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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/02/03

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(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.


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

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

For Indiana's Senate Bill 89 as introduced and as adopted, visit: 

For the Indianapolis Star's education blog's post, visit: 

For the Associated Press story (via WLS in Chicago), visit: 

For the story in the Times of Munster, visit: 

For the story in the Purdue Exponent, visit: 

For Indiana's House Bill 1140 as introduced, visit: 

For the story in the Fort Wayne Reader, visit: 


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

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: 


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: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.


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

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