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NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/03/30

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(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
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

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