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NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/04/06

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Calls from civil liberties groups for a veto of the "monkey bill" in
Tennessee. A new attack on science education in Oklahoma. A survey on
the perceived importance of science education. The Los Angeles Times's
view of Tennessee's antiscience legislation. The death of a second
antiscience bill in Oklahoma. Views from across Tennessee on the
state's antiscience legislation. And congratulations to Lawrence
Krauss.

AMERICANS UNITED CALLS FOR "MONKEY BILL" VETO

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is calling on
Governor Bill Haslam to veto House Bill 368, according to a post on
the organization's Wall of Separation blog (April 5, 2012). If
enacted, HB 368 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." The bill passed the
Tennessee legislature and is now on the governor's desk.

In the letter, posted on the Nashville Tennessean's politics blog
(April 5, 2012), Americans United's Amanda Rolat warned, "HB 368
invites discussion of religion, veiled by the term 'controversial
issues,' into the science classroom," arguing, "The strategy in this
bill is a common attempt to skirt the U.S. Constitution's prohibition
on the teaching of creationism in public schools. ... Thus, when there
is a challenge, either to the law itself or to its implementation, it
will likely be struck down after costly litigation."

Rolat added, "HB 368 does not even purport to improve science
education -- it practically acknowledges that its purpose is to
discredit scientific theories. HB 368, in fact, significantly changes
Tennessee's science curriculum -- it calls into question the veracity
of the entire discipline. Arguments that students should learn about
'scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific
theories' are unwarranted based on the overwhelming evidence that
supports such theories ... and will only harm students' education."

For the post on American United's blog, visit:
http://au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/trouble-in-tennessee-gov-haslam-please-stand-up-for-the-constitution-and 

For the letter as posted on the Tennessean's politics blog, visit:
http://blogs.tennessean.com/politics/2012/americans-united-for-separation-of-church-and-state-asks-haslam-to-veto-three-bills/ 

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

ACLU OF TENNESSEE CALLS FOR "MONKEY BILL" VETO

"Tennessee is dangerously close to enacting a law that would gut
science education in public schools," writes the executive director of
the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee in the Knoxville
News-Sentinel (April 5, 2012). Hedy Weinberg is warning, of course, of
House Bill 368, which passed the Tennessee legislature and is now on
Governor Bill Haslam's desk. If enacted, HB 368 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."

Arguing that "this legislation seeks to subvert scientific principle
to religious ideology by granting legal cover to teachers who wish to
dress up religious beliefs on the origin of life as pseudo-science,"
Weinberg observes, "Prestigious scientific and educational
organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement
of Science, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the
National Earth Science Teachers Association and the Tennessee Science
Teachers Association, agree that there is no scientific controversy
regarding the theory of evolution, only a political controversy that
does not belong in the science classroom."

Weinberg concludes, "This legislation is the latest line of attack
against evolution in a long-standing campaign waged by certain
religious interests to promote creationism and intelligent design in
Tennessee public schools. As the Supreme Court has stated, families
'entrust public schools with the education of their children, but
condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not
purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with
the private beliefs of the student and his or her family.' This
legislation represents a betrayal of that trust and, accordingly,
Haslam must veto it."

For Weinberg's column, visit:
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/apr/05/hedy-weinberg-gov-bill-haslam-should-veto-monkey/ 

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

A RENEWED ASSAULT ON SCIENCE IN OKLAHOMA

The attack on the teaching of evolution and of climate change in
Oklahoma continues, despite the failure of House Bill 1551 and Senate
Bill 1742. As introduced, House Bill 2341 would, if enacted, have
extended by two years a deadline by which local school districts are
required to meet certain standards for media, equipment, and
textbooks. The bill passed the House on a 81-8 vote on March 7, 2012,
and proceeded to the Senate Education Committee, where it passed on
March 26, 2012.

But on March 28, 2012, Steve Russell (R-District 45) proposed to amend
HB 2341 with the addition of a new section containing the language of
HB 1551, encouraging teachers to present the "scientific strengths and
scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics such as "biological
evolution" and "global warming." The proposal will be considered when
the bill comes to a floor vote in the Senate; it is currently on the
Senate calendar, but not on the Senate agenda, for April 3, 2012.

For information about HB 2341 from the Oklahoma legislature, visit:
http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=HB2341 

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

POLLING SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION

In a recent survey, voters overwhelmingly accepted that improving the
quality of science education is important to the competitiveness of
the United States in the global scene -- and a majority agreed that
there's a lot of room for improvement. According to a March 30, 2012,
press release from Achieve, the nonprofit education reform
organization that commissioned the survey:

***

* There is virtual unanimity among voters (97%) that improving the
quality of science education in our public schools is important to our
country's ability to compete globally.
* A majority of voters give the quality of science education a grade
of "C" or below -- both nationally (67%) and in their local schools
(50%).
* Most voters (56%) ... believe science education in the United States
ranks behind most other countries. This includes majorities across all
major sub-groups, including gender, education, region or political
affiliation.
* Similar to voters' views on English and mathematics standards, by a
margin of almost 2 to 1 (62% to 36%), voters prefer for states to have
the same science standards so that students across the country have to
meet the same expectations.
* When informed that a group of states are leading the effort to
develop new standards that are internationally-benchmarked, more
challenging, and will require students to apply their science
knowledge and understand how science concepts fit together, voters
show broad support (87%) for the new standards.

***

Stephen Pruitt, Achieve's vice president of content, research, and
development, was quoted as saying, "Science teachers have long
understood the value to students of a high-quality science education
and it's encouraging to see that voters also understand the value of a
robust science education -- for students as well as for our nation's
ability to compete."

Achieve is currently coordinating the development of a set of science
standards based on the National Research Council's A Framework for
K-12 Science Education. The survey was conducted for Achieve by Public
Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research between
February 22 and February 26, 2012, among 800 registered voters. The
poll has a margin of error of +/-3.46%.

For the press release from Achieve, visit:
http://www.achieve.org/new-poll-shows-strong-support-improving-science-education 

For the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science
Education, visit:
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165 

LOS ANGELES TIMES ON TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILL"

Tennessee "is seeking to join a number of states in which evolution is
being questioned," the Los Angeles Times (April 1, 2012) editorially
observed. "That's dumb." Referring to House Bill 368, which 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," the Times wrote, "The governor should heed the
plea of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and veto the
bill."

Despite the claims of its backers, the editorial explained, "In
deciding whether the bill advances a religious agenda, the governor
needs to look at context and history as well as the text,"
recommending the decision in the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, in
which Judge John E. Jones III "concluded that intelligent design and
teaching about 'gaps' and 'problems' in evolutionary theory are
'creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of
creationism." The editorial concluded, "The truth in this case,
discomfiting as it may be to some Tennesseans, is that evolution is
not 'just a theory.'"

For the editorial in the Los Angeles Times, visit:
http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/01/opinion/la-ed-evolution-discovery-tennessee-20120401 

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

OKLAHOMA ANTISCIENCE BILL DIES

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, is now in effect dead, according to Oklahomans for
Excellence in Science Education. Originally introduced in 2011, HB
1551 was rejected by the House Common Education Committee in that
year, but revived and passed by the committee in 2012, and then passed
by the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on March 15, 2012, and
sent to the Senate Education Committee, where it died. April 2, 2012,
was the last meeting of the Senate Education Committee in the present
legislative session, and April 5, 2012, is the deadline for
single-assigned house bills (such as HB 1551) to be reported from
their senate committees.

OESE credited the victory to the outcry, prompted by national and
state organizations, from concerned Oklahomans to their state
senators: "The result of these efforts resulted in HUNDREDS of
messages being sent to members of the Senate committee. The messages
were still arriving at committee members' offices on Monday morning as
the Committee was meeting. These messages, along with some direct
lobbying efforts with committee members by individuals and
organizations, were certainly responsible for the defeat. All who
helped are thanked for their important help. Thus, in influencing
legislation, NUMBERS DO COUNT." But OESE also warned, "The
creationists are not likely to stop," adding, "we must be prepared to
continue the opposition in future years."

For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education's discussion of HB
1551, visit:
http://www.oklascience.org/ 

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

CONTINUED OPPOSITION TO TENNESSEE'S "MONKEY BILL"

Tennessee's House Bill 368 was sent to Governor Bill Haslam on March
29, 2012 -- and columnists in newspapers across the state are
continuing to press the case against the bill. Nicknamed the "monkey
bill" by former Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh, HB 368 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." Haslam now has till April 10, 2012, to sign the
bill, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto it.

The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal (March 29, 2012) editorially
lamented, "At a time when Tennessee is becoming a national center for
technological and alternative fuel research and development, it is odd
-- to say the least -- that our state Legislature would push
scientific debate back more than 85 years," adding, "Science and
teacher associations across the state and nation oppose this
legislation, yet our Legislature is determined to impose its will on
the classrooms of Tennessee, showing a general disrespect for
scientific academia in favor of running its religious views up a
flagpole."

Writing in The Tennessean (March 29, 2012), Leslie Brunetta -- a
science writer and cancer survivor -- argued that antievolution bills
such as Tennessee's "are bad for my health and the health of each of
the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year," for while
evolutionary theory helps to guide cancer research, the "challengers
of evolution theory" provide no actual research program. She
concludes, "If you're looking for a cure for your cancer, don't look
to evolution-deniers for hope. As for me, I give thanks to Darwin and
the researchers who have stood on his shoulders."

And writing in the Knoxville News Sentinel (March 30, 2012), columnist
Pam Strickland commented, "Tennessee has already tried this teaching
creationism once before, The story is known worldwide as the Scopes
Monkey Trial and is told through the play and movie 'Inherit the
Wind.'" She added, "if Haslam or his staff is reading, they need to
know that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the
National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of
Bioscience Teachers and the National Earth Science Teachers
Association are all against HB 368."

For the three columns, visit:
http://www.dnj.com/article/20120330/OPINION/303300022/EDITORIAL-Legislature-wants-Scopes-trial-rerun 
http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120329/OPINION03/303290057/Anti-evolution-movement-imperils-medical-research 
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/mar/30/pam-strickland-tennessee-gov-bill-haslam-needs/ 

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

KRAUSS HONORED BY NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD

NCSE is delighted to congratulate Lawrence Krauss for receiving the
National Science Board's 2012 Public Service Award. "Lawrence
Krauss'[s] broad public outreach bridges science and popular culture
through various media and intellectual pursuits, and we are proud to
name him as the recipient of the 2012 NSB Public Service Award
presented to an individual," said the NSB chair's Ray Bowen in a March
28, 2012, press release.

Krauss is the Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space
Exploration and physics director of the Origins Project at Arizona
State University. He is the author of nine books, including The
Physics of Star Trek, Beyond Star Trek, Quintessence, Quantum Man,
and, most recently, A Universe for Nothing. He also received NCSE's
Friend of Darwin award in recognition of his efforts to uphold the
integrity of science education in Ohio and nationally.

The NSB Public Service Award honors individuals and groups that have
made substantial contributions to increasing public understanding of
science and engineering in the United States. NCSE's executive
director Eugenie C. Scott received the award in 2002; the citation
read, "For her promotion of public understanding of the importance of
science, the scientific method, and science education and the role of
evolution in science education."

For the NSB's press release, visit:
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123633&org=NSF&from=news 

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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