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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/04/08

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Bad news from Tennessee, where antievolution legislation passed the
House and is under consideration by a Senate committee. Plus the
winner of NCSE's UpChucky award for 2010.


Tennessee's House Bill 368 passed the House of Representatives on a
70-23 vote on April 7, 2011. "The debate ranged over the scientific
method, 'intellectual bullies,' hair spray and 'Inherit the Wind,'"
reported the Chattanooga Times Free Press (April 7, 2011).

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 sponsor of HB 368, Bill Dunn (R-District 16),
claimed that the teaching of "intelligent design" would not be
protected by the bill. Its chief lobbyist, David Fowler of the Family
Action Council of Tennessee, claimed otherwise in the Chattanoogan
(February 21, 2011).

The Tennessean (in its editorial of March 29, 2011), the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Civil
Liberties Union of Tennessee have all expressed their opposition to HB
368, with the Tennessee Science Teachers Association -- representing
the supposed beneficiaries of the bill -- characterizing it as
"unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional." The
TSTA's Becky Ashe, who is also the executive director of curriculum
and instruction for Knox County Schools, told the Knoxville Metro
Pulse (April 6, 2011) that in her decade of service there, no teacher
has been disciplined for mentioning alternative beliefs to evolution
in the classroom. She added that the science standards already
emphasize critical thinking, making the bill completely unnecessary.

The Senate version of the bill, SB 893, was discussed, but not voted
on, by the Senate Education Committee on March 30, 2011; according to
the Metro Pulse, a committee vote is not expected until April 20,

For the story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, visit: 

For Fowler's op-ed in the Chattanoogan, visit: 

For the editorial in The Tennessean, visit: 

For NCSE's coverage of the opposition to HB 368, visit: 

For the story in the Knoxville Metro Pulse, visit: 

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


Tennessee's Senate Bill 893 was discussed, but not voted on, by the
Senate Education Committee on March 30, 2011. The Chattanooga Times
Free Press (March 31, 2011) reported that its sponsor Bo Watson
(R-District 11) denied that SB 893 -- recently dubbed "the monkey
bill" by a fellow legislator -- attacks evolution. But high school
biology teacher Wesley Roberts, who testified against the bill, told
the committee, "part of our rich cultural history in Tennessee is
opposition to evolution education. This bill is part of that
tradition. It is not inviting students to discuss the controversy of
the Vietnam war. It's not encouraging students to discuss the true
value of pi. It's aimed at science and evolution."

Speaking to reporters afterward, Watson acknowledged, "evolution is
the most legitimate scientific process that we have to explain how the
world works around us," but claimed "there are competing ideas" such
as creationism. "They may not meet the scientific standard," Watson
was quoted as saying, "but if they come up in a science class ... and
it's not listed in the state's curriculum, a teacher should not be
off-putting and say that's not in the curriculum -- if you want to
talk about intelligent design you should go down the hall to the
religious studies class. Teachers should be able to say, look, there
are people who view that as a competing idea."

House Bill 368, the counterpart of SB 893, passed the House Education
Committee on March 29, 2011, and referred to the House Calendar and
Rules Committee, chaired by its sponsor Bill Dunn (R-District 16). In
a stinging editorial published the same day, the Nashville Tennessean
(March 29, 2011) denounced the antievolution legislation in Tennessee,
writing, "when a piece of legislation is so distorted in fact, so
misleading in its intent, and so fraught with the potential to do more
harm than good to the people and the reputation of Tennessee, it must
be shown for what it is," and describing it as "not only an attack on
science but on First Amendment guarantees of speech and religious

A later article in The Tennessean (April 3, 2011) -- headlined "TN
bill would let God into science classrooms" -- discussed the
legislation in the context of the state science standards, which
include evolution but not creationism. Bo Watson told the newspaper,
"Teachers should be able to answer [questions] without feeling they
violate the curriculum standards," but Molly Miller, a professor of
geology at Vanderbilt University, who testified against SB 893, told
the Senate Education Committee, "This bill is unnecessary ... Teachers
are already mandated to teach all sides of scientific controversies.
Why should legislators change the science standards, overruling those
that worked hard?"

For the story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, visit: 

For the editorial in The Tennessean, visit: 

For the story in The Tennessean, visit: 

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


Not content only to honor those who have valiantly defended the
teaching of evolution in the public schools with its annual Friend of
Darwin award (presented for 2010 to Niles Eldredge), NCSE also
presents the annual UpChucky, bestowed on the most noisome creationist
of the year. "It's a spoof award, of course," explained NCSE's
executive director Eugenie C. Scott, "but even so there's a lot of
competition out there, unfortunately."

The nominees for 2010, as announced in a press release issued on March
29, 2011, were: Answers in Genesis, for its proposed Ark Encounter
theme park; John Freshwater, the Mount Vernon, Ohio, middle school
science teacher who was fired over his inappropriate religious
activity in the classroom, including teaching creationism; and the
Louisiana Family Forum, for its unremitting attempts to undermine the
teaching of evolution in Louisiana's public schools.

And the winner is ... Answers in Genesis, whose "Ark Park" project is
already controversial not only because of the threat it poses to the
state's reputation but also because of the prospect of its receiving
state tourism development incentives, to the tune of 37.5 million
dollars over ten years. "I don't remember Noah asking for a government
handout to build his ark," joked NCSE's Scott. "Why isn't Answers in
Genesis following his model?"

For the UpChucky press release, visit: 

For the 2010 Friend of Darwin award announcement, 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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