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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2018/01/26

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

The release of Science and Engineering Indicators 2018, with
information on public opinion about climate change and evolution. A
warning from Florida, a creationism bill in Alabama, and Darwin Day
resolutions in Congress -- as well as a reminder about Darwin Day and
Evolution Weekend.


Public opinion about climate change was reviewed in the National
Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2018.

"Americans are divided on the severity and cause of climate change but
concern has returned to previous highs," the report summarized,


* More than 6 in 10 Americans said they worried a "great deal" (45%)
or a "fair amount" (21%) about "global warming." Similar high levels
of worry occurred in the early to mid-2000s.
* The highest recorded proportion of Americans ever -- more than 6 in
10 -- say they believe that "global warming" is likely caused by
* While 7 in 10 Americans recognize that "most" scientists believe
warming is due to human activities, fewer than 2 in 10 know that
almost all climate scientists attribute warming to human activity.
* Fewer than half of Americans think that "global warming" will pose a
serious threat during their lifetime.


For chapter 7 of Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 (PDF), visit: 


Public opinion about evolution was reviewed in the National Science
Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2018.

In the 2016 General Social Survey, respondents were asked whether
"human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species
of animals" was true or false; 52% said that it was true. Respondents
were also asked whether "the universe began with a big explosion" was
true; 39% said that it was true. The report commented, "Both scores
are relatively low compared with scores on the other knowledge
questions in the survey."

Those questions have not been used in the National Science Board's
assessment of scientific literacy since 2010, on the grounds that they
may measure personal belief rather than scientific knowledge. A
sidebar in the 2018 report discusses experimental evidence showing
that small changes in wording, including "asking respondents about
what scientists believe," substantially affects the answers to such

Internationally, the United States was next-to-last for the evolution
question, ahead only of Russia in 2003, with 44% of respondents
correctly answering; Japan in 2011 did the best, with 78% of
respondents correctly answering. The United States was in the middle
of the pack for the Big Bang question, with 42% of respondents
correctly answering; Canada in 2013 did the best, with 68% correctly

Unlike previous editions of Science and Engineering Indicators, the
2018 edition contained no discussion of controversies over teaching

For chapter 7 of Science and Engineering Indicators 2018 (PDF), visit: 


Writing in the Orlando Sentinel (January 19, 2018), Brandon Haught was
blunt: "Science education in Florida's public schools is facing an
unprecedented assault that started last year and has the high
potential to escalate this year. Evolution and climate change are the
targets of a coordinated attack as detractors of these concepts seek
to balance lessons with some forms of creationism or denial of
human-caused climate change."

In his column, Haught warned of the effects that a new law that
"expands the ability of citizens to challenge public schools
instructional materials that they don't like" are already having on
science education around the state. Two bills currently under
consideration by the legislature, Senate Bill 1644 and House Bill 827,
would worsen the situation by allowing citizens to propose their own
recommendations for instructional materials.

A further pair of bills, Senate Bill 966 and House Bill 825,
constitute "a much more direct attack on science education," according
to Haught. These bills would allow districts to adopt their own set of
science standards, in which "[c]ontroversial theories and concepts
must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner." Although
no particular theories and concepts are specified, evolution and
climate change are likely to be the targets.

Haught concluded, "It's important to stand up in support of sound
science education. Will you stand with us?" The communications
director and a founding board member of the grassroots Florida
Citizens for Science, Haught is a public high school science teacher,
the author of Going Ape: Florida's Battle over Evolution in the
Classroom (University Press of Florida, 2014) and a recipient of
NCSE's Friend of Darwin award.

For Brandon Haught's column in the Orlando Sentinel, visit: 

For Florida Citizens for Science's website, visit: 

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


Alabama's House Bill 258, introduced on January 18, 2018, would, if
enacted, allow teachers to present "the theory of creation as
presented in the Bible" in any class discussing evolution, "thereby
affording students a choice as to which theory to accept." The bill
would also ensure that creationist students would not be penalized for
answering examination questions in a way reflecting their adherence to
creationism, "provided the response is correct according to the
instruction received."

The bill is evidently modeled on a Kentucky law, Kentucky Revised
Statutes 158.177, enacted in 1976 and still on the books despite its
patent unconstitutionality. The sole sponsor of House Bill 258, now
with the House Committee on Education Policy, is Steve Hurst
(R-District 35), a legislator noteworthy for his previous proposals to
require public school teachers to read a daily prayer in the classroom
and to punish sex offenders with surgical or chemical castration.

For the text of Alabama's HB 258, visit: 

For the text of KRS 158.177 (PDF), visit: 

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


Darwin Day resolutions have been again introduced in both houses of
Congress, according to a January 18, 2018, press release from the
American Humanist Association. The resolutions -- House Resolution 699
and Senate Resolution 374 -- would, if passed, express support of
designating February 12, 2018, as Darwin Day and recognition of
Charles Darwin as "a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which
to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and
humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth's

The lead sponsor of S. Res. 374, Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)
commented, "I am proud to champion and celebrate Charles Darwin's
achievements and those of every scientist and explorer who followed in
his footsteps." The lead sponsor of H. Res. 699, Jim Himes
(D-Connecticut), added, "By celebrating and commemorating the
anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, we not only acknowledge
his enormous contributions to our better understanding of the origins
of life, but send a message that we value education, knowledge and
science as our guiding principles."

"Darwin's work has served as the foundation for generations of
spectacular progress across the field of biology, underpinning
advances in medicine, agriculture, and conservation," commented NCSE's
executive director Ann Reid. "Sadly, efforts to undercut evolution
education remain distressingly common. These resolutions underscore
the importance of ensuring that the next generation has the
opportunity to understand this crucial scientific conceptual framework
and the evidence that supports it. I encourage members and friends of
NCSE to urge their representatives in Congress to endorse H. Res. 699
and S. Res. 374."

For the American Humanist Association's press release, visit: 

And for the text of H. Res. 699 and S. Res. 374, visit: 


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than three weeks
remain before Darwin Day 2018! 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 9-11, 2018, 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, 182
congregations in forty-two states (and four foreign countries) were
scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, 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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