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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/05/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The credit-for-creationism scheme in Alabama is dead, while a new
report discusses the public's acceptance of climate change and the
first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards is open for
public comment.

CREDIT-FOR-CREATIONISM SCHEME DIES IN ALABAMA

When the last day of the regular legislative session of the Alabama
legislature ended on May 16, 2012, a bill that would have established
a credit-for-creationism scheme died. House Bill 133, if enacted,
would have authorized "local boards of education to include released
time religious instruction as an elective course for high school
students." Its sponsor, Blaine Galliher (R-District 30), explained his
purpose in introducing the bill to WAFF in Huntsville, Alabama
(February 5, 2012): "They teach evolution in the textbooks, but they
don't teach a creation theory ... Creation has just as much right to
be taught in the school system as evolution does and I think this is
simply providing the vehicle to do that."

The Birmingham News (February 17, 2012) later reported that Galliher
introduced the bill at the behest of Joseph Kennedy, a former teacher
who "was fired in 1980 for reading the Bible and teaching creationism
at Spring Garden Elementary School when parents of the public school
sixth-grade students objected and he refused to stop." Kennedy
indicated that he and his supporters were poised to offer a course on
creationism in their local school district, using a Bible with notes
by the Institute for Creation Research's Henry Morris to "give
students good sound scientific reasons to support their faith in the
seven-day creation and the young Earth," if the bill passed.

While released time programs are generally constitutionally
permissible, a controversial feature of HB 133 was its allowing local
boards of education to award course credit for participating in
religious education. A case currently before the Fourth Circuit Court
of Appeals, Robert Moss et al. v. Spartanburg County School District
No. 7, concerns a local school district's implementation of the South
Carolina Released Time Credit Act, enacted in 2006, which similarly
awards course credit for participating in released time religious
education. Besides the question of the bill's constitutionality, the
state board of education opposed the bill when it was introduced as HB
568 in 2011, according to WAFF.

HB 133 was passed by the House Education Policy Committee on February
29, 2012, and was expected to receive a floor vote in the House
shortly thereafter. The Alabama Academy of Science issued a position
statement in March 2012, saying that HB 133 "would undermine the
science instruction that students receive on campus and which is
presently guided by the Alabama Course of Study in Science" and that
"the introduction of classroom subject content through the political
process not only violates the academic freedom of the subject
specialists to determine relevant and scientifically sound concepts,
but also represents an inappropriate and potentially dangerous
precedent for American public education."

For WAFF's story, visit:
http://www.waff.com/story/16681725/bill-would-allow-elective-religious-courses-for-high-school-students 

For the Birmingham News's story, visit:
http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/02/alabama_legislation_proposes_o.html 

For information about Moss v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7, visit:
http://ffrf.org/legal/challenges/watchdog-parents-file-suit-against-south-carolina-release-time-credits/ 

For the Alabama Academy of Science's statement on HB 133, visit:
http://alabamaacademyofscience.org/hb133.php 

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

CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE AMERICAN MIND: MARCH 2012

The latest survey on the American public's beliefs and attitudes
regarding global warming offers few surprises. "Overall," the
executive summary of Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans'
Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in March 2012 summarizes,
"Americans' beliefs and attitudes about global warming have remained
relatively stable over the past several months, with a few
exceptions." (The report provides longitudinal data back to November
2008 for most of the questions about beliefs and attitudes regarding
global warming.)

Presented with a definition of global warming as "the idea that the
world's average temperature has been increasing over the past 150
years, may be increasing more in the future, and that the world's
climate may change as a result" and asked whether they thought that
global warming is happening, 66% of respondents said yes -- a slight
increase -- while 14% said no and 20% indicated that they didn't know.
Asked about the cause of global warming, on the assumption that it is
happening, 46% of respondents said that global warming is caused
mostly by human activities -- a slight decrease -- while 37% said that
it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment, 9%
volunteered that it is caused by both human activities and natural
changes, 5% opted for "none of the above because global warming isn't
happening," 2% offered other views, and 1% volunteered that they did
not know.

Asked for their views about what scientists believe, 35% of
respondents agreed that most scientists think that global warming is
happening -- a slight decrease -- 3% agreed that most scientists think
global warming is not happening, 41% agreed that there is a lot of
disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is
happening, and 21% said that they don't know enough to say.
Respondents were also asked to estimate the proportions of Americans
who take various positions on global warming. The average responses
were that 38% believe that global warming is happening due mostly to
human activities (which is correct, according to the survey data), 25%
believe that global warming is happening due mostly to natural causes
(actually 19%), 21% don't believe that global warming is happening
(actually 14%), and 20% haven't yet made up their mind about whether
or not global warming is happening (correct).

The study was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change
Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate
Change Communication. The surveys were administered from March 12 to
March 30, 2012, using an on-line research panel of 1008 American
adults. According to the report, "These results come from nationally
representative surveys of American adults, aged 18 and older. The
samples were weighted to correspond with US Census Bureau parameters
for the United States." The margin of sampling error was plus or minus
3% at the 95% confidence level.

For Climate Change in the American Mind (PDF), visit:
http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/Climate-Beliefs-March-2012.pdf 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of climate change polls and surveys, visit:
http://ncse.com/polls-climate-change 

NGSS, TAKE ONE

The first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards is
available on-line -- and your feedback is invited. The Next Generation
Science Standards are intended to be "rich in content and practice,
arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide
all students an internationally benchmarked science education."
Comments on the first draft will be accepted on-line through June 1,
2012. "Feedback collected during the comment period will be organized
and shared with the leading states and writing team members. After the
feedback is considered, a feedback report will be issued that will
explain how feedback was handled and why."

As with the National Research Council's 2011 A Framework for K-12
Science Education, on which they are based, the first draft of the
Next Generation Science Standards are not reticent about evolution and
climate change. In life sciences, Natural Selection and Evolution is
one of five main topics at the high school level, and Natural
Selection and Adaptations is one of five main topics at the middle
school level. Similarly, in earth and space sciences, Climate Change
and Human Sustainability are two of six main topics at the high school
level, and Weather and Climate and Human Impacts are two of six main
topics at the middle school level.

For the first draft of the NGSS, visit:
http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards 

For NCSE's report on the NRC's Framework, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/2011/08/evolution-nrc-framework-006819 

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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