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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/02/17

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Both antievolution bills in New Hampshire have been dismissed by the
House Education Committee. A new bill in Alabama would be a "vehicle"
for creationism, says its sponsor -- but a leading constitutional
scholar regards it as unconstitutional. Plus the creationist bill in
Indiana is apparently shelved, and a new poll investigates the
opinions of British Christians on teaching creationism in the science


"The House Education Committee dismissed two bills this morning that
would have dictated classroom lectures on evolution," the Concord
Monitor's State House blog reported (February 16, 2012). The bills in
question are House Bill 1148, introduced by Jerry Bergevin (R-District
17), which would have charged the state board of education to
"[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state
as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological
viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism," and House
Bill 1457, introduced by Gary Hopper (R-District 7) and John Burt
(R-District 7), which would have charged the state board of education
to "[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper
scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory
or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and
that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence
can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes." Although HB 1457
as drafted was silent about "intelligent design," Hopper's initial
request was to have a bill drafted that would require "instruction in
intelligent design in the public schools."

The House Education Committee heard testimony on HB 1457 on February
9, 2012. According to the Nashua Telegraph (February 10, 2012), the
committee heard about ninety minutes of testimony, "including
opposition from the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association and the
New Hampshire School Board Association, who said state science
standards already require students to learn that questioning
established theories is part of the scientific method." Hopper, the
sponsor of the bill, "made it clear that his concern involves teaching
alternatives to evolution," and a representative of the Discovery
Institute was quoted as saying, "There are non-creationist, skeptical
alternatives to Darwinist theory that teachers could bring into their
classroom," even while expressing a lack of support for the bill. John
Godfrey of the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association, testifying
against the bill, was quoted by the Concord Monitor (February 10,
2012) as saying, "There's lots of things in science we really know and
we can teach the kids, here's what scientists have figured out, and we
pretty much agree. Don't deprive them of that and say, 'Maybe yes, and
maybe no. Go figure it out for yourself.' "

The House Education Committee heard testimony on HB 1148 on February
14, 2012. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader (February 15,
2012), "No one testified in support of Bergevin's bill, however, it
did face several opponents, including representatives from the New
Hampshire Science Teachers Association and the N.H. School
Administrators Association -- as well as Jackson Hinkle, a 10-year-old
student from Nashua." The youngster told the committee that enacting
the bill "would be a blow to our educational system, which is already
in a bad state," adding, "If evolution was not presented in the
scientific sense, but rather the colloquial, people would be denied
modern scientific information." John Godfrey of the New Hampshire
Science Teachers Association emphasized that, contrary to the apparent
presumption of the bill, a theory is not just a guess or a hunch.
"Evolution," he explained, "is at the extremely well-established end
of the spectrum of scientific theories." The Union Leader reported,
"Members of the committee asked no questions and made almost no
comments during the hearing, except to praise the students for

Despite the House Education Committee's votes, New Hampshire's
antievolution bills are not officially dead yet, however. A subsequent
story in the Concord Monitor (February 17, 2012) reports, "The bills
are due for a vote at Wednesday's session of the full House."
Apparently, in New Hampshire, a committee's vote is in effect only a
recommendation. According to a primer on legislative process posted on
the state legislature's website, after a committee votes on a bill,
"The bill is then placed on the House/Senate Calendar for a 'floor
vote', where a Committee member presents the Committee's decision.
Floor debate may follow, with legislators who oppose the Committee's
decision speaking alternately with legislators who support the
Committee. It is rare for the full Senate or House to overturn a
Committee's decision. After debate, the full body votes on the
Committee's decision." New Hampshire's HB 1457 and HB 1148 are two of
the seven antievolution bills of 2012 so far, along with Alabama's HB
133, Indiana's SB 89 (now shelved), Missouri's HB 1227 and HB 1276,
and Oklahoma's SB 1742.

For the story on the Concord Monitor's State House blog, visit: 

For the stories in the Nashua Telegraph and the Concord Monitor, visit: 

For the story in the New Hampshire Union Leader, visit: 

For the later story in the Concord Monitor, visit: 

For the primer on New Hampshire legislative process, visit: 

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


A bill introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives would allow
local boards of education to award credit for religious instruction --
and its sponsor says that it is intended as a vehicle for teaching
creationism. House Bill 133, introduced on February 7, 2012, by Blaine
Galliher (R-District 30), and referred to the House Committee on
Education Policy, would, if enacted, "authorize local boards of
education to include released time religious instruction as an
elective course for high school students."

Such released time programs, writes Anne Marie Lofaso in Religion in
the Public Schools (2009, p. 64), are generally constitutionally
permissible "as long as (1) there is no evidence that the public
schools enforce attendance at the religious schools by punishing
absentees from the released time programs with truancy sanctions; (2)
the school authorities remain neutral about the program and do nothing
other than release the students for the religious instruction upon the
request of their parents; (3) the school authorities do not force or
coerce any student to attend the religious instruction; and (4) the
school authorities do not actually bring the religious instruction
into the public school."

HB 133 seems to go further, however, by providing, "A student who
participates in a released time religious instruction may earn
elective course credit for participation as determined by the local
board of education. ... The local board of education may adopt minimum
standards for the curriculum and participation necessary to qualify
for credit." The provision of elective course credit is in fact
identified as the purpose of the bill, which includes as a legislative
finding that "the absence of an ability to award such credits has
essentially eliminated the ability of a school district to accommodate
the desires of parents and students to participate in released time

Discussing the bill with WAFF in Huntsville, Alabama (February 5,
2012), Galliher was "pretty clear on where he stands," telling the
station, "They teach evolution in the textbooks, but they don't teach
a creation theory," and "Creation has just as much right to be taught
in the school system as evolution does and I think this is simply
providing the vehicle to do that." In the 2011 legislative session,
Galliher introduced the identical House Bill 568, which died in
committee. According to WAFF, "The state board of education did not
support the bill last year when it was introduced, citing the
challenge it would create for working around critical instructional

There are already signs that the passage of HB 133 would encourage the
teaching of creationism. The Gadsen Times (November 19, 2011) reported
that a local religious group in Galliher's district was eager to
participate in such a released time program, planning to offer four
classes per day, five days per week. "The primary thrust of the
school," explained a spokesperson, "is to inform young people there is
[a] theory of creation besides evolution, and it's strictly based on
Genesis 1 through 12."

For the relevant chapter of Religion in the Public Schools (PDF), visit: 

For the story from WAFF, visit: 

For the story from the Gadsen Times, visit: 

For the full text of HB 133, visit: 

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


A leading authority on the law of religious liberty regards Alabama's
House Bill 133 -- which would, if enacted, "authorize local boards of
education to include released time religious instruction as an
elective course for high school students" -- as unconstitutional.
Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia told WBHM (February 16,
2012) that although the bill attempts to ensure that the state would
not be unconstitutionally supporting the teaching of religion, it is
"oblivious to the question of whether academic credit is a form of
support." But, he added, "awarding academic credit would seem to be a
pretty significant incentive."

The sponsor of the bill, Blaine Galliher (R-District 30), is on record
as saying that the point of the bill is to balance the presentation of
evolution in the public schools. Laycock commented, "I think that
should not be constitutional. Despite all the political rhetoric,
there is essentially no scientific evidence for creationism. The only
scientific debate is about the details and mechanisms of evolution. So
a course in creationism is essentially promoting a religious belief,
and the state is supposed to stay neutral on questions of religious
belief and leave us free to decide those questions for ourselves."

Laycock argued, "the state should not be granting credit for
instruction in religion, either from a believing perspective or from a
non-believing perspective. The only state credit for religion courses
should be objective study of what each of the great religions does or
teaches." It would be problematic for schools to offer credit for
released time religious instruction, he explained: "We don't want the
government telling churches how to provide the religious instruction.
... There'd be an entanglement problem with the school trying to
regulate these courses, trying to tell the churches what kind of
religion course they can offer."

For the audio of the interview, visit: 

For a transcript of the interview, visit: 

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


"A bill passed last month by the Indiana Senate that would have
allowed schools to teach religious stories of creation along with the
theory of evolution when discussing the origins of life in science
class is dead," according to the Indianapolis Star's education blog
(February 14, 2012). The bill in question is 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 bill subsequently proceeded to the House of Representatives. But
the Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma (R-District 88), was disinclined
to let it continue further, as the Times of Munster (February 2, 2012)
reported, as was the chair of the House Education Committee, Robert
Behning (R-District 91), as the Associated Press (February 7, 2012)
reported. Now, according to the Star's education blog, Bosma "moved
the bill to the rules committee, a procedural step that all but
assures it will not make it to a vote this year." The bill 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. "I didn't disagree
with the concept of the bill," Bosma said. "But I hesitate to
micromanage local curricula. Secondarily, I didn't think it was
prudent to buy a lawsuit the state could ill afford at this point."

SB 89 was widely criticized by newspapers around the state, including
the Indianapolis Star (February 1, 2012), the Evanston Courier & Press
(February 3, 2012), and the Terre Haute Tribune Star (February 10,
2012), which argued, "There is little doubt the target of the bill is
evolution, whose staunchest political and religious opponents display
little interest in the teaching of good science, which should be a
disinterested, peer-reviewed, religion-neutral process." The Tribune
Star's editorial also observed that there is a deeper problem: "In
2011, the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers discovered
that less than 30 percent of a sample of public school instructors
made students aware of the evidence for evolution. The reasons for
this may be manifold, but when so few Americans become literate in
even the rudiments of science, it's unlikely they'll gain the skills
to distinguish it from pseudoscience."

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

For the reports from the Times of Munster and the Associated Press
(via WSBT), visit:,0,34182.story 

For the cited editorials, visit: 

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


A poll reveals that more Christians in Britain oppose teaching
creationism in the science classroom than support it. Asked "To what
extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The
Genesis story that God created the world and all the life forms in it
in 6 days should not be taught in UK state-funded school science
lessons," 17% of respondents strongly agreed, 21% tended to agree, 24%
neither agreed nor disagreed, 17% tended to disagree, and 14% strongly
disagreed, while 5% said that they didn't know and 2% preferred not to

Commissioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
UK, the poll was conducted by Ipsos MORI between April 1 and April 7,
2011, on a face-to-face basis with 2107 adult respondents in Great
Britain and Northern Ireland. The full version of the questionnaire,
including the question about teaching creationism in the science
classroom, was administered only to the 1136 (54%) of respondents who
said that they were recorded, or would have recorded themselves, as
Christians in the national census in 2011.

The poll asked a broad range of questions about the beliefs,
attitudes, and practices of Christians in Britain. In a press release,
Richard Dawkins summarized the results: "Britain is a secular society,
with secular, humane values. There is overwhelming support for these
values, even among those who think of themselves as Christian. Just as
importantly, there is also deep opposition to the state promoting
religion in our society. When even Christians overwhelmingly oppose
the intermingling of religion and state policy, it is clearly time for
the government to stop 'doing God'."

For Ipsos MORI's report (PDF), visit: 

For the press release from the Dawkins Foundation, 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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