NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2008/10/10
[by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch]
Dear Friends of NCSE, Texas newspapers are editorially supporting the treatment of evolution in the recently released draft set of science standards, while a lawsuit alleging that the Understanding Evolution website violates the First Amendment failed on appeal.
EDITORIAL SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE STANDARDS IN TEXAS Texas's newspapers are beginning to express their editorial support of the draft set of science standards, released by the Texas Education Agency on September 22, 2008, and applauded for their treatment of evolution by the Texas Freedom Network, Texas Citizens for Science, and the newly formed 21st Century Science Coalition. Referring to the absence of the "strengths and weaknesses" language from the draft standards, the Waco Tribune (October 3, 2008) commented, "Explaining and investigating 'strengths and weaknesses' of any theory is inherent in scientific inquiry. But having such language in state standards, as has been the case for several years, is code for those who want religion to have a foot in the door when Darwin comes up," and added, "acknowledging the shortcomings of scientific theories, no matter what they are, is one of the essences of science. But when the objective is to inject matters spiritual, we are not talking about science. We are talking about religion that wants a seat at the table." The Austin American-Statesman (October 6, 2008) urged the board of education to "defer to scientists and its own advisory committee when it comes to determining what should be taught in biology classes. The six-member advisory committee, which includes science teachers and curriculum experts, recommended eliminating ideas 'based upon purported forces outside of nature' from high school biology courses. In other words, get rid of creationism and intelligent design, which teach that the universe was created by God or some other higher power." Invoking the increasing economic importance of evolutionary biology, the editorial added, "McLeroy and other board members should be strengthening science standards to accommodate a big push to attract world-class biomedical researchers, companies and grants to Texas. Those are growth industries that have not looked favorably on communities that water down science studies with vague and unproven ideas." For the Waco Tribune's editorial, visit: http://www.wacotrib.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2008/10/03/10032008waceditorial.html For the Austin American-Statesman's editorial, visit: http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/10/06/1006science_edit.html For the pro-science organizations in Texas, visit: http://www.tfn.org http://www.texscience.org http://www.texasscientists.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=TX APPEAL OF UNDERSTANDING EVOLUTION LAWSUIT DISMISSED After her lawsuit challenging the Understanding Evolution website on constitutional grounds was dismissed for lack of standing on March 13, 2006, Jeanne Caldwell appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. In a ruling dated October 3, 2008, the appeals court rejected her appeal, affirming the lower court's decision. Understanding Evolution, a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology (with funding from the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute) and the National Center for Science Education, was originally intended as a resource for teachers; it subsequently expanded to appeal to everyone interested in learning about evolution. Among the resources for teachers is a brief discussion of the idea, labeled as a misconception, that evolution and religion are incompatible. The website notes, "Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings," and provides a link to NCSE's publication Voices for Evolution. Arguing that Understanding Evolution thereby endorses particular religious doctrines in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Caldwell filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. But her suit was dismissed because she failed to allege that she had federal taxpayer standing, failed to sufficiently allege state taxpayer standing, and failed to establish that she suffered a concrete "injury in fact." Upholding the lower court's decision in Caldwell v. Caldwell et alia (the first defendant was Roy Caldwell, the director of UCMP), the appeals court's decision concluded, "Accordingly, we believe there is too slight a connection between Caldwell's generalized grievance, and the government conduct about which she complains, to sustain her standing to proceed." Jeanne Caldwell was represented by Kevin T. Snider of the Pacific Justice Institute and her husband Larry Caldwell. It was a further legal defeat for Larry Caldwell, who previously sued his local school district, alleging that his civil rights were violated, after it declined to implement his proposals for evolution education; on September 7, 2007, the defendants won a motion for summary judgment in that case. For the appeals court's decision (PDF), visit: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/9th/0615771p.pdf For Understanding Evolution, visit: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in California, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=CA REMINDER If you wish to unsubscribe to these evolution education updates, please send: unsubscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. If you wish to subscribe, please send: subscribe ncse-news firstname.lastname@example.org again in the body of an e-mail to email@example.com. Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site: http://www.ncseweb.org where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.ncseweb.org Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://www.ncseweb.org/nioc Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism http://www.ncseweb.org/evc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://www.ncseweb.org/membership.asp