NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/02/03
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The Indiana Senate passes the creationist bill. Evolution matters when Fordham rates the states for their science standards. And a reminder about Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend.
INDIANA CREATIONISM BILL PASSES THE SENATE On January 31, 2012, the Indiana Senate voted 28-22 in favor of Senate Bill 89. As originally submitted, SB 89 provided, "The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation." On January 30, 2012, however, it was amended in the Senate to provide instead, "The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology." The Senate spent less than twenty minutes considering the bill, with its sponsor Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) defending it. Kruse acknowledged that the bill would be constitutionally problematic but, he told the education blogger at the Indianapolis Star (January 31, 2012), "This is a different Supreme Court," adding, "This Supreme Court could rule differently." The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana's legal director Ken Falk was previously quoted in a story from the Associated Press (January 26, 2012) as saying that the bill is clearly unconstitutional and invites lawsuits: moreover, he added, "when lawmakers propose legislation they clearly know will end up in the courts, it wastes time and resources." Speaking against the bill in the Senate were Tim Skinner (D-District 38), who expressed concern not only about the bill's constitutionality but also about the lack of guidance it provides for local school teachers and districts and the logistics of defending them against lawsuits, and Karen Tallian (D-District 4), who was impassioned in her opposition against the bill: the Times of Munster (January 31, 2012) quoted her as saying, "In my mind, this violates everything we stand for as Americans ... The very fact that we're talking about this makes me heartsick." Tallian also mentioned the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, arguing that the bill invites local districts in Indiana to follow disastrously in the steps of the Dover Area School Board. Skinner's and Tallian's arguments echoed the concerns of John Staver of Purdue University, who previously testified against the bill in committee. He told the Purdue Exponent (January 31, 2012), "If this does become law, they are going to face legal problems and, given the legal precedents, it is very likely to lose ... And then they're going to have bills to pay and schools are struggling enough with bills to pay without this happening." NCSE's Eric Meikle added, "I have trouble understanding why people think it's necessary ... If they want classes on philosophy or comparative religion, they can do that. There?s nothing that stops classes about religion, just don?t promote religion." The bill now proceeds to the Indiana House of Representatives, where its sponsors are Jeff Thompson (R-District 28) and Eric Turner (R-District 32), who is also the house speaker pro tem. Thompson, interestingly, is also a cosponsor, along with Cindy Noe (R-District 87), of House Bill 1140, which would require teachers to discuss "commonly held competing views" on topics "that cannot be verified by scientific empirical evidence." While evolution is not mentioned in the bill, Noe cohosted a controversial dinner at the Creation Evidence Expo in Indianapolis in 2009, according to the Fort Wayne Reader (August 23, 2010). In any case, HB 1140 seems to have died in committee. For Indiana's Senate Bill 89 as introduced and as adopted, visit: http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2012/SB/SB0089.1.html http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2012/SB/SB0089.2.html For the Indianapolis Star's education blog's post, visit: http://blogs.indystar.com/education/2012/01/31/sen-kruse-u-s-supreme-court-could-overturn-evolution-ruling-next-time/ For the Associated Press story (via WLS in Chicago), visit: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/indiana&id=8519725 For the story in the Times of Munster, visit: http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/ind-senate-votes-for-schools-to-teach-creationism/article_fab659bf-98ce-53b4-af5d-836dac998c89.html For the story in the Purdue Exponent, visit: http://www.purdueexponent.org/campus/article_b810956b-16ce-5f67-bf22-dc6027bab932.html For Indiana's House Bill 1140 as introduced, visit: http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2012/IN/IN1140.1.html For the story in the Fort Wayne Reader, visit: http://www.fortwaynereader.com/story.php?uid=1727 FORDHAM ON EVOLUTION IN STATE SCIENCE STANDARDS The State of State Science Standards 2012, published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is a new report offering a survey and evaluation of the state science standards in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia. Among the major problems across the country: "An Undermining of Evolution." "While many states are handling evolution better today than in the past, anti-evolution pressures continue to threaten state science standards," the Fordham reviewers observe, citing in particular the "infamous Science Education Act" enacted in Louisiana in 2008. "Though the act is a free-standing statute with no direct link to the Pelican State's academic standards, it does damage by allowing for the introduction of creationist teaching supplements -- thereby affecting classroom instruction without explicitly altering the state's standards." State science standards failed to treat evolution adequately in a number of ways, according to the report -- by including evolution only in courses that are electives or in guidelines not subject to state assessment, as in Missouri, Tennessee, and Maryland; by suggesting that evolution is "somehow not quite as 'scientific' as other concepts," as in Colorado, Missouri, Montana, and West Virginia; or by unnecessarily delaying evolution until high school, as in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Nebraska. Especially worrisome was the absence of human evolution from the vast majority of the state standards, the Fordham reviewers explained. "This marks a subtle but important victory for creationists: Even states with thorough and appropriate coverage of evolution (e.g., Massachusetts, Utah, and Washington) shy away from linking the controversial term with ourselves. Only four states -- Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Rhode Island -- openly embrace human evolution in their current science standards." Fordham's reviewers were Lawrence S. Lerner, Ursula Goodenough, John Lynch, Martha Schwartz, and Richard Schwartz. The State of State Science Standards 2012 also contains a review of the Science Framework for the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress by Paul R. Gross and a foreword by Chester E. Finn Jr. and Kathleen Porter-Magee. To read The State of State Science Standards 2012 (PDF), visit: http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2012/2012-State-of-State-Science-Standards/2012-State-of-State-Science-Standards-FINAL.pdf DARWIN DAY APPROACHES It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than two weeks remain before Darwin Day 2012! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education -- which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education currently ongoing in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!) And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 10-12, 2012, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 527 congregations in all fifty states (and ten foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events. For the Darwin Day registry, visit: http://darwinday.org/events/ http://darwinday.org/wp-login.php?action=register For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ 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 and climate education and threats to them. -- 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