NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/05/22
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott is honored by Scientific American, while NCSE's Joshua Rosenau reports on the mess in Texas for Seed. Meanwhile, the antievolution bills in Alabama and Missouri are dead. And congratulations are due to three members of NCSE honored by the American Institute for Biological Sciences.
EUGENIE C. SCOTT AMONG SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 10 NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is among the Scientific American 10 for 2009, described by the magazine in its June 2009 issue as "researchers, politicians, business executives and philanthropists who have recently demonstrated outstanding commitment to assuring that the benefits of new technologies and knowledge will accrue to humanity." The citation reads, in part: *** Thomas Henry Huxley was the 19th-century biologist known as "Darwin's bulldog" for his defense of the great scientist's ideas. The 21st century has a counterpart in the woman who describes herself as "Darwin's golden retriever." Eugenie Scott has emerged as one of the most prominent advocates for keeping evolution an integral part of the curriculum in public schools in her role as head of the nonprofit National Center for Science Education (NCSE). ... With the ever changing semantics of antievolutionists, Darwin's golden retriever will have plenty more chances to act as a loyal defender of teaching evolution in the schools. *** Besides Scott, the Scientific American 10 for 2009 are Todd Brady of Intel, Shai Agassi of Better Place, Wafaa El-Sadr of Harlem Hospital Center, Robert J. Linhardt of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, Bryan Willson of Colorado State University, Kristian Olson of the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, Andras Nagy of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and President Barack Obama. For information about the award, visit: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientific-american-10 "DON'T MESS WITH TEXTBOOKS" Writing in Seed, NCSE's Joshua Rosenau explains what the new Texas state science standards mean for science education nationwide. Rosenau, who attended (and blogged from) both the January and the March meetings of the Texas state board of education, writes, "Despite our efforts, after a total of 24 hours of testimony in three separate hearings, pro-evolution moderates brokered a compromise with the board's seven creationists. Heeding McLeroy's cry that 'someone's got to stand up to experts!,' the board approved standards that promote creationism's mantra of 'sudden appearance' of new species, echo creationist beliefs that the complexity of the cell cannot be scientifically explained, and mandate that students study 'different views on the existence of global warming.'" In the wake of the adoption of the flawed standards in Texas, Rosenau explains, "Textbook publishers are already preparing for hearings in 2011, which will judge whether rewritten textbooks fit the new standards. Textbook author and biologist [and NCSE Supporter] Ken Miller and publisher Rene LeBel both say they'll abide by the letter, but not the spirit, of the standards; for instance, by fulfilling the requirement to cover 'all sides of scientific evidence' without including creationist pseudoscience. Miller, a vocal defender of evolution education, insists that 'biology textbook authors will all stand together on evolution,' refusing to include creationist attacks or to drop good science." But it isn't only the authors and publishers of textbooks that are preparing to defend the integrity of science education, and it isn't only in Texas -- as Rosenau relates, "The NCSE recently worked with a family and local professors to give a student in Washington the courage to denounce his teacher's creationist lectures. He won not only the school's support but also a college scholarship from the ACLU." The lesson to be learned from the experience of those fighting for the integrity of science education, whether in Texas, Washington, or wherever it is under assault, Rosenau concludes: "It doesn't take an expert to stand up for science. Whether the battle is large or small, success depends on these types of broad coalitions." For Rosenau's article in Seed, visit: http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/dont_mess_with_textbooks/ ALABAMA ANTIEVOLUTION BILL DIES When the Alabama legislative session ended on May 15, 2009, House Bill 300, the so-called Academic Freedom Act, died in committee. If enacted, HB 300 would have purportedly protected "the right of teachers identified by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" and "the right of students to hold a position on views [sic]." Previous similar antievolution bills in Alabama -- HB 923 in 2008; HB 106 and SB 45 in 2006; HB 352, SB 240, and HB 716 in 2005; HB 391 and SB 336 in 2004 -- failed to win passage. In 2004, a cosponsor of SB 336 told the Montgomery Advertiser (February 18, 2004), "This bill will level the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the biblical creation story of humankind." For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/alabama ANTIEVOLUTION BILL DEAD IN MISSOURI When the Missouri legislative session ended on May 15, 2009, House Bill 656 died, without ever having been assigned to a committee. If enacted, HB 656 would have required state and local education administrators to permit teachers to "to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of theories of biological and chemical evolution." Otherwise a typical instance of the current spate of antievolution "academic freedom" bills, HB 656 was interestingly expansive about what it was not intended to do: "this section shall not be construed to promote philosophical naturalism or biblical theology, promote natural cause or intelligent cause, promote undirected change or purposeful design, promote atheistic or theistic belief, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or ideas, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. Scientific information includes physical evidence and logical inferences based upon evidence." The chief sponsor of HB 656 was Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155), joined by Mike Sutherland (R-District 99), Ed Emery (R-District 126), Therese Sander (R-District 22), Brian Nieves (R-District 98), and Stanley Cox (R-District 118). Cooper was the sponsor of numerous failed antievolution bills in the past. In 2008, he introduced the similar HB 2554. In 2006, he introduced HB 1266, which if enacted would have required that "If a theory or hypothesis of biological origins is taught, a critical analysis of such theory or hypothesis shall be taught in a substantive amount." In 2004, he introduced two bills, HB 911 and HB 1722, that called for equal time for "intelligent design" in Missouri's public schools. HB 911 moreover contained idiosyncratic definitions of various scientific and philosophical terms as well as the draconian provision, "Willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract." For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/missouri CONGRATULATIONS TO FELSENSTEIN, PENNOCK, AND ALTERS Among those honored in 2009 by the American Institute for Biological Sciences for their outstanding contributions to the biological sciences were three members of NCSE. In a joint statement quoted in a May 15, 2009, press release, AIBS President May Berenbaum and Executive Director Richard O'Grady said, "AIBS is pleased to honor such exceptional and dedicated individuals. Though they are from diverse backgrounds, they have all made significant positive contributions to the field of biology." They received their awards in a special ceremony at the AIBS annual meeting, "Sustainable Agriculture: Greening the Global Food Supply," in Arlington, Virginia, on May 18, 2009. Joe Felsenstein, Professor of Genome Sciences and Biology at the University of Washington, received the Distinguished Scientist Award. Robert T. Pennock, Professor of Philosophy at Michigan State University, received the Outstanding Service Award; AIBS cited his book Tower of Babel (MIT Press, 1999) as well as his testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover. And NCSE Supporter Bruce Alberts, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, editor-in-chief of the journal Science, and past president of the National Academy of Sciences, received the AIBS Education Award. Congratulations to all three! For the press release from AIBS, visit: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-05/aiob-aho051509.php Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://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 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncseweb.org Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition! http://ncseweb.org/evc Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools http://ncseweb.org/nioc NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncseweb.org/membership