NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/01/13
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, NCSE files a friend-of-the-court brief in the Freshwater case. Two antievolution bills in Missouri: one that would encourage teachers to emphasize "the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of evolution and one that would require equal time for "intelligent design" in the state's schools and universities. Protestant pastors in the United States reject evolution, according to a survey conducted by the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Over a third of K-12 educators who teach about climate change have been influenced to teach "both sides," according to a NESTA survey. And a reminder about NCSE's Grand Canyon expedition in 2012.
NCSE FILES AMICUS IN FRESHWATER CASE By providing a friend of the court brief (PDF) to Ohio's Fifth District Court of Appeals on January 10, 2012, NCSE is supporting a local school district that fired a middle school science teacher over his inappropriate religious activity in the classroom -- including teaching creationism. NCSE's brief argues that the teacher's materials and methods concerning evolution "have no basis in science and serve no pedagogical purpose." The case is John Freshwater v. Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education; NCSE's amicus curiae brief was prepared pro bono by Richard Mancino, Samuel M. Leaf, and Anthony Juzaitis of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Christopher S. Williams, Colleen M. O'Neil, and Jeffrey J. Lauderdale of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP. In 2008, a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate religious activity and sued Freshwater and the district. The Mount Vernon City School Board then voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment. After thorough administrative hearings that proceeded over two years and involved more than eighty witnesses, the referee presiding over the hearings issued his recommendation that the board terminate Freshwater's employment with the district, and the board voted to do so in January 2011. Freshwater challenged his termination in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas in February 2011, but the court found "there is clear and convincing evidence to support the Board of Education's termination of Freshwater's contract(s) for good and just cause." Freshwater then appealed the court's decision to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. With respect to his teaching of creationism, his appeal brief argued, "Freshwater sought to encourage his students to differentiate between facts and theories, and to identify and discuss instances where textbook statements were subject to intellectual and scientific debate," claimed, "his encouraging students to think critically about scientific theories ... cannot be rendered illegal based solely on the presumption that Freshwater's personal beliefs happen to align with one of the competing theories considered," and accused the board's actions of constituting "an outright hostility to religion that ... violates the Establishment Clause." NCSE's brief addresses "[w]hether there is any pedagogical or scientific merit in John Freshwater's teaching of 'alternative theories' to evolution, including theories that are 'consistent' [as Freshwater's appeal brief described them] with Christian religious beliefs, and whether there is pedagogical or scientific merit in his specific approach to 'encouraging students to think critically' about evolution" and argues that Freshwater's "materials and methods serve no legitimate pedagogical purpose in a public school science class, are scientifically unsound, and serve only impermissibly to advance a sectarian purpose, namely to teach creationism in its traditional version of creation science or its modern incarnation of intelligent design." For NCSE's amicus brief (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1716 For documents associated with Freshwater's termination, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/freshwater-termination-hearing A SECOND ANTIEVOLUTION BILL IN MISSOURI House Bill 1276, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 11, 2012, and not yet referred to a committee, is apparently the fifth antievolution bill of 2012 -- and the second in Missouri. The bill would, if enacted, call on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution" and to "endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." "Toward this end," the bill continues, "teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution." Andrew Koenig (R-District 88) is the main sponsor of HB 1276; its cosponsors are Rick Brattin (R-District 124), Charlie Davis (R-District 128), Todd Richardson (R-District 154), Sue Allen (R-District 92), Kurt Bahr (District 19), Brent Lasater (R-District 53), Darrell Pollock (R-District 146), Doug Funderburk (R-District 12), Bill Reiboldt (R-District 130), Bill Lant (R-District 131), Casey Guernsey (R-District 3), Dwight Scharnhorst (R-District 93), and Kathie Conway (R-District 14). The text of HB 1276 is identical to the text of HB 195 in 2011; Koenig, Davis, Bahr, Pollock, Funderburk, Reiboldt, Scharnhorst, and Conway were among its sponsors. HB 195 died in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee without receiving a hearing. In the present legislative session, Brattin, Davis, Koenig, Allen, and Pollock are also among the sponsors of HB 1227, which if enacted would require "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design" in both public elementary and secondary schools and introductory science courses in public institutions of higher education in Missouri. For the text of Missouri's HB 1276, visit: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills121/biltxt/intro/HB1276I.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncse.com/news/missouri "INTELLIGENT DESIGN" BILL IN MISSOURI House Bill 1227, introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives on January 10, 2012, would, if enacted, require "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design," according to the legislature's summary of the bill. The equal treatment provision would apply to both public elementary and secondary schools and to "any introductory science course taught at any public institution of higher education" in Missouri. HB 1227's text is about 3000 words long, beginning with a declaration that the bill is to be known as the Missouri Standard Science Act, followed by a defectively alphabetized glossary providing idiosyncratic definitions of "analogous naturalistic processes," "biological evolution," "biological intelligent design," "destiny," "empirical data," "equal treatment," "hypothesis," "origin," "scientific theory," "scientific law," and "standard science." Among the substantive provisions of the bill, applying both to public elementary and secondary schools and to introductory science courses in public institutions of higher education: "If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught." For public elementary and secondary schools, HB 1227 also provides, "If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a textbook, the textbook shall give equal treatment to biological evolution and biological intelligent design." After the bill is enacted, new textbooks purchased for the public schools will have to conform to the equal treatment requirement. A committee will develop supplementary material on "intelligent design" for optional interim use. HB 1227 is apparently a descendent of HB 911 in 2004, which was also dubbed the Missouri Standard Science Act, began with a glossary of the same eleven terms (and also "extrapolated radiometric data"), would have required equal treatment of "intelligent design" in the public elementary and secondary schools (although not in public higher education), and would have required textbooks to conform to the equal treatment requirement. HB 911 was widely criticized, including by the Science Teachers of Missouri. A sequel bill, HB 1722, also introduced in 2004, contained the same language as HB 911, but omitted provisions that would have required the text of the bill to be posted in high school science classrooms and that would have enabled the firing of teachers and administrators who failed to comply with the law. Both bills died when the legislative session ended. Rick Brattin (R-District 124) is the main sponsor of HB 1227; its cosponsors are John McCaherty (R-District 90), Charlie Davis (R-District 128), Andrew Koenig (R-District 88), Sue Allen (R-District 92), and Darrell Pollock (R-District 146); Davis, Koenig, and Pollock also cosponsored the antievolution HB 195 in 2011. HB 1227 is the fourth antievolution bill of 2012, joining Indiana's Senate Bill 89 and New Hampshire's House Bills 1148 and 1157. For the text of Missouri's HB 1227, visit: http://www.house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills121/biltxt/intro/HB1227I.htm And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Missouri, visit: http://ncse.com/news/missouri POLLING PASTORS ON EVOLUTION A poll of Protestant pastors in the United States found that they "overwhelmingly believe that God did not use evolution to create humans and think Adam and Eve were literal people," according to a press release (January 9, 2012) issued by LifeWay Research. LifeWay Research is a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination not conspicuously sympathetic toward evolution, as a 1982 resolution illustrates. Presented with "I believe God used evolution to create people," 12% of respondents strongly agreed, 12% somewhat agreed, 8% somewhat disagreed, and 64% strongly disagreed; 4% were unsure. Respondents in the northeast were more likely to strongly agree (25%) than respondents in the west (13%), midwest (12%), and south (8%); Mainline Protestants were more likely to strongly agree (25%) than Evangelicals (8%). Presented with "I believe Adam and Eve were literal people," 74% of respondents strongly agreed, 8% somewhat agreed, 6% somewhat disagreed, and 11% strongly disagreed; 1% were not sure. Evangelicals were more likely to strongly agree (82%) than Mainline Protestants (50%); respondents with graduate degrees were most likely to strongly disagree (16%) than respondents whose highest degree was a bachelor's degree (2%). Presented with "I believe the earth is approximately six thousand (6,000) years old," 30% of respondents strongly agreed, 16% somewhat agreed, 9% somewhat disagreed, and 34% strongly disagreed; 12% were unsure. Respondents age 18-44 were less likely to strongly disagree (24%) than respondents age 45-54, 55-64, and 65 and older (33%, 38%, 38%); those with a graduate degree were more likely to strongly disagree (42%) than those with only a bachelor's degree (18%). Presented with "Most of my congregation believes in evolution," 10% of respondents strongly agreed, 9% somewhat agreed, 13% somewhat disagreed, and 62% strongly disagreed; 5% were unsure. Asked how often they taught in their church "on the subject of creation and evolution," 3% of respondents said several times a month, 4% said about once a month, 28% said several times a year, 29% said about once a year, 26% said rarely, and 8% said never; 1% were not sure. The poll was conducted by telephone in May 2011 among 1000 Protestant pastors. According to LifeWay Research, "The calling list was randomly drawn from a list [unspecified] of all Protestant churches. ... Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted to reflect the geographic distribution of Protestant churches. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +/- 3.2%." For the press release, visit: http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Research-Poll-Pastors-oppose-evolution-split-on-earths-age For the Southern Baptist Convention's 1982 resolution on evolution, visit: http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/amResolution.asp?ID=967 And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys, visit: http://ncse.com/creationism/polls-surveys NESTA POLL ON CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION The National Earth Science Teachers Association released the executive summary of its 2011 on-line survey on climate change education, which examines the responses of 555 K-12 educators in the United States who teach about climate change. These teachers generally accept the scientific consensus on climate change, with 89% agreeing that global warming is happening and only 13% attributing it mainly to natural changes in the environment. Only 63% of the general public in the United States agree that global warming is happening and as many as 35% attribute it to natural changes, according to a 2011 report from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Over a third of respondents to the NESTA survey -- 36% -- reported that they "have been influenced in some way (directly or indirectly) to teach 'both sides' of climate change." Although only 5% reported that they were required to teach ?both sides? of climate change, 47% reported that they taught "both sides" because they thought that "there is validity to both sides." About 38% of respondents agreed that "students have misconceptions about climate change that are hard to address"; about 25-30% reported that students, parents, administrators, or community members have disputed with them that climate change is happening or is the result of human activity. A full report of the NESTA survey responses from active K-12 climate change educators is expected to be released in early 2012. NESTA's survey was informally conducted on-line, as was a similar survey conducted among the members of the National Science Teachers Association in 2011. (The NSTA survey found that 82% of respondents reported having faced skepticism about climate change and climate change education from students, 54% reported having faced such skepticism from parents, and 26% reported having faced such skepticism from administrators.) A rigorous survey of the prevalence and nature of climate change skepticism in the classroom apparently remains to be performed. For the executive summary for the NESTA survey (PDF), visit: http://www.nestanet.org/cms/sites/default/files/documents/ExecutiveSummaryClimateChangeEducationSurveyDecember2011.pdf For the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication's report (PDF), visit: http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/American-Teens-Knowledge-of-Climate-Change.pdf For NSTA's story about its survey, visit: http://nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=59035 NCSE AND THE GRAND CANYON 2012 Explore the Grand Canyon with NCSE! Seats are still available for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured in the documentary No Dinosaurs in Heaven. From July 16 to 24, 2012, NCSE will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Genie Scott and Steve Newton. 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 2011 trip, posted on NCSE's YouTube site. The cost of the excursion is $2625; a deposit of $500 will hold your spot. Seats are limited: call, write, or e-mail now. For information about the trip, visit: http://ncse.com/about/excursions/gcfaq For information about No Dinosaurs in Heaven, visit: http://www.nodinos.com/ For NCSE's YouTube site, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/NatCen4ScienceEd 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 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.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/join