NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/03/11
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A busy week, with a new "intelligent design" bill in Texas, threats against a British imam over his acceptance of evolution, a new antievolution bill in Florida, a discussion of "Evolution Abroad" in Scientific American, and the apparent death of the second antievolution bill in Oklahoma.
"INTELLIGENT DESIGN" LEGISLATION IN TEXAS "Disingenuous efforts by creationists to portray themselves as persecuted in mainstream academia for their anti-evolution beliefs are getting a boost from a Texas lawmaker," reported the Texas Freedom Network in a March 9, 2011, post on its blog. House Bill 2454, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on March 8, 2011, would, if enacted, provide, "An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member's or student's conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms." The sole sponsor of HB 2454 is Bill Zedler (R-District 96). Describing the bill as following "the strategy by creationist/'intelligent design' proponents to portray themselves as martyrs," TFN noted that the strategy was exemplified by the creationist propaganda film Expelled, fronted by Ben Stein, which NCSE extensively debunked at Expelled Exposed. TFN concluded, "Institutions of higher education should -- and do -- protect academic freedom. Rep. Zedler's bill would instead require our colleges and universities to aid and protect academic fraud. But with the State Board of Education promoting anti-science propaganda in public schools, we shouldn't be surprised that higher education is increasingly a target as well." For TFN's blog post, visit: http://tfninsider.org/2011/03/09/bad-science-and-persecution-complexes/ For the text of Texas's House Bill 2454, visit: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/82R/billtext/html/HB02454I.htm For Expelled Exposed, visit: http://www.expelledexposed.com IMAM THREATENED OVER EVOLUTION A prominent British imam was reportedly threatened "for expressing his views on evolution and women's right to refuse the veil," according to the Guardian (March 6, 2011). On January 22, 2011, Usama Hasan was speaking on "Islam and Evolution" at Masjid al-Tawhid, a mosque in London, when his talk was disrupted by a group of protesters "handing out leaflets against him and shouting in the mosque for his execution." Hasan told the Independent (March 5, 2011) that one protester told him, "You are an apostate and should be killed." Police have urged him not to return to the mosque. There are conflicting reports about the mosque's reaction; while the secretary of the mosque claimed that Hasan was suspended from his position as vice chairman on account of his views, the chairman of the mosque (who is Hasan's father) claimed that there was not a quorum of trustees present for the vote. Hasan told the Guardian, "I've been a Londoner all my life and I grew up in that mosque," adding, "I'm very passionate about living our lives in a modern way but, as far as they [my opponents] are concerned, that makes me an extremist. I'm going to have to live with extra cautions for the rest of my life." In a column in the Guardian (September 11, 2008), Hasan, who holds a PhD in electrical engineering and is a lecturer at Middlesex University, argued that there was no necessary conflict between Islam and evolution, writing, "Many believers in God have no problem with an obvious solution: that God created man via evolution. ... There are plenty of Muslim biologists who have no doubt about the essential correctness of evolutionary theory." In recent statements on his blog, however, he insisted on the special creation of Adam as revealed in the Qur’an and apologized for any "inflammatory" remarks of his on evolution. The Independent emphasized, "Like Christianity, Islamic opinion is divided over evolution," commenting that "a small number of orthodox scholars, mainly from Saudi Arabia -- where many clerics still preach that the Sun revolves around the Earth -- have ruled against evolution, declaring that belief in the concept goes against the Koran's statement that Adam and Eve were the first humans"; the Guardian also noted that Harun Yahya, the pseudonymous leader of a prolific creationist organization headquartered in Turkey, was about to begin a speaking tour in the United Kingdom. For the articles in the Guardian and the Independent, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/06/usama-hasan-london-imam-death-threats-evolution http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/scientist-imam-threatened-over-darwinist-views-2232952.html For Hasan's column in the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/11/religion.darwinbicentenary For the posts on Hasan's blog, visit: http://unity1.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/a-statement-about-recent-events/ http://unity1.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/a-further-clarification-and-retraction/ ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN FLORIDA Senate Bill 1854, introduced in the Florida Senate on March 5, 2011, would, if enacted, amend a section of Florida law to require "[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in the state's public schools. The bill is sponsored by Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5), who in February 2009 introduced SB 2396, which would have amended the same section of Florida law in the same way. Before Wise introduced SB 2396, he announced his intention to introduce a bill requiring "intelligent design" to be taught in Florida's public schools. "If you're going to teach evolution, then you have to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking," he told the Jacksonville Times-Union (February 8, 2009). Wise acknowledged that his bill was likely to invite a legal challenge, but contended, "Someplace along the line you've got to be able to make a value judgment of what it is you think is the appropriate thing." Evidently he changed his mind about how to accomplish his goal, since "intelligent design" was not mentioned in the bill. SB 2396 was denounced as "an insult to citizens who are tired of stomping over the same ground over and over again" by Florida Citizens for Science and described as "a deliberate attempt to undermine the adopted science standards" by the Florida Academy of Sciences. On May 1, 2009, the bill died in committee when the legislature adjourned. SB 1854 is the eighth antievolution bill introduced in a state legislature in 2011. For the text of Florida's Senate Bill 1854, visit: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2011/1854/BillText/Filed/HTML For the article in the Jacksonville Times-Union, visit: http://www.jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-02-08/story/wise_to_introduce_intelligent_design_bill For the opposition to SB 2396 from Florida Citizens for Science and the Florida Academy of Sciences (PDF), visit: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=926 http://www.jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-02-08/story/wise_to_introduce_intelligent_design_bill And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: http://ncse.com/news/florida "EVOLUTION ABROAD" Scientific American continued its exploration of the controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution by turning its gaze abroad. "Many countries have only recently started taking a systematic look at how the topic of evolutionary theory and biology is addressed in classrooms," Katherine Harmon wrote. "Early research suggests that not only does anti-evolution instruction make its way into science classes worldwide -- from the European Union to Southeast Asia -- but in many regions, it also seems to be on the rise." Discussing the situation in the United Kingdom was James Williams of the University of Sussex, who lamented the isolation of evolution in the curriculum and the underpreparation of teachers, whose "understanding of evolution is very, very poor," he said. In addition, creationists have pushed for the inclusion of "alternatives" to evolution in the national curriculum and of creationist literature in school libraries. Williams speculated that the presence of religion education classes may have helped to deflect creationists from assailing the science classrooms. Discussing the situation in the European Union, Dittmar Graf of Technical University Dortmund observed that the Council of Europe's firm rejection of creationism in 2007 was not binding, so when creationism appears in the classroom, "Legal processes are not an option in most European countries because we don't have something like your First Amendment." Like Williams, Graf recommended starting evolution education earlier; he also emphasized the linkages between acceptance of evolution and acceptance of science in general. And discussing the situation in the Islamic world were Jason Wiles of Syracuse University and Salman Hameed of Hampshire College. Owing to the efforts of Islamic creationists, Islam is sometimes regarded as monolithically opposed to evolution -- but, Wiles commented, "The diversity that you find in Muslim thought around evolution is just as broad as you would expect to find in the West." Evolution is widely taught in the Islamic world, but within a religious context. Hameed concluded, "Thought regarding evolution is developing right now ... It's unclear as to which way it's going to go." For "Evolution Abroad," visit: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=evolution-education-abroad For Scientific American's collection on "New Challenges for Evolution Education," visit: http://www.scientificamerican.com/report.cfm?id=evolution-education ANTIEVOLUTION BILL APPARENTLY DIES IN OKLAHOMA SENATE Senate Bill 554, a hybrid of the "academic freedom" antievolution strategy and the flawed Texas state science standards, appears to have died in committee on February 28, 2011, when a deadline for senate bills to be reported from committee passed. 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." The antievolution bill in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, House Bill 1551, was previously rejected by the House Common Education Committee on February 22, 2011. Leading the opposition to both antievolution bills was the grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. 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 For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: http://www.oklascience.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma 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