NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/05/29
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The Texas Senate voted not to confirm avowed creationist Don McLeroy in his post as chair of the Texas state board of education, and NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott is to receive the inaugural Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution. There is a new antievolution bill in South Carolina, but the two antievolution resolutions in Oklahoma are dead. And Eugenie C. Scott chatted about Ida and its relevance to teaching evolution on Culture Shocks.
CREATIONIST BOARD CHAIR OUT IN TEXAS The Texas Senate voted not to confirm Don McLeroy in his post as chair of the Texas state board of education on May 28, 2009. Although the vote to confirm him was 19-11, a two-thirds approval was required. The San Antonio Express-News (May 28, 2009) explained, "The Senate seldom rejects gubernatorial appointments. The Senate's blocking of McLeroy will force Gov. Rick Perry to appoint a new board leader. McLeroy will keep his spot as a board member." Earlier, the Houston Chronicle (May 25, 2009) reported that, "there is speculation in the Capitol and within the Texas Education Agency that Gov. Rick Perry might elevate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, to lead the board" if McLeroy was not confirmed. The newspaper added, "Like McLeroy, Dunbar also holds strong Christian beliefs and recently authored a book that advocates more religion in the public square." McLeroy's confirmation was editorially opposed by a number of Texas newspapers, including the San Antonio Express-News (May 3, 2009), which wrote, "McLeroy has demonstrated he is unfit to lead a body that crafts public education policy for this great state," and the Austin American-Statesman (May 8, 2009), which described his tenure as chair as "disastrous," while cautioning, "Simply removing McLeroy, a dentist, from the chairmanship won't be enough to bring sanity" to the board. A major concern of the senators voting against McLeroy's confirmation was his attempts to undermine the treatment of evolution in the state science standards. Eliot Shapleigh (D-District 29), for example, questioned his endorsement of a book that describes parents who want their kids to learn about evolution as "monsters," scientists as "atheists," and clergy who see no conflict between science and faith as "morons." McLeroy is, notoriously, a creationist himself, as the Austin American-Statesman (March 8, 2009) described in detail. In a statement dated May 28, 2009, Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network commented, "We had hoped that the Legislature would take more action to put this train back on the tracks, but clearly new leadership on the board was a needed first step. The governor should know that parents will be watching closely to see whether he chooses a new chairman who puts the education of their children ahead of personal and political agendas." For the story in the San Antonio Express-News, visit: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/46402537.html For the story in the Houston Chronicle, visit: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6440787.html For the editorials quoted, visit: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/editorials/McLeroy_wrong_choice_for_SBOE.html http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/05/08/0508sboe_edit.html For the Austin American-Statesman's profile of McLeroy, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/region/legislature/stories/03/08/0308mcleroy.html For the statement from the Texas Freedom Network, visit: http://tfnblog.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/tfn-statement-on-senates-mcleroy-vote/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/texas NCSE's SCOTT AWARDED STEPHEN JAY GOULD PRIZE NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is to be the first recipient of the Stephen Jay Gould Prize, awarded annually by the Society for the Study of Evolution "to recognize individuals whose sustained and exemplary efforts have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science and its importance in biology, education, and everyday life in the spirit of Stephen Jay Gould." According to the citation: *** As the executive director of the National Center for Science Education she has been in the forefront of battles to ensure that public education clearly distinguishes science from non-science and that the principles of evolution are taught in all biology courses. ... In these efforts, she has been an important leader in the public sphere, molding and focusing the efforts of scientists, educators, lay people, religious groups, skeptics, agnostics, believers, scholars, and ordinary citizens through firm but gentle guidance. ... Dr. Scott is a gifted communicator and public intellectual. She is a frequent guest on radio and television shows, and an eloquent spokeswoman for science. Her writings have illuminated the process of science to thousands, and her books have exposed the efforts of many groups in our society to hobble and undermine the teaching of science to our younger generation. The organization she helped create far transcends the considerable reach of her own voice, vastly amplifying her impact on public understanding. For these many reasons, it is extremely appropriate that Dr. Scott be the first recipient of the Gould Prize. *** She will receive the award at the Evolution 2009 conference, held June 12-16, 2009, at the University of Idaho, where she will present a public lecture, entitled "The Public Understanding of Evolution and the KISS Principle," at 8:00 p.m. on June 12; the lecture will be recorded and presented on-line as streaming video later in the week. For the citation, visit: http://www.evolutionsociety.org/awards.asp#gouldprize For information about the conference, visit: http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/evolution09/index.html ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN SOUTH CAROLINA Senate Bill 873, introduced in the South Carolina Senate on May 21, 2009 and referred to the Senate Committee on Education, would, if enacted, require the state board of education to "examine all curriculum in use in this State that purports to teach students about the origins of mankind to determine whether the curriculum maintains neutrality toward religion." The bill further provides, "Related to non-religion, the examination must include a review as to whether the curriculum contains a sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus preferring those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs." The first year of the current two-year legislative session ended on May 21, 2009, so S. 873 is not likely to be considered until the second year begins in 2010. S. 873 was introduced by Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6), who spearheaded a number of previous antievolution efforts in South Carolina. In 2003, he sought to establish a committee to "determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools." The Greenville News (May 1, 2003), reported that Fair "said his intention is to show that Intelligent Design is a viable scientific alternative that should be taught in the public schools." In 2005, he introduced a bill modeled on the so-called Santorum language often misrepresented as contained in the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The bill failed, but Fair won himself a description as "the dominant voice advocating for S.C. schools to teach more than Charles Darwin's theories of evolution," according to The State (June 17, 2005). In 2008, he introduced a version of the "academic freedom" antievolution bill, which died in committee. For the text of S. 873 as introduced, visit: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess118_2009-2010/bills/873.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Carolina, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/south-carolina ANTIEVOLUTION RESOLUTIONS DEAD IN OKLAHOMA With the the end of the Oklahoma legislative session on May 27, 2009, House Resolutions 1014 and 1015, attacking Richard Dawkins, are dead. Both measures, if adopted, would have expressed 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." Both measures were introduced shortly before Dawkins spoke at the University of Oklahoma on March 6, 2009, as part of the university's celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries. The sole sponsor of both resolutions was Todd Thomsen (R-District 25). But Thomsen wasn't the only legislator concerned about Dawkins's visit. The Tulsa World reported (March 30, 2009), "Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, filed a lengthy open records request with the university, asking for any correspondence regarding Dawkins' speech, information on any costs to OU, a list of any money Dawkins received and who provided the funds, and any other 'pertinent financial information.'" In fact, Dawkins waived his speaking fee for the event, and additionally announced during his talk that the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science would be donating $5000 to Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. The Muskogee Phoenix (April 2, 2009) editorially commented, "You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out Thomsen and Hamilton are not concerned about free speech. They are concerned only about promoting their particular point of view and satisfying what they see as the majority view on religion," adding, "our state has legislators complaining about the infringement of free speech while they promote it at the same time." Similarly, Piers Hale, a historian of science at the University of Oklahoma, told the university's student newspaper, the Oklahoma Daily (April 3, 2009), "I find it deeply [troubling] that elected state officials appear to be using the powers of their offices to attempt to censor the opinions of those with whom they personally disagree." For the text of the resolutions, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/03/antievolution-resolutions-introduced-oklahoma-004637 For the Tulsa World's story, visit: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20090330_11_A1_Statel165138 For the Muskogee Phoenix's editorial, visit: http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/opinion/local_story_092191305.html For the Oklahoma Daily's story, visit: http://oudaily.com/news/2009/apr/03/investigation-raises-censorship-questions/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncseweb.org/news/oklahoma NCSE'S SCOTT ON CULTURE SHOCKS NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott discussed the significance of Ida, the 47-million-year-old primate fossil dominating the headlines, on the Culture Shocks radio show on May 26, 2009. Hosted by the Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Culture Shocks "examines issues and trends in today’s culture wars through conversations with and about some of the most fascinating figures of our times." To listen to or download the MP3 of the show, visit: http://www.cultureshocks.com/shows/2009/05/26/eugenie-scott/ 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