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.
ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN MISSISSIPPI 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: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2010/html/HB/0500-0599/HB0586IN.htm For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Mississippi, visit: http://ncse.com/news/mississippi ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN MISSOURI 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: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills101/biltxt/intro/HB1651I.htm For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncse.com/news/missouri VICTORY AGAIN IN CALIFORNIA CREATIONISM CASE 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: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2010/01/12/08-56320.pdf For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns EUGENIE C. SCOTT HONORED BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 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: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=01112010 FURTHER PRAISE FOR EVOLUTION VS. CREATIONISM 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 subject." "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 ). "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: http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/201001/lerner.cfm Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- 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://ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/membership