Skip navigation.
Home
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/03/23

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Tennessee's "monkey bill" passes the state senate. Plus a new resource
on energy education. Opposition to Tennessee's "monkey bill" from the
Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Biology Teachers,
the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and the National Earth
Science Teachers Association, the American Institute of Biological
Sciences, and ten Tennessee members of the National Academies. And
antievolution bills fail in New Hampshire but continue in Oklahoma.

"MONKEY BILL" PASSES TENNESSEE SENATE

"The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of
evolution and other scientific theories," the Knoxville News-Sentinel
(March 19, 2012) reported, adding, "Critics call it a 'monkey bill'
that promotes creationism in classrooms." The bill in question is
Senate Bill 893, which, if enacted, would encourage teachers to
present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of
"controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical
origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."

Among those expressing opposition to the bill are the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil
Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological
Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the
National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth
Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers
Association, whose president Becky Ashe described the legislation as
"unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional."

The Senate vote was 24-8. According to the Tennesseean (March 20,
2012), Andy Berke (D-District 10) "noted the state?s history as a
battleground over evolution -- the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in
1925 drew national attention and inspired the Oscar-winning film
Inherit the Wind -- and said the measure would cast Tennessee in a bad
light." Berke also objected that the bill would encourage
inappropriate discussions of religious matters, saying, "If my
children ask, ?How does that mesh with my faith?? I don?t want their
teacher answering that question."

The bill now proceeds to the House of Representatives, which passed
the counterpart House Bill 368 on April 7, 2011. SB 893 was amended in
committee before it passed the Senate, however, so the two houses of
the legislature will have to resolve the discrepancies between the
bills. Tennessee's governor Bill Haslam previously indicated that he
would discuss the bill with the state board of education, telling the
Tennesseean (March 19, 2012), "It is a fair question what the General
Assembly?s role is ... That?s why we have a state board of education."

For the story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, visit:
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/mar/19/anti-evolution-class-discussions-get-senates-ok/ 

For the statement from the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, visit:
http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1564 

For the stories in the Tennesseean, visit:
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120320/NEWS0201/303200034/TN-science-bill-protects-teachers-who-allow-debate-over-evolution 
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120319/NEWS04/120319011/Gov-Haslam-faces-questions-about-evolution-bill-during-grant-announcement 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Tennessee, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/tennessee 

INTRODUCING ENERGY LITERACY

A new resource, Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental
Concepts for Energy Education, offers educators with guidance to help
individuals and communities make informed energy decisions --
including those related to climate change.

***

Energy is an inherently interdisciplinary topic. Concepts fundamental
to understanding energy arise in nearly all, if not all, academic
disciplines. This guide is intended to be used across disciplines.
Both an integrated and systems-based approach to understanding energy
are strongly encouraged.

Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for
Energy Education identifies seven Essential Principles and a set of
Fundamental Concepts to support each principle. This guide does not
seek to identify all areas of energy understanding, but rather to
focus on those that are essential for all citizens. The Fundamental
Concepts have been drawn, in part, from existing education standards
and benchmarks.

The intended audience for this document is anyone involved in energy
education. Used in formal educational environments, this guide
provides direction without adding new concepts to the educator's
curriculum. This guide is not a curriculum. The Essential Principles
and Fundamental Concepts offer a framework upon which curricula can be
based without prescribing when, where, or how content is to be
delivered.

***

The U.S. Department of Energy led the nationwide effort to develop
Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for
Energy Education. Thirteen federal agencies and numerous education
partners across the country participated in the effort. NCSE is among
the education partners on the project.

For Energy Literacy, visit:
http://library.globalchange.gov/products/other/energy-literacy-essential-principles-fundamental-concepts-for-energy-education-high-resolution-booklet 

THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN ON THE "MONKEY BILLS"

The Nashville Tennessean (March 21, 2012) editorially denounced
Tennessee's "monkey bills" as "wedging open a door to include a
radically divisive, ultra-conservative Christian agenda disguised in
politically correct language." The bills -- House Bill 368 and Senate
Bill 893 -- would encourage teachers to present the "scientific
strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as
"biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming,
and human cloning"; both bills have passed their respective houses,
but it is still necessary for discrepancies between the two versions
of the bill to be reconciled before the legislation is sent to the
governor.

The editorial concluded, "these attempts to rewrite our curriculum by
some legislators are not about helping our children become
independent, rational thinkers capable of understanding and evaluating
alternative theories of life; witting or not, these legislators are
stooges for an agenda that would shackle our children to a life of
ignorance." The Tennesseean earlier editorially opposed House Bill
368, writing (March 29, 2011), "when a piece of legislation is so
distorted in fact, so misleading in its intent, and so fraught with
the potential to do more harm than good to the people and the
reputation of Tennessee, it must be shown for what it is."

For the editorial in the Nashville Tennessean, visit:
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120321/OPINION01/303210097/Evolution-debate-bill-religion-poorly-disguised 

NABT OPPOSES TENNESSEE'S MONKEY BILLS

The National Association of Biology Teachers expressed its opposition
to Tennessee's "monkey bills" -- House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 --
in a letter to Governor Bill Haslam. The bills, which if enacted would
encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific
weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution,
the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning," have
passed their respective houses; it is still necessary for
discrepancies between the two versions of the bill to be reconciled
before the legislation is sent to the governor.

In its letter, NABT's Jaclyn Reeves-Pepin explained, "We feel that the
wording of this legislation clearly allows non-scientific explanations
for topics such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life,
global warming and human cloning to be introduced into the science
classroom," adding, "Concepts like evolution and climate change should
not be misrepresented as controversial or needing of special
evaluation. Instead, they should be presented as scientific
explanations for events and processes that are supported by
experimentation, logical analysis, and evidence-based revision based
on detectable and measurable data."

The letter concludes, "We respectfully request that you reject HB 368
and SB 893 in support of science education that imparts to students an
understanding of science based on the key components of the scientific
method and content agreed upon by scientists and professional
educators. As an organization dedicated to biology education, we are
confident that students of your state are best served when curriculum
reflects these issues appropriately and maintains scientific integrity
in the science classroom."

The NABT joins the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American
Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the
Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers,
the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science
Teachers Association, and ten Tennessee members of the National
Academies (including Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine in 1986) in opposing the bills.

For NABT's letter (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2012/03/webfm_send/1767 

GEOLOGY EDUCATORS OPPOSE TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILLS"

Adding to the chorus of disapproval of Tennessee's "monkey bills" --
House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 -- are the two leading associations
of K-12 geology educators: the National Association of Geoscience
Teachers and the National Earth Science Teachers Association. The
bills, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the "scientific
strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as
"biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming,
and human cloning."

The NAGT's statement, signed by its president Elizabeth Wright,
emphasized that "the scientific theory of evolution should be taught
to students of all grade levels as a unifying concept without
distraction of non-scientific or anti-scientific influence" and
reiterated the organization's acceptance of the conclusions of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its commitment to
"intensive public education, increased awareness, and action" on the
issue of climate change.

The statement concludes, "We agree that critical thinking is an
essential skill for all students, one which is already embedded in the
teaching of science. But the content of science consists of
peer-reviewed, tested and confirmed results, not debates based on
political or religious convictions. We are convinced that rigorous
science education in Tennessee is badly served by SB 893 or HB 368,
and we urge Tennessee?s representatives, state senators and governor
to reject this legislation."

The NESTA's statement, signed by its executive director Roberta
Johnson, similarly affirmed "that evolution is central to biology and
to the earth sciences and that it is an essential component of science
classes" and "that Earth's climate is changing, that human activities
are responsible for much of the warming seen in recent years, and
[that] the science of climate change is a fundamental part of earth
science education."

Consequently, it continues, "While scientific research continues to
illuminate how evolution and climate change influence the world around
us, there is no scientific debate about whether they do so, and these
bills are wrong to suggest otherwise." The statement concludes by
warning, "HB 368 and SB 893 would damage the scientific preparation of
Tennessee?s students, harm Tennessee's national reputation, and weaken
its efforts to participate in the 21st century economy."

For the NAGT's statement and the NESTA's statement (both PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1765 
http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1766 

AIBS DENOUNCES TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILLS"

The American Institute of Biological Sciences denounced Tennessee's
"monkey bills" -- House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893 -- as "bad for
science, science education, and the future economic health of well
being of Tennessee" in letters sent to the leadership of the Tennessee
General Assembly and to Governor Bill Haslam.

"It is important to note that there is no scientific controversy about
the legitimacy of evolution or global climate change," the letters
explained, adding, "These scientific concepts have repeatedly been
tested and grown stronger with each evaluation. Any controversy around
these concepts is political, not scientific."

The letters concluded, "As the nation struggles to reignite our
economy and prepare our children for the jobs of the 21st century, we
should be working to strengthen our science education system -- not
insert non-scientific concepts into the classroom to placate political
special interests."

AIBS also issued an action alert encouraging people in Tennessee to
urge their state representatives and the governor to oppose HB 368 and
SB 893. AIBS is a professional society whose approximately 160 member
organizations represent the breadth of the biological sciences and
have a combined membership of nearly 250,000 scientists and science
educators.

For the AIBS letters (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1763 
http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1764 

For the AIBS action alert, visit:
http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=61102976 

TENNESSEE'S TOP SCIENTISTS OPPOSE "MONKEY BILLS"

Ten Tennessee members of the National Academies -- including a Nobel
laureate -- have signed a statement expressing their firm opposition
to House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893. Both bills, if enacted, would
encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific
weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution,
the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." HB
368 was passed in April 7, 2011, but SB 893 was stalled in committee
until March 14, 2012, when the Senate Education Committee passed a
slightly amended version.

The scientists object to the misdescription of evolution as
scientifically controversial, insisting, "As scientists whose research
involves and is based upon evolution, we affirm -- along with the
nation's leading scientific organizations, including the American
Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of
Sciences -- that evolution is a central, unifying, and accepted area
of science. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; there is no
scientific evidence for its supposed rivals ('creation science' and
'intelligent design') and there is no scientific evidence against it."

The scientists also object to the encouragement to teachers to present
the so-called scientific weaknesses of evolution, which, they contend,
"in practice are likely to include scientifically unwarranted
criticisms of evolution. As educators whose teaching involves and is
based on evolution, we affirm -- along with the nation's leading
science education organizations, including the National Association of
Biology Teachers and the National Science Teachers Association -- that
evolution is a central and crucial part of science education.
Neglecting evolution is pedagogically irresponsible."

Their statement concludes, "By undermining the teaching of evolution
in Tennessee's public schools, HB 368 and SB 893 would miseducate
students, harm the state's national reputation, and weaken its efforts
to compete in a science-driven global economy." The statement is
signed by Stanley Cohen, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or
Medicine in 1986, Roger D. Cone, John H. Exton, George M. Hornberger,
Jon H. Kaas, Daniel Masys, John A. Oates, Liane Russell, Charles J.
Sherr, and Robert Webster; all ten are members of the National
Academies, one of the world's most prestigious scientific
organizations.

For the statement (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1759 

EVOLUTION-AS-THEORY BILL DEFEATED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

"A bill that would have required public schools to teach evolution as
a theory, a move often used by proponents of creationism to discredit
the science of evolution, was handily shot down by the House of
Representatives Thursday, 280-7," the Nashua Telegraph (March 16,
2012) reports. The bill was 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."

Bergevin told the Concord Monitor (December 29, 2011), "I want the
full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas
to be presented. It's a worldview and it's godless. Atheism has been
tried in various societies, and they've been pretty criminal
domestically and internationally." He reportedly blamed the acceptance
of evolution for the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the 1999 Columbine
shooting, adding, "As a general court [the official term for the New
Hampshire legislature] we should be concerned with criminal ideas like
this and how we are teaching it."

NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott responded, "Evolutionary
scientists are Democrats and Republicans, Libertarians and Greens and
everything. Similarly, their religious views are all over the map,
too. ... If you replace atheism in the bill with Protestantism, or
Catholicism, or Judaism or any other view, it's clear to see it's not
going to pass legal muster." She also noted that the bill would
presumably require teachers to ascertain the political and religious
views of every scientist mentioned in their biology textbooks, a
requirement which she characterized as "pretty dopey."

The Telegraph added, "Another bill that also targeted the teaching of
evolution in public schools, mandating instructions about 'proper
scientific inquiry' (HB1457), was killed by voice vote last week."
That bill 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," the
initial request of its sponsor Gary Hopper (R-District 7) was to have
a bill drafted that would require "instruction in intelligent design
in the public schools." Hopper later told the Concord Monitor
(December 29, 2011) that although he would like to see "intelligent
design" taught in classrooms, he was not able to find a successful
legislative precedent. Instead, he explained, "I want the problems
with the current theories to be presented so that kids understand that
science doesn't really have all the answers. They are just guessing."

For the story in the Nashua Telegraph, visit:
http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/953675-196/evolution-as-theory-bill-not-fit-to-survive-in.html 

For the story in the Concord Monitor, visit:
http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/300905/bills-aim-to-roll-back-teaching-evolution 

For the text of New Hampshire's HB 1148 and 1457 as introduced, visit:
http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1148.html 
http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2012/HB1457.html 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in New Hampshire, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/new-hampshire 

OKLAHOMA ANTISCIENCE BILL PASSES THE HOUSE

Oklahoma's House Bill 1551 -- one of two bills attacking the teaching
of evolution and of climate change active in the Oklahoma legislature
during 2012 -- passed the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on
March 15, 2012. If enacted, HB 1551 would encourage teachers to
present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of
"controversial" topics such as "biological evolution, the chemical
origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The bill was
originally introduced in 2011 by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a
persistent sponsor of antievolution legislation in the Sooner State;
although it was rejected by the House Common Education Committee in
2011, it resurfaced in 2012 under the sponsorship of Gus Blackwell
(R-District 61), and a slightly amended version was passed by the
committee in February 2012.

In its current incarnation, HB 1551 differs only slightly from
Oklahoma's Senate Bill 320 from 2009, which a member of the Senate
Education Committee described to the Tulsa World (February 17, 2009)
as one of the worst bills that he had ever seen. Explaining his
opposition to such bills in the Oklahoman (March 16, 2012), Douglas W.
Mock, the George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the University of
Oklahoma's Department of Zoology, wrote, "Wrapped in the deceptive
language of promoting critical thinking, they aim to get the nose of a
malodorous camel (pseudoscience) inside the tent of science. This
camel has tried before, many times, and been rebuffed -- for good
reason." He added, "The low scientific literacy of our citizens is a
serious concern that's not helped by adding fake controversies."

For information about Oklahoma's House Bill 1551, visit:
http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb1551 

For the story in the Tulsa World, visit:
http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20090217_16_A11_OKLAHO853574 

For Douglas W. Mock's op-ed in the Oklahoman, visit:
http://newsok.com/two-bills-in-oklahoma-legislature-promote-nonscience-agenda/article/3657912 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/oklahoma 

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
branch@ncse.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