democrat (April 14, 2017), observed.

Haught warned there that if the bills became 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."

Assuming that a gubernatorial veto is not forthcoming, Haught told
Motherboard (May 2, 2017), it will be up to Floridians concerned with
the integrity of science education "to keep an eye on your local
school board."

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

For Brandon Haught's column in the Tallahassee Democrat, visit: 

For Motherboard's story, 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 pondering the implications for science teachers of
The New York Times's decision to hire a columnist fostering
misconceptions about climate change: 

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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