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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2018/03/16

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

There is sad news of the death of Stephen Hawking. The effort to
undermine climate change in Idaho's science standards isn't over yet.
Congratulations are in order for Duane Jeffery. All four bills in
Florida aimed at undermining the integrity of science education are
out of commission, as is the Iowa bill aimed at undoing the adoption
of the NGSS there. And there is sad news of the death of John Sulston.


The eminent physicist Stephen Hawking died on March 14, 2018, at the
age of 76, according to The New York Times (March 14, 2018). He was,
as the Times's obituary explains, "his generation's leader in
exploring gravity and the properties of black holes, the bottomless
gravitational pits so deep and dense that not even light can escape
them"; his 1974 paper on what is now known as Hawking radiation "is
hailed by scientists as the first great landmark in the struggle to
find a single theory of nature -- to connect gravity and quantum
mechanics, those warring descriptions of the large and the small."
Hawking captured not only attention for his scientific work and his
popularizations thereof but admiration for his achievements in spite
of his disability: he was largely paralyzed during his adult life.

As a celebrity scientist, Hawking was widely quoted on and consulted
about topics outside his professional specialty, including evolution
and climate change. He was matter-of-fact about evolution: in George
and the Unbreakable Code (2016), a children's book coauthored with his
daughter Lucy Hawking, for example, he described the Origin of Species
as "one of the most important scientific books ever written. It
changed the way we see our world." He was also the three hundredth
signatory of NCSE's Project Steve, a lighthearted demonstration of the
scientific consensus on evolution. Hawking was also concerned about
climate change, telling the BBC (July 2, 2017), "Climate change is one
of the great dangers we face, and it's one we can prevent if we act
now. By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of
the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable
environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural
world, for us and our children."

Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on January 8, 1942. He received
his B.A. in natural science from Oxford University in 1962. In 1963,
he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and told that he
had less than three years to live. Nevertheless, he earned his Ph.D.
in applied mathematics and theoretical physics from Cambridge
University in 1966. Hawking spent his bulk of his career at Cambridge
University, where he was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from
1979 to 2009. In addition to his scientific publications, he wrote a
number of popular works, including the best-selling A Brief History of
Time (1988). He was the subject of a biographical film, The Theory of
Everything (2014). His honors included election to the Royal Society
of London and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

For the obituary in The New York Times, visit: 

For information on NCSE's Project Steve, visit: 

And for the interview with the BBC, visit: 


Idaho's House Concurrent Resolution 60, introduced by the House
Education Committee on March 12, 2018, would, if enacted, delete a
single standard -- ESS 3-4-1 -- from the proposed science standards
currently under legislative review.

ESS 3-4-1 explicitly mentions environmental impacts of energy use,
including "air pollution from burning of fossil fuels." As NCSE
previously reported, the House Education Committee previously voted to
remove ESS 3-4-1, along with all of the "supporting content" material
throughout the standards, even though ESS 3-4-1 was not among the
performance expectations standards rejected by the committee, and then
by the legislature, in 2017.

The Senate Education Committee, however, voted to approve the
standards as submitted, and any changes to the standards would require
agreement from both chambers of the legislature before it adjourns on
March 27, 2018.

For the text of Idaho's House Concurrent Resolution 60 (PDF), visit: 

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


Duane Jeffery, a former member of NCSE's board of directors, a member
of its advisory council, and professor emeritus of biology at Brigham
Young University, is to be honored with the National Science Teachers
Association's Presidential Citation for 2018, according to a March 13,
2018, press release. The award is conferred to a person or
organization that has significantly promoted science education through
extraordinary contributions. The award will be presented at a special
banquet and ceremony on March 16, 2018, at the NSTA's conference in
Atlanta, Georgia.

For the press release, visit: 


When the Florida legislature adjourned sine die on March 11, 2018, two
pairs of bills that would, in their different ways, have undermined
the integrity of science education in the Sunshine State died.

House Bill 827 and Senate Bill 1644 would have revised the procedures
for adopting instructional materials to permit members of the public
to recommend instructional materials for consideration by the state or
their district school board, which would then be required to get in
touch with the publisher of those materials and allow it to submit a
bid for evaluation. NCSE's Glenn Branch told Nature (February 23,
2018), "They would make it easier for creationists, climate-change
deniers and -- who knows -- flat-Earthers to pester their local school
boards about their hobbyhorse." Both bills were passed by the
education committees of their respective houses in February 2018
before dying.

House Bill 825 and Senate Bill 966 would have required
"[c]ontroversial theories and concepts ... [to] be taught in a
factual, objective, and balanced manner," while allowing local school
districts to use either the state science standards or alternatives
"equivalent to or more rigorous than" them. Although no particular
theories and concepts were specified as controversial, evolution and
climate change were clearly the targets: the lead sponsor of Senate
Bill 966, Dennis Baxley (R-District 12), previously engaged
extensively in antievolution advocacy both within and outside the
Florida state legislature. Neither bill received a hearing in
committee before dying.

In a March 12, 2018, blog post, Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for
Science, the grassroots organization most vocal in opposing these
bills, warned that despite the respite, "We need your help when these
bills pop again next year."

For information about the Florida bills, visit: 

For the article in Nature, visit: 

For Brandon Haught's blog post, visit: 

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


Iowa's House File 2317, which if enacted would have reversed the
state's adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards in 2005,
died on February 16, 2018, when a deadline for bills to pass committee
in their house of origin passed.

In addition to undoing the adoption of the NGSS, HF 2317 would also
have prevented the state from requiring adoption of the state science
standards or the use of specific instructional materials and would
have required further revisions to the state science standards to be
approved by the legislature and governor.

The lead sponsor of HF 2317 was Sandy Salmon (R-District 63), who
originally objected to the state's adoption of 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).

Salmon previously introduced bills to block the adoption of the NGSS,
to reverse the adoption of the NGSS, and to make compliance with the
NGSS optional; she also cosponsored a 2017 bill requiring teachers to
include "opposing points of view or beliefs" to accompany any
instruction relating to evolution, the origins of life, global
warming, or human cloning.

Among the organizations taking a stand against the bill were the Iowa
Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association,
the Des Moines Public Schools, and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa
Action Fund.

For information about Iowa's House File 2317, visit: 

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


The distinguished geneticist John Sulston on March 6, 2018, at the age
of 75, according to the Guardian (March 9, 2018). Sulston shared the
2002 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Sydney Brenner and
Robert Horvitz for their work on the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
"By establishing and using the nematode ... as an experimental model
system," the Nobel Assembly wrote, "possibilities were opened to
follow cell division and differentiation from the fertilized egg to
the adult. The Laureates have identified key genes regulating organ
development and programmed cell death and have shown that
corresponding genes exist in higher species, including man. The
discoveries are important for medical research and have shed new light
on the pathogenesis of many diseases."

Sulston repeatedly took a strong and public stand against the attempts
of creationists to undermine evolution education. In 2006, after a
creationist organization sent unsolicited material promoting
"intelligent design" to schools throughout the United Kingdom, he said
in a public lecture (quoted in the Guardian, December 7, 2006),
"[Pupils] are somehow being told these agendas are alternative ways of
looking at things. They are not at all. ... One is science -- a
rational thought process which will carry us forward into the
indefinite future. The other is a cop-out and they should not be
juxtaposed in science lessons." He was also among the scores of Nobel
laureates calling for a repeal of Louisiana's antievolution law (still
on the books as Louisiana Revised Statutes 17.285.1) and the handful
of Nobel laureates calling for the English ban on teaching creationism
in the public schools to be extended to Scotland.

Sulston was born in Cambridge in the United Kingdom on March 27, 1942.
He received a B.A. in natural sciences (chemistry) from Cambridge
University in 1963, where he also earned his Ph.D. in chemistry in
1966. After a postdoctoral stint at the Salk Institute, he returned to
Cambridge University, where he played a central role in sequencing
both the C. elegans and the human genome. In 1992, he was appointed as
the director of the Sanger Center, leading the British contribution to
the Human Genome Project; The Common Thread (2002), coauthored with
Georgina Ferry, is his memoir about his involvement with the project.
In addition to the Nobel prize, his honors included election to the
Royal Society of London and the Darwin Medal from the Royal Society in

For the obituary in the Guardian, visit: 

For the press release from the Nobel Academy, visit: 

And for Sulston's 2006 remarks reported in the Guardian, 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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