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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

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."


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: 

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


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:,0,1170560.story 


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.

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: 


"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: 

For A Framework for K-12 Science Education, visit: 

For NCSE's illustrative list of recent controversies over climate
change education, visit: 


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: 

For Voices for Evolution, 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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