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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/01/21

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Not one but two new antievolution bills in Oklahoma, a column by
NCSE's Steven Newton in the Christian Science Monitor, a settlement in
the Gaskell case, a new antievolution bill in Missouri, and two
criticisms of the proposed ark park in the newsletter of the Kentucky
Academy of Science.


House Bill 1551, prefiled in the Oklahoma Senate and scheduled for a
first reading on February 7, 2011, is apparently the fourth
antievolution bill of 2011, and the second in Oklahoma, joining Senate
Bill 554. Entitled the "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom
Act," SB 320 would, if enacted, require state and local educational
authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present
the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies"
and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique,
and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and
scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the
course being taught." The only topics specifically mentioned as
controversial are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life,
global warming, and human cloning."

HB 1551 differs only slightly from Senate Bill 320, which died in
committee in February 2009; a member of the Senate Education Committee
told the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009) that it was one of the worst
bills that he had even seen. In its critique of SB 320, Oklahomans for
Excellence in Science Education argued, "Promoting the notion that
there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest ...
Evolution as a process is supported by an enormous and continually
growing body of evidence. Evolutionary theory has advanced
substantially since Darwin's time and, despite 150 years of direct
research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever been found."
With respect to the supposed "weaknesses" of evolution, OESE added,
"they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who
don't like evolution."

The sole sponsor of HB 1551 is Sally Kern (R-District 84), a
persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in Oklahoma. In 2006
-- a year which saw no fewer than four such bills in Oklahoma -- Kern
was the lead sponsor of House Bill 2107, which would have called for
"academic freedom" with respect to "biological or chemical origins of
life," and of House Concurrent Resolution 1043, which would have
called on the state board of education to revise the state science
standards to ensure that students can "critically evaluate scientific
theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution." HB
2107 was passed by the House by a vote of 77-10 in March 2006, with
one supportive legislator explaining, "Did we come from slimy algae
4.5 billion years ago or are we a unique creation of God? I think it's
going to be exciting for students to discuss these issues," but died
when the legislature adjourned in May 2006.

For the text of Oklahoma's HB 1551 (document), visit: 

For the Tulsa World's article, visit: 

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education's critique of SB
320 (PDF), visit: 

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


Senate Bill 554, prefiled in the Oklahoma State Senate on January 19,
2011, is apparently the third antievolution bill of 2011.
Interestingly, two strands of antievolution strategy intersect in SB

First, echoing the still popular "academic freedom" language of
antievolution legislation, the bill provides that state and local
education administrators "shall not prohibit any teacher from
informing students about relevant scientific information regarding
either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of
controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with
adopted standards and curricula," where such topics "include but are
not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution."
The bill also provides, "No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated,
disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing
scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted
standards and curricula."

Second, the bill requires the state board of education to adopt
"standards and curricula" that echo the flawed portions of the state
science standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature
of science and, for grades eight through twelve, evolution. For
example, the content of SB 554's D1, D2, D7, D9, and D10 are identical
to sections 7A, 7B, 7G, 8A, and 8B of the Texas high school biology
standards -- all sections that were added or amended by antievolution
members of the Texas state board of education, such as Don "Someone's
got to stand up to experts!" McLeroy, in order to encourage the
presentation of creationist claims in the science classroom. No fewer
than fifty-four scientific and educational organizations opposed these

The sole sponsor of the bill is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who
announced his intention to file antievolution legislation in a column
in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010): "Renowned scientists
now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored.
... Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing
the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable." In
a subsequent column in the Daily Democrat (December 24, 2010), he
clearly indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented
as scientifically credible, writing, "I have introduced legislation
requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate
of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which
conflicts with Darwin's religion."

Oklahomans concerned about SB 554 are urged to get in touch with
Steven Newton at NCSE and the grassroots organization Oklahomans for
Excellence in Science Education.

For the text of Oklahoma's SB 554 (document), visit: 

For Texas's state science standards, visit: 

For the statement from fifty-four organizations, visit: 

For Brecheen's columns in the Durant Daily Democrat, visit: 

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: 

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


NCSE's Steven Newton contributed a guest column, entitled
"Creationists have gotten clever, but there's still no debate over
evolution," to the Christian Science Monitor (January 19, 2011). The
tactics of creationists have evolved since the Scopes trial in 1925,
and even since the Kitzmiller trial in 2005. What is now favored, he
explained, is "to try to undermine the teaching of evolution by
arguing that 'evidence against evolution' should be taught," adding,
"The new strategy is craftier -- but just as bogus."

Observing that "there simply is no debate among scientists about the
validity of evolution," Newton concluded, "Because scientists are not
debating evolution, it is wrong to teach students otherwise." But
creationists nevertheless seek "to misuse public resources to foist
their scientifically unwarranted denial of evolution on a captive
student audience, and to force their culture war into America’s
classrooms"; Newton cites a promised but so far not introduced bill in
the Oklahoma state senate.

"Lacking any substantive evidence to make their case, creationists
offer a few selective quotes from real scientists to give their
arguments authority," Newton explained, giving a recent example in
which a Discovery Institute staffer misrepresented biologist Eugene V.
Koonin. Koonin told Newton that he was challenging only a
half-century-old approach to understanding evolution, prompting Newton
to quip, "Evolution is alive and well, while creationist understanding
of it is apparently stuck in the Eisenhower era."

Newton concluded: "Whether by banning the teaching of evolution, or
requiring the teaching of creation science or intelligent design, or
encouraging the teaching of long-ago-debunked misrepresentations of
evolution, creationist proposals are bad science, bad pedagogy, and
bad policy. Instead of proposing scientifically illiterate and
educationally harmful measures, state legislatures -- and other
policy-makers -- should help students learn about evolution."

For Newton's column, visit: 


A settlement was reached in C. Martin Gaskell v. University of
Kentucky, and the parties are moving for a dismissal of the lawsuit.
As NCSE previously reported, Martin Gaskell was a leading candidate to
be the founding director of a new observatory at the University of
Kentucky in 2007. He was not hired, however, in part because of his
apparent views on evolution; according to the Louisville
Courier-Journal (December 10, 2010), "Gaskell had given lectures to
campus religious groups around the country in which he said that while
he has no problem reconciling the Bible with the theory of evolution,
he believes the theory has major flaws. And he recommended students
read ... critics [of evolution] in the intelligent-design movement."
Gaskell filed suit against the university in July 2009, alleging that
he was not appointed "because of his religious beliefs and his
expression of these beliefs" in violation of the Civil Rights Acts of
1964 and 1991.

According to the Courier-Journal, the university "acknowledged that
concerns over Gaskell's views on evolution played a role in the
decision to chose another candidate. But it argued that this was a
valid scientific concern" -- particularly with regard to the prospect
that Gaskell's views on evolution would interfere with his ability to
serve effectively as director of the observatory -- "and that there
were other factors, including a poor review from a previous supervisor
and UK faculty views that he was a poor listener." In November 2010,
the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky
denied the defendant's and the plaintiff's separate requests for
summary judgment, noting, "The parties greatly debate exactly what
Gaskell personally believes regarding the theory of evolution and the
Bible." The case was scheduled to go to a jury trial on February 8,
2011, as the Associated Press reported (January 18, 2011).

In the settlement, the University of Kentucky agreed to pay Gaskell
and his attorneys $125,000; the parties are responsible for their own
costs and attorney fees. The settlement provided (p. 3), "The parties
agree that by entering into this Release and Settlement Agreement, the
Defendant, University of Kentucky, is not admitting wrongdoing," and
the university's counsel Barbara Jones said, in a January 18, 2011,
statement, "This successful resolution precludes what would have been
a lengthy trial that, ultimately, would not have served anyone's best
interests. Importantly, as the settlement makes clear, the University
believes its hiring processes were and are fundamentally sound and
were followed in this case. ... We are confident that a trial court
and the members of the jury would have agreed at the conclusion of all
the evidence." Documents from the case, C. Martin Gaskell v.
University of Kentucky, are available on NCSE's website.

For the Louisville Courier-Journal's article, visit: 

For the Associated Press's article, visit: 

For the settlement document (PDF), visit: 

For the statement from the university's counsel, visit: 

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


House Bill 195, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on
January 13, 2011, and not yet referred to a committee, is apparently
the second antievolution bill of 2011. 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."

HB 195 is virtually identical to HB 1651, introduced in the Missouri
House of Representatives on January 13, 2010. The main difference is
that HB 1651's ornate disclaimer -- "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" -- was replaced in HB 195 with "this section shall not be
construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote
discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or
nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or
nonreligion." When the Missouri legislative session ended on May 14,
2010, HB 1651 died without ever having been assigned to a committee.

The chief sponsor of HB 195 is Andrew Koenig (R-District 88), joined
by Doug Funderburk (R-District 12), Kurt Bahr (R-District 19), Charlie
Davis (R-District 128), Bill Reiboldt (R-District 130), Thomas Long
(R-District 134), Dwight Scharnhorst (R-District 93), Shane Schoelle
(R-District 139), Kathie Conway (R-District 14), Chuck Gatschenberger
(R-District 13), Darrell Pollock (R-District 146), Rick Stream
(R-District 94), Rodney Schad (R-District 115), and David Sater
(R-District 68). Funderburk, Davis, Sater, Stream, Schad, and Pollock
were also cosponsors of HB 1651 in 2010. HB 1651's chief sponsor
Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155), who previously introduced a
string of unsuccessful antievolution bills -- HB 911 and 1722 (which
called for equal time for "intelligent design" in the state's public
schools) in 2004, HB 1266 in 2006, HB 2554 in 2008, and HB 656 in 2009
-- in Missouri, was termed out of office in 2010.

For the text of Missouri's HB 195, visit: 

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


Concern over Ark Encounter, the proposed creationist theme park in
northern Kentucky was expressed by two guest editorials in the January
2011 issue of the newsletter of the Kentucky Academy of Science.
Collaborating on the project are Ark Encounter LLC and the young-earth
creationist ministry Answers in Genesis, which already operates a
Creation "Museum" in northern Kentucky. A major part of the
controversy over the park is its application to receive state tourism
development incentives, which would enable it to recoup 25 percent of
its development costs by retaining the sales tax generated by the
project -- estimated at $37.5 million.

In his editorial, Robert Kingsolver of Bellarmine University wrote,
"the Academy has long held the position that faith-based paradigms
defying any sort of investigative scrutiny should not be passed off as
scientific truth, especially at taxpayers' expense." He also warned,
"Scientifically literate people will think twice about moving to or
investing in a state that publicly endorses the replacement of
established scientific methods and principles with an alternative
'creation science.' ... our Commonwealth is putting its money on a
landlocked wooden boat, a failed stairway to heaven, and a bronze-age
world view."

Particularly galling to Kingsolver was the state's neglect of a
project that genuinely would improve the public understanding of
science -- the Kentucky Natural History Museum, authorized (in 2000)
but never funded by the legislature. "To our knowledge, the state has
sought no investors in this project, nor has it launched any public
awareness campaign comparable to the recent deluge of publicity for
Ark Encounter," Kingsolver commented, adding, "Opportunities lost
include the natural history museum's potential tourism revenue and a
critically needed educational resource, but also the preservation of
our state's natural heritage."

In his editorial, Daniel Phelps of the Kentucky Paleontological
Society recommended that his fellow scientists take action, with
respect to the short term and the long term alike. "In the short term,
speak out!" he urged. "If scientists are silent, politicians and
school boards will only hear the voices of anti-scientists." Not only
is there a new antievolution bill, HB 169, in the Kentucky
legislature, Phelps observed, but "Kentucky has over one hundred
school districts, and scientists need to pay attention to these local
decisions where creationism gets taught, or evolution is

To help to defend the teaching of evolution in the long term, Phelps
argued, "you can improve the way you teach the scientific method,
evolution, and relevant sciences, especially to non-science majors,"
citing NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott's 2010 article
"Dobzhansky was right: Let's tell the students." "If some public
school teachers are not doing an adequate job of teaching evolution
and relevant sciences," he suggested, "it may be because of pressure
from administrators and the local community, but it is also because
some were inadequately educated in their university science courses."

For Kingsolver's column (PDF, p. 12), visit: 

For Phelps's column (PDF, p. 13), visit: 

For Scott's article (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Kentucky, 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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