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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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.


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

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:

For the story in the Houston Chronicle, visit:

For the editorials quoted, visit:

For the Austin American-Statesman's profile of McLeroy, visit:

For the statement from the Texas Freedom Network, visit:

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


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


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:

For information about the conference, visit:


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:

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


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

For the text of the resolutions, visit:

For the Tulsa World's story, visit:

For the Muskogee Phoenix's editorial, visit:

For the Oklahoma Daily's story, visit:

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


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:

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- 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

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition!

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools

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