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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/02/10

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Speculations and recommendations about the creationist bill in
Indiana; the (partial) return of evolution to Science and Engineering
Indicators; and the advent of Darwin Day and Evolution Weekend.


Indiana's Senate Bill 89, passed by the Senate on January 31, 2012, is
off to the House of Representatives, and speculations and
recommendations about its fate are circulating. As amended by the
Senate, the bill would allow local school districts to offer
"instruction on various theories of origins of life" which "must
include theories from multiple religions" -- prompting the Times of
Munster (January 31, 2012) to predict, "Hoosier public school students
soon may be taught life was created by God, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu,
Shiva, the human mind and/or Xenu, dictator of the Galactic

The Times of Munster subsequently reported (February 2, 2012) that the
bill "probably will not be voted on by the Republican-controlled
House" on the grounds that House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-District 88)
"has not made a final determination on whether Senate Bill 89 will get
a hearing and vote, but said he believes the General Assembly should
not mandate what's taught in science classrooms." So far, the bill has
not been assigned to a House committee; it would have to be approved
by its committee and by the full House by March 5, 2012, in order to
be passed by the legislature.

Newspapers around the state have been critical of the Senate's passage
of the bill. The Indianapolis Star (February 1, 2012) described SB 89
as a "toxic mix of religion and science" and called on the state
attorney general and the state superintendent of public instruction to
speak out against it. The Evanston Courier & Press (February 3, 2012),
insisted that "it is clear that those lawmakers attempting to push
creationism into the public school biology class want it taught on
equal footing with evolution, which is based on scientific research
and evidence. Creationism brings no such scientific evidence to the
science class."

Why was the bill, which originally would have allowed school districts
to require instruction in creation science, amended? A blogger for the
Village Voice (February 1, 2012), after interviewing state senator Vi
Simpson (D-District 40), who introduced the amendment, explained that
it "was a brilliant attempt to sabotage the bill. By adding in other
religions (Islam, in Indiana!), her wording would probably make the
bill completely unattractive to local school boards, who are under no
obligation to follow its suggestion anyway." Simpson added, "My number
one intention is to kill the bill or at least kill the effectiveness
of it."

For the 1/3/2012 story in the Times of Munster, visit: 

For the 2/2/2012 story in the Times of Munster, visit: 

For the two editorials, visit: 

For the post on the Village Voice's blog, visit: 


Almost half -- 47% -- of Americans surveyed in 2010 agreed that "human
beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of
animals," and 38% agreed that "the universe began with a huge
explosion." Those results are reported in Science and Engineering
Indicators 2012, a biennial report from the National Science Board.
The figures are basically unchanged through the years for which data
is provided, from 1985 for evolution and from 1988 for the Big Bang.
The report also contains a brief discussion of the public
controversies over evolution education.

Science Engineering Indicators 2010 deleted a section similarly
describing the survey results about the American public's beliefs
about evolution and the Big Bang, a decision which drew criticism at
the time, including from veteran science literacy researcher Jon
Miller, who originally devised the question about evolution, and from
NCSE's Joshua Rosenau, who told Science (April 9, 2010), "Discussing
American science literacy without mentioning evolution is intellectual
malpractice ... It downplays the controversy."

The National Science Board later acknowledged to Science (July 22,
2011) that deleting the text was a mistake. But although the new
report discusses the survey data, those questions are excluded from
its measure of science literacy. Eleven factual questions, covering a
variety of topics in addition to evolution and the Big Bang, were used
to assess science literacy in previous versions of Science Engineering
Indicators; nine questions, excluding evolution and the Big Bang, are
used in the 2010 and 2012 versions.

In 2010, the then chair of the Science and Engineering Indicators
committee told Science that the questions were excluded as "flawed
indicators because the responses conflated knowledge and beliefs." The
2012 report, however, argues that they were excluded as unnecessary:
"the social science foundation for using either 11 items or 9 items
together in one scale is well-supported," adding, "Whether or not
these two questions are included in a scale of factual science
knowledge has little bearing on the summary portrait of Americans'
knowledge that the scale portrays."

For Science and Engineering Indicators 2012 (PDF), visit: 

For the longitudinal data (PDF), visit: 

For the articles from Science (subscription required): 


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: Darwin Day 2012 is
practically here! 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, 560
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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