Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/02/04

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A new antievolution bill in New Mexico. Additionally, a preview of
David N. Reznick's The Origin Then and Now; a retreat by a creationist
textbook publisher in Texas; and a reminder about Darwin Day and
Evolution Weekend.


House Bill 302, introduced in the New Mexico House of Representatives
on February 1, 2011, and referred to the House Education Committee, is
the fifth antievolution bill to be introduced in a state legislature
in 2011. If enacted, the bill would require teachers to be allowed to
inform students "about relevant scientific information regarding
either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses" pertaining
to "controversial" scientific topics;The bill would protect teachers
from "reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination
for doing so." The sole sponsor of HB 302 is Thomas A. Anderson
(R-District 29).

Describing the bill as "a train wreck waiting to happen," Dave Thomas,
the president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason, a group that
promotes science and science education in the state, told NCSE, "The
proposed legislation is not needed by New Mexico's students or
teachers. New Mexico's existing standards already protect students
from religious indoctrination or harassment by their teachers.
Furthermore, the bill is unconstitutional as written, and its passage
and enactment will almost certainly result in expensive litigation."

HB 302 is similar to Senate Bill 433 from the 2009 legislative
session. The most salient difference is that where SB 433 was limited
to "biological evolution" and "chemical evolution," HB 302 is
ostensibly about "controversial" scientific topics in general -- of
which the only examples offered are "biological origins, biological
evolution, causes of climate change, [and] human cloning." The sponsor
of SB 433, however, told the Santa Fe New Mexican (March 3, 2009) that
he conceived of his bill as covering "biological evolution, human
cloning, global warming, you name a dozen different things."

A further difference is in the definition of the scientific
information that teachers would be allowed to present to their
students about "controversial" scientific topics. Both bills make a
point of excluding information derived from religious "writings,
beliefs or doctrines," but where SB 433 provided, "'scientific
information' may have religious or philosophical implications," HB 302
provides, "'[s]cientific information' may include information that
coincides or harmonizes with religious tenets" -- which would appear
to be intended to cover "intelligent design" creationism.

According to a summary analysis, various state agencies were not
enthusiastic about SB 433, worrying that the bill would allow the
teaching of creationism, inviting litigation; observing that the state
science standards already require students to understand the
evidential basis for evolution; and questioning the bill's premises
"that the theory of evolution lacks scientific validity ... and that
teachers and students need protection when addressing 'relevant
scientific strengths or scientific weakness pertaining to biological
evolution or chemical evolution.'" SB 433 died in committee in March

For the text of New Mexico's HB 302, visit: 

For the NMSR website, visit: 

For the text of New Mexico's SB 433 from 2009, visit: 

For the story in the Santa Fe New Mexican, visit: 

For the summary analysis (PDF), visit: 

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


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of David N. Reznick's The
Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species
(Princeton University Press, 2010). In the excerpt, Reznick discusses
speciation and the case of the mosquitoes of the London Underground,
writing, "Public use of the London Underground began on January 10,
1863. That date, or perhaps some earlier date when the tunnels were
being readied for traffic, marks the beginning of the path toward the
formation of a new species of mosquito. We often wonder how long it
takes to form a new species; Darwin speculated timescales on the order
of tens of thousand to hundreds of thousands of generations. The
mosquitoes of the London Underground show that if conditions are
right, the process can be much faster."

Reviewing The Origin Then and Now for BioScience, James T. Costa
wrote, "Reznick succeeds in producing a highly engaging and
informative 'interpretive guide' to the original On the Origin of
Species with an approach that will prove quite useful in different
ways to different groups of readers. Those who have read Darwin but
perhaps lack knowledge of contemporary evolutionary biology will find
the case studies, examples, and discussion of modern context highly
instructive; modern biologists will gain much insight into the state
of evolutionary thinking at its genesis, à la Darwin. ... I join
Resnick in hoping that his interpretive guide will inspire readers to
pick up the Origin and enjoy Darwin with a whole new level of
comprehension and appreciation."

For the preview of The Origin Then and Now (PDF), visit: 

For information about the book from its publisher, visit: 

For Costa's review in BioScience, visit: 


The Foundation for Thought and Ethics is not going to submit
supplementary biology materials for approval by the Texas state of
board of education after all, according to a January 31, 2011, post on
the blog of the Texas Freedom Network. A list of vendors released by
the Texas Education Agency on January 20, 2011, included FTE, which is
perhaps best known as the publisher of Of Pandas and People, the
"intelligent design" creationism textbook at the center of the
Kitzmiller v. Dover case in 2005. But according to FTE, it told the
TEA by e-mail on November 15, 2010, that it was not going to submit
any materials; it reiterated its withdrawal by way of "a signed letter
on publisher's stationary [sic]" dated January 25, 2011.

Describing FTE's withdrawal as "very good news for supporters of sound
science education and students in Texas public schools" and "a huge
disappointment for evolution deniers on the Texas State Board of
Education," the Texas Freedom Network nevertheless warned, "other
dangers remain for science education in Texas. Anti-evolution groups
and state board members are likely to pressure legitimate publishers
and other vendors to water down instruction on evolution in the
materials they submit for board approval." Materials submitted for
approval will undergo for public review in March 2011, with a final
vote from the state board of education expected in April 2011.
Approved materials will be available for purchase by local school

For the TFN blog post, visit: 

For NCSE's collection of materials on Of Pandas and People, visit: 

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


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: Darwin Day 2011 is
approaching! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums,
churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and
the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around
February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These
events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's
birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science,
evolution, and the importance of evolution education -- which is
especially needed with assaults on evolution education currently
ongoing in Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. NCSE
encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even
organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local
event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the
registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration
website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin
Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of
congregations all over the country and around the world are taking
part in Evolution Weekend, February 11-13, 2011, by presenting sermons
and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science.
Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution
Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the
relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to
elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to
move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that
religious people from many faiths and locations understand that
evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.
Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it
clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and
science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 575
congregations in all fifty states (and thirteen foreign countries)
were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, 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

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!