NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/02/18
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A Darwin Day resolution is introduced in Congress. The documentary Kansas vs. Darwin is freely available on-line for a limited time. In Mount Vernon, Ohio, a controversy involving creationism promises to continue to linger, with a complaint filed by John Freshwater. And the sixth antievolution bill of 2011 makes its appearance, in Tennessee.
DARWIN DAY RESOLUTION IN CONGRESS House Resolution 81, introduced in the United States House of Representatives on February 9, 2011, would, if passed, express the House's support of designating February 12, 2011, as Darwin Day, and its recognition of "Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge." Pete Stark (D-California) was originally the sole sponsor of the bill; he was later joined by Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts). After its introduction, H. Res. 81 was referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and then to the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. Introducing the resolution, Stark commented, "Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, and his life has had a profound impact on the course of human history. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection has not only provided a compelling explanation for the diversity of life, it is also the foundation of modern biology and genetics. Darwin exemplified the scientific curiosity that has led to new scientific breakthroughs that have helped humanity solve numerous problems and improve our quality of life. Charles Darwin is worthy of recognition and honor. His birthday should be a time for us to celebrate the advancement of human knowledge and the achievements of reason and science." Stark told the San Jose Mercury (February 11, 2011) that he was "just trying to get people to understand that we're trying to get our kids to be scientists, were pushing for green jobs and green development, and you can't stick your head in the sand and not recognize that we're in a modern age. To get there, it seems to me, we have to understand that science is all part of what we're doing." The resolution was promptly endorsed by the American Humanist Association and the Center for Inquiry. The Mercury's reporter predicted that the resolution would fail, however: "in this conservative, Republican-dominated House," he quipped, "it'll surely be deemed not fit to survive." "I'm glad to see a Congressional proposal to recognize the importance of Darwin and of the teaching of evolution," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, "and I encourage members and friends of NCSE to urge their representatives to support H. Res. 81." Alluding to Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer's recent commentary in Science, she added, "But let's remember that the real action occurs in the classroom, where 13% of high school biology teachers are explicitly advocating creationism and 60% are sadly reluctant to teach evolution in the way that the scientific community understands it. Support H. Res. 81, but don't neglect the many ways to defend the teaching of evolution locally." For the text of House Resolution 81, visit: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.RES.81: For Stark's remarks on introducing the resolution (PDF), visit: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2011-02-09/pdf/CREC-2011-02-09-pt1-PgE178-4.pdf#page=1 For the story in the San Jose Mercury, visit: http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_17352799 For the AHA's and the CFI's endorsements, visit: http://www.americanhumanist.org/news/details/2011-02-humanists-proudly-endorse-rep-pete-starks-darwin-day http://www.centerforinquiry.net/news/cfi_supports_u.s._rep._pete_starks_darwin_day_resolution/ For NCSE's coverage of the Berkman and Plutzer column, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2011/01/too-many-teachers-ignore-evolution-006454 And for a list of ways to support evolution education, visit: http://ncse.com/taking-action/29-ways-to-support-science-education KANSAS VS. DARWIN FOR THIRTY DAYS In honor of Darwin Day 2011, the documentary Kansas vs. Darwin is freely available on-line for thirty days, from February 12 to March 14, 2011. Simply visit the film's website and click on the yellow sunflower or visit the film's Facebook page and click on the Events icon. Directed by Jeff Tamblyn, Kansas vs. Darwin covers the May 2005 hearings of proposed revisions to the Kansas state science standards. The hearings, orchestrated by three antievolutionist members of the board, were widely condemned as a kangaroo court, intended only to provide political cover for the antievolution faction on the board to override the consensus of the committee of scientists, science educators, and citizens appointed to revise the science standards in order to undermine the treatment of evolution and allied topics in the standards. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott praised the documentary as "a thoughtful and thorough introduction to a greatly misunderstood event: the 2005 Kansas Board of Education hearings on intelligent design and evolution. With remarkable footage of the hearings themselves along with candid interviews of the principals, the film presents both sides accurately and fairly, and with a healthy dollop of humor." For the film's website and Facebook page, visit: http://www.kansasvdarwin.com/film/ http://www.facebook.com/kansasvsdarwin For NCSE's report on the hearings, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2005/05/all-over-shouting-kansas-00620 THE FRESHWATER CASE CONTINUES John Freshwater is now challenging the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education's decision to terminate his employment as a middle school science teacher. The Mount Vernon News (February 11, 2011) reports that on February 8, 2011, Freshwater "filed a complaint, which could also be considered an appeal, with the Knox County Common Pleas Court ... asking the court for a reversal of the Mount Vernon school board's decision to terminate his teaching contract." After a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate religious activity -- including teaching creationism -- and sued Freshwater and the district in 2008, the board voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment. After administrative hearings that proceeded sporadically over two years, the referee presiding over the hearings finally issued his recommendation that the board terminate his employment with the district, and the board voted to do so in January 2011. Freshwater's thirty-three page complaint asks the court for "a reversal of the board's resolution to terminate him, monetary damages in an amount to be determined, damages for defamation, false light, emotional distress, constitutional violations, reinstatement to his teaching position, and other relief" (pp. 32-33). Among the plethora of allegations contained in the complaint: "Creationism and/or Intelligent Design are NOT religions, nor is either reflective of beliefs or tenets unique to any particular religion" (p. 10). For the story in the Mount Vernon News, visit: http://mountvernonnews.com/local/11/02/11/freshwater-files-complaint-with-court For Freshwater's complaint (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1554 ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN TENNESSEE House Bill 368, introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives on February 9, 2011, is the sixth antievolution bill introduced in a state legislature in 2011, and the first introduced in Tennessee since 2007. The bill, if enacted, would require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as 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 covered in the course being taught." The only examples provided of "controversial" theories are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The sole sponsor of HB 368 is Bill Dunn (R-District 16), who, according to Project Vote Smart, answered yes to the question “Should Tennessee require its public schools to teach evolution as theory rather than scientific fact?” in 1996 -- the same year in which the Tennessee legislature considered a bill (SB 3229/HB 2972) that would have provided for the suspension or dismissal of any teacher or administrator who taught evolution as a fact rather than a theory. For the text of Tennessee's HB 368 (PDF), visit: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/107/Bill/HB0368.pdf For Project Vote Smart's report, visit: http://www.votesmart.org/npat.php?can_id=24395 For the text of 1996's SB 3229 and HB 2972, visit: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/Billinfo/default.aspx?BillNumber=SB3229&ga=99 http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/Billinfo/default.aspx?BillNumber=HB2972&ga=99 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee 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