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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/03/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The antievolution legislation in Tennessee progresses. The eminent
evolutionary biologist Walter M. Fitch is dead. The opposition to the
antievolution legislation in Tennessee continues. The adjournment of
the Kentucky legislature means that the antievolution bill there is no
longer in play. And a reminder that there are still seats available on
the next NCSE excursion to the Grand Canyon.


Tennessee's House Bill 368 was passed on a 9-4 vote, with no testimony
or discussion, at the House General Subcommittee of Education meeting
on March 16, 2011. A version of the "academic freedom" antievolution
bill, HB 368 would, if enacted, 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."

Voting for the bill were Harry Brooks (R-District 19), Kevin Brooks
(R-District 24), Joe Carr (R-District 48), John J. DeBerry Jr.
(D-District 90), the bill's sponsor Bill Dunn (R-District 16), Joey
Hensley (R-District 70), Ron Lollar (R-District 99), Debra Young
Maggar (R-District 45), and Richard Montgomery (R-District 12); voting
against it were Lois M. DeBerry (D-District 91), Craig Fitzhugh
(D-District 82), Jimmy Naifeh (D-District 81), and Joe Pitts
(D-District 67). The bill now proceeds to the full House Education
Committee, which is scheduled to consider it at its meeting on March
22, 2011, beginning at noon; e-mail NCSE's Joshua Rosenau or Steven
Newton if you're able to attend.

For the text of House Bill 368 (PDF), visit: 

For the record of the vote, visit: 

For the committee's schedule, visit: 

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


The distinguished evolutionary biologist Walter M. Fitch died on March
11, 2011, at the age of 81, according to The Panda's Thumb blog (March
13, 2011). Born in San Diego, California, on May 21, 1929, Fitch
attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his
bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1953 and his Ph.D. in comparative
biochemistry in 1958. After a series of postdoctoral appointments, he
joined the School of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison,
where he was a professor from 1962 to 1986. He then returned to his
native California, spending three years at the University of Southern
California before becoming a professor of ecology and evolutionary
biology at the University of California, Irvine, in 1989. A pioneer in
molecular evolution, Fitch was proudest of his work on phylogenetics,
especially "Construction of phylogenetic trees" (coauthored with E.
Margoliash), published in Science in 1967. He was the first president
of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution and the founding
editor-in-chief of its journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. His
honors included election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
and the National Academy of Sciences.

A long-time member of NCSE, Fitch was active in efforts to promote the
teaching of evolution; he was a member of the working group that
produced Evolution, Science, and Society: Evolutionary Biology and the
National Research Agenda in 1998, and contributed "Evolution is Fact"
to Evolutionary Science and Society: Educating a New Generation in
2005, for example. He was also concerned with creationism, giving a
plenary address on "Creation Science: An Oxymoron" to the Southern
California Academy of Sciences in 2002; developing a class on creation
and evolution at the University of California, Irvine, for students
not majoring in biology; and even engaging in public debates with
creationists on occasion (see, for example, the report in the Daily
Pilot for May 15, 2006). At the time of his death, he was finishing a
book on the creationism/evolution controversy, which NCSE Supporter
Richard E. Dickerson of the University of California, Los Angeles,
describes as "the final word of a major player in the field"; Logic,
Rhetoric, and Science: And Why Creationism Fails at All Three is
expected to be published by the University of California Press in

For the post at The Panda's Thumb blog, visit: 

For Fitch's contribution to Evolutionary Science and Society (PDF, pp.
22-24), visit: 

For the story in the Daily Pilot, visit: 


As a third subcommittee hearing on Tennessee's House Bill 368
approached, the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and the executive director
of the ACLU of Tennessee were expressing their opposition to the bill.

Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of AAAS and executive
publisher of its journal Science, explained to two of the members of
the subcommittee, "There is virtually no scientific controversy among
the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global
warming and evolution. Asserting that there are significant scientific
controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there
are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them." He
concluded, "We encourage you to continue to support a rigorous
scientific education curriculum in Tennessee schools by rejecting HB

Becky Ashe, the president of the TSTA, told the subcommittee that the
bill was flawed in implying that evolution is scientifically
controversial, explaining that the members of TSTA "recognize the
scientific theory of evolution is accepted by mainstream scientists
around the world as the cornerstone of biology and as the single,
unifying explanation for the diversity of life." She also expressed
concern that the bill would "allow non-scientific alternatives to
evolution ... to be introduced into our public schools." She concluded
by describing HB 368 as "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely

And in a column in The Tennesseean (March 11, 2011), Hedy Weinberg of
the ACLU of Tennessee reviewed the checkered career of attempts to
undermine evolution education in the state culminating in HB 368. She
forcefully argued, "this legislation is not aimed at developing
students' critical thinking skills. Rather, it seeks to subvert
scientific principle to religious ideology by granting legal cover to
teachers who wish to dress up religious beliefs regarding the origin
of life as pseudo-science," and warned of the bill's "serious
consequences for the future well-being of our children, our economy
and our state overall."

Nevertheless, HB 368 was passed on a 9-4 vote, with no testimony or
discussion, at the House General Subcommittee of Education meeting on
March 16, 2011. The bill is expected to be considered by the full
House Education Committee on March 22, 2011.

For the letter from the AAAS (PDF), visit: 

For the letter from the TSTA (PDF), visit: 

For Weinberg's column in The Tennessean, visit: 

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


When the Kentucky legislature adjourned sine die on March 9, 2011,
House Bill 169 died in committee. A special session of the legislature
will convene starting on March 14, 2011, but only to consider two
unrelated items, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader (March 10,
2011). HB 169, if enacted, would have allowed teachers to "use, as
permitted by the local school board, other instructional materials to
help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific
theories in an objective manner." No particular scientific theories
were cited in HB 169, but the similar HB 397 introduced by the same
legislator -- Tim Moore (R-District 26) -- in the previous legislative
session explicitly listed "the study of evolution, the origins of
life, global warming, and human cloning" as examples of scientific
theories for which supplementary instructional materials could be
used. The exact phrase appears in the Louisiana Science Education Act,
Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, on which HB 397 was apparently

For the text of Kentucky's House Bill 169, visit: 

For the story in the Lexington Herald-Leader, visit: 

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


Explore the Grand Canyon with Scott, Newton, and Gish! Seats are still
available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured
in The New York Times (October 6, 2005). From June 30 to July 8, 2011,
NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a
Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott, NCSE's Steven
Newton, and paleontologist Alan ("Gish") Gishlick. Because this is an
NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically grand float down the
Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating natural history,
brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious meals, and good
company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft trip, on which we
provide both the creationist view of the Grand Canyon (maybe not
entirely seriously) and the evolutionist view -- and let you make up
your own mind. To get a glimpse of the fun, watch the short videos
filmed during the 2009 trip, posted on NCSE's YouTube site. The cost
of the excursion is $2545; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot.
Seats are limited: call, write, or e-mail now.

For information about the trip, visit: 

For NCSE's report on the story in The New York Times, visit: 

For NCSE's YouTube site, 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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