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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/03/13

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Texas is in the headlines again, with a new bill that appears to be
intended to exempt the Institute for Creation Research's graduate school
from state regulation as well as a profile of Don McLeroy, the avowed
creationist who chairs the state board of education, in the Austin
American-Statesman. Meanwhile, a legislator in Oklahoma, outraged by the
prospect of Richard Dawkins visiting the University of Oklahoma, introduced
two antievolution resolutions -- and Dawkins responded.


House Bill 2800, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on March
9, 2009, would, if enacted, in effect exempt institutions such as the
Institute for Creation Research's graduate school from Texas's regulations
governing degree-granting institutions. The bill's sole sponsor is Leo
Berman (R-District 6), a member of the House Higher Education Committee. A
member of NCSE called Berman's office to ask whether the bill would apply
to the ICR's graduate school; a staffer answered that he thought that it
would, adding that he believed that the bill's objective was to aid
institutions that want to teach creation science or intelligent
design. Berman himself seems not to have offered any public statement
about HB 2800 so far.

As NCSE's Glenn Branch recounted in Reports of the NCSE, "When the
Institute for Creation Research moved its headquarters from Santee,
California, to Dallas, Texas, in June 2007, it expected to be able to
continue offering a master's degree in science education from its graduate
school. ... But the state's scientific and educational leaders voiced their
opposition, and at its April 24, 2008, meeting, the Texas Higher Education
Coordination Board unanimously voted to deny the ICR's request for a state
certificate of authority to offer the degree." Following the Texas Higher
Education Coordination Board's decision, the ICR appealed the decision,
while also taking its case to the court of public opinion with a series of
press releases and advertisements in Texas newspapers.

Now, however, it seems that HB 2800 would take the matter out of the
board's hands altogether. Subchapter G of Chapter 61 of Texas's Education
Code serves to regulate "the use of academic terminology in naming or
otherwise designating educational institutions, the advertising,
solicitation or representation by educational institutions or their agents,
and the maintenance and preservation of essential academic records"; it
provides, inter alia, "A person may not grant or award a degree or offer to
grant or award a degree on behalf of a private postsecondary educational
institution unless the institution has been issued a certificate of
authority to grant the degree by the board [that is, the Texas Higher
Education Coordination Board] in accordance with the provisions of this

HB 2800 would amend subchapter G by providing, "The provisions of this
subchapter do not apply to a private educational institution, including a
separate degree-granting program, unit, or school operated by the
institution, that: (1) does not accept state funding of any kind to support
its educational programs; (2) does not accept state-administered federal
funding to support its educational programs; (3) was formed as or is
affiliated with or controlled by a nonprofit corporation or nonprofit
unincorporated organization; and (4) offers bona fide degree programs that
require students to complete substantive course work in order to receive a
degree from the institution." Presumably the ICR would argue that its
graduate school satisfies all four requirements.

For Texas's HB 2800 as introduced (PDF), visit:

For the story in Reports of the NCSE, visit:

For chapter 61 of Texas's Education Code, visit:

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


As the final vote on the proposed revision of the Texas state science
standards approaches, the Austin American-Statesman (March 8, 2009) offers
a profile of the chair of the Texas state board of education, avowed
creationist Don McLeroy. Describing his conversion to fundamentalism as a
dental student, the profile explained, "He is now a young earth
creationist, meaning that he believes God created Earth between 6,000 and
10,000 years ago," quoting him as saying, "When I became a Christian, it
was whole-hearted ... I was totally convinced the biblical principles were
right, and I was totally convinced that it could be accurate
scientifically." Particularly important to McLeroy is the biblical tenet
that humans were created in the image of God -- although Sid Hall, a
Methodist pastor in Austin, told the newspaper, "I would never want to
discount those works, but to take [the passage that humans were made in the
image of God] to mean something about how the universe is created is a
stretch to me ... That's code to me for 'I'm going to take my particular
myth of creationism and make it part of the science curriculum.' That's
scary to me."

At the board's January 21-23, 2009, meeting, McLeroy successfully proposed
a revision to section 7 of the draft of the high school biology standards
to require that students "analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or
insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis
and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record." As NCSE explains in
its call to Texas scientists, the requirement is not only unworkable and
confusing, but also evidently intended to promote the idea that living
things were specially created in their current forms. Moreover, a detailed
analysis by the Stand Up for Real Science blog strongly suggests that the
documentation that McLeroy provided in support of his revision at the
January meeting was in fact taken wholesale from creationist
sources. Undaunted, McLeroy told the American-Statesman that at the
board's March 25-27, 2009, meeting, he plans to "pitch another idea that he
says should be taught in public schools: the insufficiency of natural
selection to explain the complexity of cells" -- apparently a reference to
the "intelligent design" notion of "irreducible complexity" due to Michael

David Hillis of the University of Texas, Austin, told the newspaper,
"McLeroy's amendments are not even intelligible. I wonder if perhaps he
wants the standards to be confusing so that he can open the door to
attacking mainstream biology textbooks and arguing for the addition of
creationist and other religious literature into the science classroom." He
added, "If Chairman McLeroy is successful in adding his amendments, it will
be a huge embarrassment to Texas, a setback for science education and a
terrible precedent for the state boards overriding academic experts in
order to further their personal religious or political agendas. The
victims will be the schoolchildren of Texas, who represent the future of
our state." Hillis is also a member of the Advisory Committee of the 21st
Century Science Coalition, which has recruited over 1400 Texas scientists
to endorse its call for the Texas state board of education to adopt state
science standards that "acknowledge that instruction on evolution is vital
to understanding all the biological sciences" and omit "all references to
'strengths and weaknesses,' which politicians have used to introduce
supernatural explanations into science courses."

Preparing for the March 25-27 board meeting at which the final vote on the
standards is expected, McLeroy is arming himself with "a large binder that
is adorned on the front with a picture of Albert Einstein" and contains
"numerous passages from books -- such as [Kenneth R.] Miller's and others
on evolutionary theory -- and articles that he plans to use as ammunition
in the fight this month over what should be in the state's science
standards." One page from his binder, the American-Statesman reports,
shows a diagram of the fossil record from a book by Miller, with McLeroy's
gloss, "What do we see?" 'Sudden appearance' of species." Miller -- a
professor of biology at Brown University and a Supporter of NCSE, who
recently received the Award for Public Understanding of Science and
Technology by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
recognition of "his sustained efforts and excellence in communicating
evolutionary science" -- told the newspaper, "That diagram shows
evolution. If he thinks it says evolution does not occur, he is dead
wrong. It's really quite the opposite."

For the profile of McLeroy, visit:

For NCSE's call to Texas scientists, visit:

For the Stand Up for Real Science blog's analysis, visit:

For the 21st Century Science Coalition, visit:

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


Two bills in the Oklahoma House of Representatives -- House Resolution 1014
and House Resolution 1015, introduced on March 3, 2009 - attack Richard
Dawkins's visit to the University of Oklahoma. The sole sponsor of both
bills is Todd Thomsen (R-District 25), a member of the House Education
Committee and the chair of the House Higher Education and Career Tech
Committee. Both measures, if adopted, would express the strong opposition
of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to "the invitation to speak on the
campus of the University of Oklahoma to Richard Dawkins of Oxford
University, whose published statements on the theory of evolution and
opinion about those who do not believe in the theory are contrary and
offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma." Dawkins
spoke at the University of Oklahoma on March 6, 2009, as part of the
university's celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries.

While HR 1015 ends with a plea for civility -- "the Oklahoma House of
Representatives encourages the University of Oklahoma to engage in an open,
dignified, and fair discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution and all
other scientific theories which is the approach that a public institution
should be engaged in and which represents the desire and interest of the
citizens of Oklahoma" -- HR 1014 attacks the University of Oklahoma's
Department of Zoology for "framing the Darwinian theory of evolution as
doctrinal dogmatism rather than a hypothetical construction within the
disciplines of the sciences" and engaging in "one-sided indoctrination of
an unproven and unpopular theory" while branding "all thinking in dissent
of this theory as anti-intellectual and backward rather than nurturing such
free thinking and allowing a free discussion of all ideas which is the
primary purpose of a university."

At the beginning of his talk, which was repeatedly interrupted by cheers
and applause, Dawkins opened by saying, "I don't want to blow my own
trumpet, but it isn't everybody who's the subject of legislation
..." Quoting HR 1014's complaint of his alleged "intolerance for cultural
diversity and diversity of thinking," he presented the stork theory of
human reproduction -- illustrated with a parody of the creationist
propaganda film Expelled -- as a view comparable to creationism. "They've
lost in the courts of law; they've long ago lost in the halls of science;
and they continue to lose with every new piece of evidence in support of
evolution. Taking offense is all they've got left. And the one thing you
can be sure of is that they don't actually know anything about what it is
that they reject," he added. He also announced that the Richard Dawkins
Foundation for Reason and Science would be donating $5000 to Oklahomans
for Excellence in Science Education, which fights against attempts to
undermine evolution education in Oklahoma.

For the text of Oklahoma's HR 1014 and 1015 as introduced (documents), visit:

For information about the University of Oklahoma's celebrations, visit:

For videos of the beginning of Dawkins's talk, visit:,3646,Richard-Dawkins-at-the-University-of-Oklahoma---Introduction,Richard-Dawkins

For information about the Dawkins Foundation, visit:

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit:

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


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Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site:

where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and
threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

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