NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/03/30
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Opposition to Oklahoma's antiscience bill from the AAAS, the NABT, and the NAGT. Tennessee's "monkey bill" passes the legislature, despite Eugenie C. Scott's advice, Roger D. Cone, Robert G. Webster, and Jon Kaas's opposition, and the precedent of seventy-five Nobel laureates calling for the repeal of a similar bill in Louisiana. Plus a preview of Richard Milner's Charles R. Knight.
OPPOSITION TO OKLAHOMA'S ANTISCIENCE BILL As Oklahoma's House Bill 1551 is under consideration in a state senate committee, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers have all expressed their opposition to the bill, which would, if enacted, encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological evolution" and "global warming." In his March 21, 2012, letter, the AAAS's chief executive officer Alan I. Leshner expressed his concerns with the bill, writing, "There is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution," and adding, "asserting that there are significant scientific controversies about the overall nature of these concepts when there are none will only confuse students, not enlighten them." In his March 24, 2012, letter, Donald P. French -- who serves both as president of the NABT and as Professor of Zoology at Oklahoma State University -- observed, "the wording of this legislation clearly allows non-scientific explanations for topics such as evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning to be introduced into the science classroom," and explained, "A concept like biological evolution should not be misrepresented as controversial or needing of critical evaluation." And in her March 27, 2012, letter, Elizabeth Wright, the president of the NAGT, expressed her organization's concerns with the bill, writing 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 reiterating NAGT'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. House Bill 1551 passed the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on March 15, 2012. 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." For information on Oklahoma's House Bill 1551, visit: http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb1551 For the letters from the AAAS, the NABT, and the NAGT (all PDF), visit: http://www.aaas.org/programs/centers/pe/news_svc/media/2012/ok_hb_1551_senate_edu_march_2012.pdf http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1768 http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1769 For Mock's column 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 TENNESSEE "MONKEY BILL" PASSES LEGISLATURE House Bill 368 passed the Tennessee House of Representatives on a 72-23 vote on March 26, 2012, the Chattanooga Times Free Press (March 26, 2012) reports. The bill would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of topics that arouse "debate and disputation" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning"; it now proceeds to Governor Bill Haslam, who will have ten days to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it. Haslam previously indicated that he would discuss the bill with the state board of education, telling the Nashville 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." Opposing the bill have been 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 three distinguished Tennessee scientists and members of the National Academy of Sciences who recently warned, in a column published in the Tennessean (March 25, 2012), that the legislation was "misleading, unnecessary, likely to provoke unnecessary and divisive legal proceedings, and likely to have adverse economic consequences for the state." For information about House Bill 368 from the Tennessee legislature, visit: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB0368 For the story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, visit: http://timesfreepress.com/news/2012/mar/26/watson-evolution-bill-goes-gov-haslam/?breakingnews For the story in the Tennessean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120319/NEWS04/120319011/Gov-Haslam-faces-questions-about-evolution-bill-during-grant-announcement For the column in the Tennesseean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120326/OPINION03/303260004/Anti-science-legislation-offers-prospect-new-Scopes-trial NCSE'S SCOTT ON TENNESSEE'S MONKEY BILLS While visiting Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to speak at Middle Tennessee State University, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott discussed the state's "monkey bills" with the Daily News Journal (March 26, 2012). Speaking before the House accepted the Senate version of the bill on a 72-23 vote on March 26, 2012, Scott commented, "These bills are a bad idea pedagogically. They're a bad idea legally. ... The best thing would be for these bills to be withdrawn and forgotten about. But it looks like they're going to pass." Scott argued, "What these bills do is provide a backdoor way for creationism to be taught," explaining, "if [you] look at the history of these bills and you see how these bills have evolved, they really evolved in response to [legal] decisions that have curtailed the teaching of creation, creationism and intelligent design in the public schools. [They] are an effort to duck under the First Amendment and see if they can't legally encourage teachers to bring them into the classroom." "This is a very bad idea," Scott told the newspaper: "It's bad for the science education of Tennessee students. It's bad for the overall competitiveness of Tennessee. ... And it's also unconstitutional. Our public schools should be religiously neutral places. You should feel free to come and not be proselytized by somebody else's sectarian religious views." She added that it was particularly unfair to public school teachers to involve them in such a culture war issue: "They shouldn't be made to bear that burden." For the story in the Daily News Journal, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2012/03/ncses-scott-tennessees-monkey-bills-007278 PROSPECT OF A NEW SCOPES TRIAL Three of Tennessee's top scientists warn, "the Tennessee legislature is doing the unbelievable: attempting to roll the clock back to 1925 by attempting to insert religious beliefs in the teaching of science." In a column published in the Nashville Tennessean (March 25, 2012), Roger D. Cone, Robert G. Webster, and Jon Kaas -- all distinguished Tennessee scientists and members of the National Academy of Sciences -- argue that Tennessee's "monkey bills" "are misleading, unnecessary, likely to provoke unnecessary and divisive legal proceedings, and likely to have adverse economic consequences for the state." 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." The Tennessee House of Representatives is presently scheduled to consider the Senate version of the bill (now officially known as House Bill 368) on March 26, 2012; if the House passes the bill, it will be sent to Governor Bill Haslam, who will then have ten days to sign the bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it. Cone, Webster, and Kaas's column is only the latest expression of opposition to the legislation. Also on record as opposing 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." For the column in the Tennesseean, visit: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120326/OPINION03/303260004/Anti-science-legislation-offers-prospect-new-Scopes-trial For the Tennessee Science Teachers Association's statement (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1564 NOBELISTS AND THE "MONKEY BILLS" A Tennesseean Nobel laureate in science, Stanley Cohen, already denounced Tennessee's "monkey bills" as promising to "miseducate students, harm the state's national reputation, and weaken its efforts to compete in a science-driven global economy." But what would his fellow laureates say? Well, no fewer than seventy-five Nobel laureates in science have endorsed the effort to appeal Louisiana's antievolution law -- Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008. In a letter to the Louisiana legislature, seventy-four of the laureates urged the repeal of the law, saying that it "creates a pathway for creationism and other forms of non-scientific instruction to be taught in public school science classrooms," and reminding the legislature that "[b]ecause science plays such a large role in today's world and because our country's economic future is dependent upon the United States' retaining its competitiveness in science, it is vital that students have a sound education about major scientific concepts and their applications." But the Tennessee legislation is not significantly different from the Louisiana law. Both misdescribe evolution, the origins of life, and global warming as scientifically controversial -- even though the major national scientific organizations have said that they are not. Both disclaim any intention to promote religion -- even though their main lobbyists and their legislative supporters have repeatedly revealed their true motivations. And both purport to help teachers aid their students -- even though the main organizations of science teachers in both states have consistently opposed the bills. The Tennessee House of Representatives is presently scheduled to consider the Senate version of the bill (now officially known as House Bill 368) on March 26, 2012. If the House passes HB 368, it will be sent to the desk of Governor Bill Haslam, who previously indicated that he wanted to 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." Haslam will have ten days to decide whether to sign the bill, let it pass into law without his signature, or veto it. For the statement from Cohen and other scientists (PDF), visit: http://ncse.com/webfm_send/1759 For the letter from the seventy-four Nobel laureates, visit: http://www.repealcreationism.com/397/nobellaureateletter/ A PREVIEW OF CHARLES R. KNIGHT NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Richard Milner's Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time (Abrams Books, 2012). The preview consists of passages from Charles R. Knight's autobiography, in which he discusses his visit to the paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope's home ? "No pictures, no curtains, nothing but the petrified skeletons of extinct monsters ... disposed in every available open space" ? along with photographs of Cope and his rooms and Knight's own astonishing paintings of dinosaurs and other prehistoric fauna based on his conversations with Cope. The reviewer for Science writes that Milner's book "surveys the life and work of the first and best known American mural painter of prehistoric life. The beautifully illustrated volume documents why he is also the most admired. ... Milner's book shows why Knight retains a prominent place in the worlds of modern wildlife art and, even more so, paleoart." Richard Milner is also the author of Darwin's Universe: Evolution from A to Z (University of California Press, 2009), which Michael Shermer describes as "the single best volume ever published that covers all matters Darwinian from A to Z." For the preview from Richard Milner's Charles R. Knight, visit: http://ncse.com/book-excerpt For information about the book from its publisher, visit: http://www.abramsbooks.com/Books/Charles_R_Knight-9780810984790.html 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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