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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/01/15

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The first antievolution bill of 2010 appears in Mississippi, with the
second following in Missouri. The verdict in ACSI v. Stearns was
upheld on appeal. The National Academy of Sciences is to award its
highest honor to NCSE's Eugenie C. Scott. And there is further praise
for the second edition of Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction.


A bill in Mississippi is apparently the first antievolution bill of
2010. House Bill 586, introduced on January 12, 2010, and referred to
the House Education Committee, would, if enacted, require local school
boards to include a lesson on human evolution at the beginning of
their high school biology classes. The catch: "The lesson provided to
students ... shall have proportionately equal instruction from
educational materials that present scientifically sound arguments by
protagonists and antagonists of the theory of evolution."

The bill also would amend a section of existing state law that
provides, "No local school board, school superintendent or school
principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from
discussing and answering questions from individual students on the
origin of life," by adding, apparently unnecessarily, "except that any
discussion of the evolution of humanity shall be required to be given
by a biology teacher, as required by Section 1 of this act." The
legislative history of that section of state law suggests that it was
intended to allow or encourage the presentation of antievolution
material in science classes, as NCSE previously reported.

The sponsor of HB 586, Gary Chism (R-District 37), introduced HB 25 in
2009. The bill, if enacted, would have required biology textbooks in
the state to include a hybrid of two previous versions of the Alabama
evolution disclaimer. Speaking to the Northeast Mississippi Daily
Journal (January 24, 2009), Chism was candid about his motivations for
the bill, explaining, "Either you believe in the Genesis story, or you
believe that a fish walked on the ground," and adding, "All these
molecules didn't come into existence by themselves." HB 25 died in
committee on February 3, 2009.

For the text of HB 586 as introduced, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Mississippi, visit: 


House Bill 1651, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives
on January 13, 2010, and not yet referred to a committee, is
apparently the second antievolution bill of 2010. The bill would, if
enacted, call on state and local education administrators to "endeavor
to create an environment within public elementary and secondary
schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions,
learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and
respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about
controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution" and
to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present
the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies."
"Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall be permitted to
help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an
objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of
the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution."

The chief sponsor of HB 1651 is Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155),
joined by ten co-sponsors. Cooper was the sponsor of numerous failed
antievolution bills in the past in Missouri. In 2009, he introduced HB
656, which is identical to 2010's HB 1651. 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 the text of HB 1651 as introduced, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: 


In a January 12, 2010, ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
affirmed a federal district court's summary judgment in favor of the
University of California system in ACSI et al. v. Stearns et al. The
case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25,
2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and
statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for
admission. The plaintiffs -- the Association of Christian Schools
International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta,
California, and a handful of students at the school -- charged that
the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants
from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed
inadequate preparation for college.

Creationism was not the only issue in the case, to be sure, but it was
conspicuous. The plaintiffs objected to the university system's policy
of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published
by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books -- Biology: God's
Living Creation and Biology for Christian Schools -- as "inconsistent
with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific
community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design"
creationism, defended the textbooks, while Donald Kennedy and
Francisco J. Ayala (a Supporter of NCSE) contended that they were
inappropriate for use as the principal text in a college preparatory
biology course. The trial judge was unpersuaded by Behe's defense.

After the trial judge granted the defendants' motion for summary
judgment on August 8, 2008, the plaintiffs promptly appealed,
asserting, inter alia, that the University of California's policy on
high school biology courses "constitutes viewpoint discrimination,
content discrimination, and content-based regulation, which conflict
with the First Amendment." Of particular interest in the preparation
from the appeal was the California Council of Science and Technology's
amicus curiae brief. Coauthored by attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP
who were part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs in
Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case over "intelligent design"
creationism, the brief argued, "Students educated with these textbooks
will not be adequately prepared for science courses."

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court's ruling that the
University of California's policy was constitutional on its face and
as applied, writing, "The plaintiffs have not alleged facts showing
any risk that UC's policy will lead to the suppression of speech. ...
the plaintiffs fail to allege facts showing that this policy is
discriminatory in any way. ... The district court correctly determined
that UC's rejections of the Calvary [Baptist School] courses
[including a biology class that used Biology: God's Living Creation]
were reasonable and did not constitute viewpoint discrimination. ...
The plaintiffs assert a myriad of legal arguments attacking the
district court's decision, all of which lack merit." Documents from
the case are available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted
to ACSI v. Stearns.

For the Ninth Circuit's ruling (PDF), visit: 

For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: 


The National Academy of Sciences is to honor NCSE's executive director
Eugenie C. Scott with its most prestigious award, the Public Welfare
Medal. According to a January 11, 2010, press release, "the medal is
presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the
public good"; Scott was chosen "for championing the teaching of
evolution in the United States and for providing leadership to the
National Center for Science Education." She will receive the award on
April 25, 2010, during the Academy's 147th annual meeting.

The president of the National Academy of Sciences, Ralph J. Cicerone,
commented, "Eugenie Scott has worked tirelessly and very effectively
to improve public understanding of both the nature of science and the
science of evolution," and the chair of the Public Welfare Medal
selection committee, John Brauman, added, "We honor her for many years
of organizing coalitions of scientists, parents, teachers, business
people, clergy, and others to defend the teaching of evolution."

"I am profoundly honored by the National Academy's choice of me to
receive the Public Welfare Medal," Scott said. "Really, it honors not
just my work, and not just the work of the National Center for Science
Education. Rather, it honors the work of a host of dedicated,
thoughtful, and passionate people who have labored in defense of the
teaching of evolution in the public schools. I have been privileged to
work with them over the years, and I am proud to accept the award on
their behalf."

Previous recipients of the medal include Neal Lane, Norman Borlaug,
William T. Golden, Maxine F. Singer, C. Everett Koop, and Carl Sagan.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution
that was established under a congressional charter signed by President
Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by
election to membership, and provides science, technology, and health
policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

For the Academy's press release, visit: 


Lawrence S. Lerner lauded the second edition of Eugenie C. Scott's
Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction (Greenwood Press/University
of California Press, 2009), writing, "Evolution vs. Creationism is a
superb introductory guide through the tangle, whether the reader
wishes simply to get a clear basic picture of what is going on and
what one might expect in the future, or plans to dig further into the

"Scott writes with crystal clarity and punctilious fairness," Lerner
adds in his review, published in the American Physical Society's Forum
on Physics & Society newsletter (January 2010; 39 [1]). "She never
gets bogged down in excessive detail and yet never sacrifices accuracy
to brevity. She is the long-time Executive Director of the National
Center for Science Education, the national clearinghouse for teaching
good science (and especially evolution). Hence she has, and skillfully
conveys, a bird's-eye view of the world of creationism."

Also reviewed is the updated edition of But Is It Science?
(Prometheus, 2009), edited by Robert T. Pennock and Michael Ruse.
"[T]hey have assembled essays that provide a fine historical,
scientific, religious, and legal background," Lerner writes.
Especially praised is Nick Matzke's contribution, which "shows in
painstaking detail that for all its claims, ["intelligent design"
creationism] is nothing more than a rephrasing of creationism with
some changes of emphasis."

Lerner is Professor Emeritus in the College of Natural Sciences and
Mathematics at California State University, Long Beach. He is a
nationally recognized expert on state science standards, having
reviewed them regularly for the Fordham Foundation. A frequent
contributor to Reports of the NCSE, most recently with "Whither
'Intelligent Design Creationism?" (RNCSE 29:4), Lerner received NCSE's
Friend of Darwin award in 2003.

For Lerner's review, 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

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