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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/04/01

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The antievolution bills in Tennessee advance, but the antievolution
bill in New Mexico is dead. NCSE presents a preview of Berkman and
Plutzer's Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's
Classrooms, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Education
claims -- wrongly -- that creationism is included in the Alabama state
science standards, and the Indiana Department of Education offers its
voice for evolution.


Tennessee's House Bill 368 was passed by the House Education Committee
on March 29, 2011, and referred to the House Calendar and Rules
Committee, while its counterpart, Senate Bill 893, was discussed but
not voted on by the Senate Education Committee on March 30, 2011.
These bills, 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."

Among the opponents of the Tennessee antievolution bills are the
Tennessee Science Teachers Association, which described HB 368 as
"unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional"; the
American Association for the Advancement of Science, which explained,
"Asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about
the overall nature of these concepts [i.e., global warming and
evolution] when there are none will only confuse students, not
enlighten them"; and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee,
which charged, "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

For the text of Tennessee's House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893, visit: 

For the statements in opposition to the bills, visit: 

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


New Mexico's House Bill 302 died in committee on March 19, 2011, when
the legislative session ended. The bill had been tabled by the
Education Commitee of the House of Representatives on a 5-4 vote on
February 18, 2011. A version of the currently popular "academic
freedom" antievolution strategy, HB 302, if enacted, would have
required 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." Its sponsor, Thomas A. Anderson
(R-District 29), claimed that the bill was his own, but a detailed
comparison provided by New Mexicans for Science and Reason revealed
the similarity of HB 302 to model bills drafted by the Discovery
Institute and Intelligent Design Network New Mexico.

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

For NMSR's analysis of HB 302, visit: 

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


NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Michael Berkman and Eric
Plutzer's Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's
Classrooms (Cambridge University Press, 2010). The excerpt is taken
from chapter 2 -- "The Public Speaks: 'Teach Both'" -- and discusses
"more than a quarter century of surveys of the American public
concerning evolution." Berkman and Plutzer summarize, "the majority of
Americans favor teaching students a biblical perspective on the
origins of life on earth. For most, creationism should be taught
alongside evolutionary biology ... However, a fairly sizable minority
say they want biblical perspectives to supplant scientific treatments
of the origin of species."

Endorsing the book, Francisco J. Ayala wrote, "Who should determine
whether evolution is taught in the schools and how it is taught?
Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms
is a thorough investigation of the relative roles played by school
boards and the political process, by scientists, and by school
teachers. You may be surprised by the answers." And NCSE's Glenn
Branch described Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control
America's Classrooms as "[a] tour de force," adding, "Berkman and
Plutzer's analysis of who really decides what is taught about
evolution in America's public schools is incisive and insightful,
thorough and thoughtful. ... required reading for anyone who wants to
understand the evolution wars."

For the preview (PDF), visit: 

For information about the book from its publisher, visit: 


A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Education claims that
creationism is presented in the state education standards. Michael
Sibley, the department's director of communications, told Fox News
(March 24, 2011) by e-mail that the Alabama Course of Study, while not
addressing creationism individually, "deals with Theories of
Evolution," adding, "Creationism is one of those theories. The Alabama
Course of Study presents each of these so that students can draw their
own conclusion for themselves."

In fact, the Alabama Course of Study: Science for grades 9-12, adopted
in 2005, refers (p. 41) to "the theory" -- not "theories" -- of
evolution. But the treatment of evolution in the standards is
extraordinarily poor, receiving the grade of F in Louise S. Mead and
Anton Mates's survey of the treatment of evolution in the science
education standards of all fifty states, published in Evolution:
Education and Outreach in 2009. Indeed, the word "evolution" itself is
explicitly used only once in the Biology Core section of the

Moreover, Alabama is the only state to have a disclaimer about
evolution, with three different versions appearing in the 1995, 2001,
and 2005 editions of the Alabama Course of Study: Science. Although
evolution is no longer described as 'controversial' in the 2005
version of the disclaimer, as it was in the 1995 and the 2001
versions, it is the only area of science explicitly identified (p. v)
as facing "unanswered questions and unresolved problems" (although the
preface adds, "There are many unanswered questions about the origin of
life," a phrase from the earlier versions of the disclaimer).

The Alabama state board of education required the 1996 version and
then the 2001 version of the disclaimer to be affixed to biology
textbooks in the state; the recent gubernatorial candidate Bradley
Byrne, who served on the board from 1994 to 2002, was presumably
referring to them when he proclaimed, "I fought to ensure the teaching
of creationism in our school text books" (quoted by CBS News, May 11,
2010). On November 10, 2005, the board voted to continue to require
the affixing of the 2001 version of the disclaimer to biology

For the Fox News story, visit: 

For the ACOSS for grades 9-12 (document), visit: 

For NCSE's story about Mead and Mates's survey, visit: 

For the ACOSS preface containing the disclaimer (document), visit: 

For the CBS News story, visit: 

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


The Indiana Department of Education explains its position on the
teaching of evolution in the Hoosier State. A memorandum on the
departmental website explains that evolution is contained in the state
science standards. While the department "does not identify science
content that should not be taught," the statement continues, "content
taught in the area of science must be consistent with the nature of
science. ... This means that the explanations for how the world works
must be based upon physical evidence and subjected to experimental
verification as well as peer review." The memorandum concludes by
observing, "The espousing of one faith tradition or set of beliefs
over another or others is inappropriate in a public school context."
The department's memorandum is now reproduced, by permission, on
NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the fourth edition of
NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

For the Indiana DOE statement (PDF), visit: 

For Voices for Evolution, 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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