NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/02/25
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Plenty of news from statehouses around the country, with antievolution bills voted down or tabled in Oklahoma and New Mexico, but a new bill in Tennessee.
ANTIEVOLUTION BILL LOSES IN COMMITTEE IN OKLAHOMA House Bill 1551, which would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as evolution, was rejected by the House Common Education Committee on February 22, 2011. The Oklahoman (February 23, 2011) reported Fred Jordan (R-District 69) as observing that the bill seems to be "opening the door for teachers to kind of say whatever they want to say, whether it's religious issues, creation, evolution ... I really feel like we're opening the door to where any and everything can come in." Similarly, David Grow, a retired zoologist at the Oklahoma City Zoo, told the newspaper that if the bill were passed, "they will be introducing intelligent design ideas and criticisms of evolution based on unfactual claims about evolution. ... This isn't about science; this is anti-evolution." "The measure failed, 7-9, but it is not a final action," The Oklahoman reported, explaining that its sponsor, Sally Kern (R-District 84), "could ask the committee to bring it up again this session or next year." Kern is a persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in Oklahoma, having sponsored a similar bill (HB 2107) and a similar resolution (HCR 1043) in 2006; neither passed. In the meantime, the antievolution bill in the Oklahoma Senate, SB 554, is still with the Senate Education Committee. A hybrid of the "academic freedom" antievolution strategy and the flawed Texas state science standards, SB 554 was introduced by Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who described it in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 24, 2010) as "requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution." For the story in The Oklahoman, visit: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-house-panel-votes-down-science-bill/article/3543083 For Brecheen's column in the Durant Daily Democrat, visit: http://www.durantdemocrat.com/view/full_story/10776295/article-Brecheen-says-the-religion-of-evolution-is-plagued-with-falsehoods And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma A SECOND ANTIEVOLUTION BILL IN TENNESSEE Senate Bill 893, filed in the Tennessee Senate on February 16, 2011, is the seventh antievolution bill introduced in a state legislature in 2011, and the second introduced in Tennessee. The bill would, 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 SB 893 is Bo Watson (R-District 11). SB 893 is identical to HB 368, which was introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives on February 9, 2011, and which will receive a second hearing in a subcommittee of the House Education Committee on March 2, 2011. For Tennessee's SB 893 (PDF), visit: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/107/Bill/SB0893.pdf And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee ANTIEVOLUTION BILL IN NEW MEXICO TABLED House Bill 302 was tabled by the Education Committee of the New Mexico House of Representatives on a 5-4 vote on February 18, 2011, suggesting that it is unlikely to come to a floor vote before the legislature adjourns on March 19, 2011. A version of the currently popular "academic freedom" antievolution strategy, HB 302, if enacted, 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 and would protect teachers from "reassignment, termination, discipline or other discrimination for doing so." Before the vote, the sponsor of the bill, Thomas A. Anderson (R-District 29), rejected a characterization of HB 302 as an "evolution bill," telling The New Mexican (February 8, 2011), "I'm just trying to protect teachers." Dave Thomas of New Mexicans for Science and Reason countered, "This is really just a ploy to get creationism in the classroom," to which NCSE's Steven Newton added, "Allowing creationist teachers to attack evolution is an injustice to the education of their students, who will live and work in a world increasingly dependent on understanding science and technology." Thomas and Newton also charged that HB 302 was based on model legislation from the de facto institutional headquarters of "intelligent design" creationism, the Discovery Institute. Anderson replied that the bill was his own -- but a detailed comparison provided by NMSR reveals the similarity of HB 302 to the Discovery Institute's model bill as well as to a draft bill promoted by a local creationist organization, Intelligent Design Network New Mexico. Subsequently, IDnet-NM also paid for a full-page advertisement in the Albuquerque Journal supporting HB 302, as the Journal observed (February 16, 2011). Members of NCSE, NMSR, the New Mexico Academy of Sciences, and the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education were on hand at the committee meeting to express their concern about the bill. Also, a legislative analysis reported that the state Attorney General's office described HB 302 as "vulnerable to legal challenge on grounds that its definitions and application are unconstitutionally vague" and the Administrative Office of the Courts warned, "If enacted, HB 302 may result in litigation if the law is interpreted to provide teachers with the latitude to advance certain concepts, such as creationism or intelligent design, as science." For the text of New Mexico's House Bill 302, visit: http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/11%20Regular/bills/house/HB0302.html For the story in The New Mexican, visit: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/local%20news/Bill-promotes-teaching-of--intelligent-design- For NMSR's analysis of HB 302, visit: http://nmsr.org/hb302evo.htm For the story in the Albuquerque Journal, visit: http://www.abqjournal.com/news/xgr/162140521248newsxgr02-16-11.htm For the legislative analysis of HB 302 (PDF), visit: http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/11%20Regular/firs/HB0302.pdf And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Mexico, visit: http://ncse.com/news/new-mexico 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