NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/03/16
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The "monkey bill" returns in Tennessee. F. Sherwood Rowland is dead. One of the two bills in Oklahoma attacking the teaching of evolution and of climate change is no longer a threat. The Wall Street Journal discusses the obstacles to climate change education. And NCSE unveils "Voices for climate change education."
"MONKEY BILL" RETURNS IN TENNESSEE Senate Bill 893 -- nicknamed, along with its counterpart House Bill 368, "the monkey bill" -- is back. In April 2011, its sponsor Bo Watson (R-District 11), assigned the bill to the general subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee, in effect shelving it for the remainder of the year. But on March 7, 2012, it was revived and placed on the committee's calendar; on March 14, 2012, the committee voted 7-1 (with one member abstaining) to pass an amended version of the bill, although the exact wording of the amended version is not yet listed on the legislature's website. The bill now proceeds to the Senate Select Committee on Calendar for scheduling for a floor vote. Judging from a draft version of the amended version of SB 893 obtained by NCSE, the amendments were minimal. Where the original version claimed that the teaching of scientific topics ("including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning") "can cause controversy," the amended version claims that it "may cause debate and disputation." The amended version also specifies that it is addressing scientific topics "required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education," while the original version addressed all scientific topics discussed in Tennessee's public schools. If the Senate were to approve SB 893 as amended in the Senate Education Committee, the two houses of the legislature would have to resolve the discrepancies between it and HB 368, which passed the Tennessee House of Representatives on a 70-23 vote on April 7, 2011, after a debate ranging over "the scientific method, 'intellectual bullies,' hair spray, and 'Inherit the Wind,'" as the Chattanooga Times Free Press (April 7, 2011) reported. One representative justified his support for the bill by saying, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel (April 8, 2011), "A little knowledge would turn your head to atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head to Christianity." Opposition to the monkey bills was unflaggingly expressed by the Knoxville News Sentinel (April 18, 2011), the Nashville Tennessean, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, whose executive director Hedy Weinberg argued in a column for the Tennessean (March 11, 2011), "this legislation is not aimed at developing students' critical thinking skills. Rather, it seeks to subvert scientific principle to religious ideology by granting legal cover to teachers who wish to dress up religious beliefs regarding the origin of life as pseudo-science." For Tennessee's SB 893 as introduced, visit: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0893 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit: http://ncse.com/news/tennessee F. SHERWOOD ROWLAND DIES The distinguished atmospheric and environmental chemist F. Sherwood Rowland died on March 10, 2012, at the age of 84, according to the obituary in the Los Angeles Times (March 12, 2012). Born in Delaware, Ohio, on June 28, 1927, he attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where -- after a brief stint serving in the United States Navy -- he received degrees in chemistry, physics, and mathematics in 1948. He then received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1952. He taught at Princeton University and the University of Kansas before moving in 1964 to the University of California, Irvine, where he was the first chair of the Department of Chemistry and where he spent the remainder of his career. Among his honors were election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978, presidency of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1993, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1983, the Japan Prize in 1989, and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared with Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen) in 1995. The Nobel Prize citation was for "their work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone," and Molina and Rowland's 1974 paper "Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes: Chlorine atom-catalysed destruction of ozone" (Nature 249; 810-812) is often credited with initiating scientific research on ozone depletion. The Telegraph (March 12, 2012) observed, "His work on ozone depletion made Mr Rowland a prominent voice for scientists concerned about global warming. 'Isn't it a responsibility of scientists, if you believe that you have found something that can affect the environment, isn't it your responsibility to do something about it, enough so that action actually takes place?' Mr Rowland said at a White House climate change round-table in 1997." Reviewing the state of the art on stratospheric ozone depletion in a paper published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (2006; 361: 769-790), he wrote, "The present understanding of stratospheric chemistry has made great forward strides in the past three decades. Furthermore, the extensive atmospheric monitoring programmes, which have now been instituted around the world will continue to provide experimental tests and verification of the validity of our current understanding. The citation accompanying the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry used the phrase 'our salvation from a global environmental problem that could have catastrophic consequences' in its description of the scientific endeavours to that date concerning stratospheric ozone depletion. The succeeding decade seems to have generally provided confirmatory data without big surprises on the ozone front, but the greenhouse effect, global warming and abrupt climate change are presenting much more forbidding scientific, economic and political challenges." For the obituaries in the Los Angeles Times and the Telegraph, visit: http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-sherwood-rowland-20120312,0,1170560.story http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/9137618/Prominent-Global-warming-scientist-F-Sherwood-Rowland-dies-aged-84.html ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO IN OKLAHOMA Oklahoma's Senate Bill 1742 -- one of two bills attacking the teaching of evolution and of climate change active in the Oklahoma legislature during 2012 -- is dead, having died in committee on March 1, 2012, when a deadline for bills in the senate to be reported from their committees passed. The other bill, House Bill 1551, remains active, having been passed by the House Common Education Committee on February 21, 2012; HB 1551 appears not to have been scheduled for a floor vote in the House yet. SB 1742 was modeled in part on the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008 as Louisiana Revised Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1; indeed, the bill itself declares, "This act is modeled on a Louisiana law which has not been invalidated by the highest court of the State of Louisiana or a federal district court." Its sole sponsor was Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who described a previous legislative effort of his as "requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution." For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL "After many years in which evolution was the most contentious issue in science education, climate change is now the battle du jour in school districts across the country," the Wall Street Journal (March 11, 2012) reports. And the battle is likely to heighten with the release, expected in April 2012, of a draft of a new set of model science standards based on the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science Education; global climate change is a component of one of the Framework's core ideas. "Most climate experts accept those notions as settled science. But they are still debated by some scientists, helping to fuel conflicts between parents and teachers," the Wall Street Journal observes, citing recent controversies in Portola Valley, California, and Clifton Park, New York, over the teaching of climate change. NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott told the newspaper that like evolution, climate change is "settled science," adding, "We shouldn't fight the culture wars in the high-school classroom." States will individually decide whether or not to adopt the new standards. But the Wall Street Journal predicts that "the approach to climate change could be a sticking point for some states," citing South Dakota's legislative resolution that climate change should be taught as a "theory rather than a proven fact." Martin Storksdieck at the National Research Council replied that students would be misled by such a pedagogical approach: "What would be conveyed to them is not how science works -- it's how politics works." For the story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), visit: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304537904577275401501628534.html For A Framework for K-12 Science Education, visit: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165 For NCSE's illustrative list of recent controversies over climate change education, visit: http://ncse.com/climate/denial/denial-affecting-education VOICES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION NCSE is pleased to announce the debut of a new resource in the climate change section of its website: "Voices for climate change education." Following the model of Voices for Evolution, NCSE's unique collection of organizational statements endorsing the teaching of evolution, "Voices for climate change education" assembles organizational statements endorsing the teaching of climate change. Included so far are extracts from the National Research Council, the US Global Change Research Program, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Geological Institute, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the American Chemical Society, and UNESCO. The full text of these statements will be added in the future. So will further organizational statements endorsing the teaching of climate change -- so if you spot any, be sure to let NCSE know! For "Voices for climate change education," visit: http://ncse.com/climate/taking-action/voices-climate-change-education For Voices for Evolution, visit: http://ncse.com/voices 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 email@example.com 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