The federal education law, No Child Left Behind, requires states establish standards for student assessment. As a consequence, states across the country are working to develop K-12 science standards and model curricula that will ensure students meet these standards. This process has seemingly reinvigorated a host of organizations that oppose the inclusion of evolution in public school curricula or advocate for the inclusion of "alternative theories" ranging from young-Earth creationism to intelligent design.
The AIBS Public Policy Office works with various national and state organizations to monitor and report on state and local threats to the teaching of evolution in public school science courses. The AIBS Public Policy Office reports on these threats through its bi-weekly public policy report. To enable scientists and science educators to better track current and historic challenges to evolution, past public policy report items on evolution education are organized below by state and date.
A bill that would have allowed religious courses that teach evolution to be eligible for credit died with the end of the legislative session. HB 133 was passed by the House Education Policy Committee in February 2012, but never came to the House floor for a vote. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Blaine Galliher (R-District 30). The bill would "authorize local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students."
The Alabama House Education Policy Committee passed a bill (HB 133) that would allow local boards of education to award credit for religious instruction. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Blaine Galliher (R-District 30). The bill would "authorize local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students."
Rep. Blaine Galliher (R-District 30) has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would allow local boards of education to award credit for religious instruction. Rep. Galliher has stated that the legislation is intended to allow the teaching of creationism. HB 133 is similar to legislation Galliher sponsored in the 2011 legislative session.
According to the National Center for Science Education:
A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Education claims that creationism is presented in the state education standards. Michael Sibley, the department's director of communications, told Fox News that the Alabama Course of Study, while not addressing creationism individually, "deals with Theories of Evolution," adding, "Creationism is one of those theories. The Alabama Course of Study presents each of these so that students can draw their own conclusion for themselves."
In fact, the Alabama Course of Study: Science for grades 9-12, adopted in 2005, refers to "the theory" -- not "theories" -- of evolution.
In February 2009, House Bill (HB) 300 was introduced in the Alabama House of
Representatives. HB 300, the Academic Freedom Act was introduced by David Grimes (R-District 73) who introduced a similar bill in 2008. HB 300 died in committee when the legislature adjourned in May 2009. If passed, HB 300 would have allowed teachers to critique scientific theories associated with topics such as "biological or chemical origins of life" and gave teachers protection for teaching alternatives to the theory of evolutionary origins.
In Alabama, House Bill (HB) 923, the “Academic Freedom Act,” died when the state legislature adjourned 7 May 2008. This legislation would have allowed non-scientific concepts, such as creationism and intelligent design, to be taught as though they represented accepted scientific principles and would have required teachers to accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena in class assignments.
House Bill (HB) 923, the "Academic Freedom Act" was introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives by David Grimes (R-District 73) on 24 April 2008, and referred to the Education Policy Committee. This legislation would allow non-scientific concepts, such as creationism and intelligent design, to be taught as though they represent accepted scientific principles and would require teachers to accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena in class assignments. HB 923 specifically singles out evolution by stating, "The rights and privileges contained in this act apply when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins." The proposal has not yet received a hearing in committee, and the last legislative day for the 2008 session is 19 May 2008.
On 18 April 2006, two identical anti-evolution bills in the House of Representatives and Senate died at the end of the 2006 legislative session. These bills, introduced on 10 January 2006, resembled earlier "Academic Freedom Act" bills that died in previous sessions.
On 10 November, the Alabama state school board unanimously voted to continue using a sticker disclaimer that describes evolution as a "controversial theory" in biology textbooks. The disclaimer has been included in Alabama textbooks for more than 10 years.
On May 17, 2004 the Alabama legislature adjourned for this legislative session without voting on a number of controversial measures, including SB 336 "the Academic Freedom Act." The original version of this legislation would have allowed teachers to present "alternative theories" of "biological or physical origins." The measure was unanimously approved by the Alabama Senate Education Committee and approved by the full state Senate. The House Education Committee passed a modified version of the legislation by a vote of 9 to 1. In the House version, "alternative theories" language was replaced by language protecting the presentation of only "scientific information" on the "full range of scientific views." The change in legislative language was likely in response to growing criticism that the legislation was religiously motivated. Evidence for this was provided by the Senate sponsor of the legislation, Wendell Mitchell, who was quoted on May 16 stating, "We are trying to take every step we can to ensure that the people who are operating under this legislation are not challenged on the idea it is a religious effort." Mitchell, a democrat, previously has stated, "This bill will level the playing field because it allows a teacher to bring forward the biblical creation story of humankind."
As a result of the seemingly continuous effort of the Alabama State Legislature to introduce non-scientific information into the science curricula, the Alabama Citizens for Science Education was established "to promote the best possible science in Alabama public schools."
Some anti-evolution activists are employing new tactics in their effort to secure legal authority to introduce "alternative theories" of evolution into public education curricula. Advocates in Alabama have moved beyond textbook disclaimers and are now pushing legislation, SB 336, the "Academic Freedom Act." The Alabama state Senate passed SB 336 by a vote of 28-0 on 8 April 2004. According to the National Center for Science Education, the legislation would give teachers at public institutions "the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific, historical, theoretical, or evidentiary information pertaining to alternative theories or points of view on the subject of origins" and students the right to hold a "particular position on origins, so long as he or she demonstrates acceptable understanding of course materials." Prior to passage, SB 336 was amended to also include a section reading, "The rights and privileges contained in this act do not apply to the presentation of theoretical information unless it is accompanied by scientific, historical, or evidentiary information."
Reports from Alabama Senate Education Committee hearings held in March and Alabama House Education Committee hearings on similar legislation, HB 391, clearly indicate that the intent of the legislation is to protect the teaching of creationism, according to Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education. Many Alabamans are concerned with this latest threat to science education. A new group, Alabama Citizens for Science Education, has formed to promote the best possible science education in Alabama public schools. ACSE is now working to educate members of the Alabama state House about the nature of science and educational concerns about SB 336 and HB 391 in hopes of preventing House passage of these or other anti-science bills.
Detailed legal and educational analyses of SB 336 and HB 391 are available on the ACSE website. Scientists and educators in Alabama are encouraged to contact ACSE to learn more and for information about contacting your member of the State House.
Senate Bill 1213 died on February 22, 2013, when the deadline for Senate bills to be heard in their Senate committees passed.
Legislation introduced in the Arizona state senate threatens the teaching of evolution in public schools. The bill is the first anti-science legislation introduced in the state in at least a decade, according to the National Center for Science Education.
The bill's sponsors claim that the bill will preserve "academic freedom" by encouraging school administrators to "create an environment in schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues." Evolution, climate change, and human cloning are singled out as subjects that "can cause controversy" in the science classroom.
The bill would allow teachers to help students analyze the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories."
The primary sponsors of Senate Bill 1213 are Senators Judy Burges (R-District 22) and Chester Crandell (R-District 6).
As reported in the 14 March 2005 AIBS Public Policy Report, Arkansas State Representative Martin (R-Prairie Grove, District 87) recently introduced HB 2607. The legislation would have allowed the teaching of "intelligent design" as "a parallel to evolutionary theory" in the public schools of Arkansas. Education advocates throughout the state mobilized to oppose the legislation, which was referred to the Committee on Rules of the Arkansas House of Representatives. After the committee reviewed the legislation, no member of the committee moved to send the measure to the full chamber.
During the past couple of months, state legislatures have begun their work for the coming legislative session. Not surprisingly, proposals that would require teachers to include intelligent design or to "teach the controversy" have surfaced. One recent effort is being spearheaded by a first term member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, Rep. Martin (R — District 87). Martin has introduced HB 2607 to allow the teaching of "intelligent design" as "a parallel to evolutionary theory" in the public schools of Arkansas. According to an analysis by the National Center for Science Education, if enacted the "bill would require the state Department of Education to include 'intelligent design' in its educational frameworks and encourage teachers in the state to include it in their lesson plans." Science, education, concerned parents, civil liberties advocates, and others throughout the state are taking the legislation seriously, but some are hopeful that the State Legislature learned its lesson when a 1981 Arkansas creationism measure was found unconstitutional. To learn more about developments in Arkansas, visit the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org. Scientists and science educators living in Arkansas interested in staying appraised of developments may also wish to subscribe to the AIBS/NCSE Arkansas State Evolution List Serve. For more information about this list serve or any of the other state lists, please visit www.aibs.org/mailing-lists/the_aibs-ncse_evolution_list_server.html.
On 12 October 2010, the Supreme Court declined to review ACSI et al. v. Stearns et
al. The case originated in 2005 when the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and others filed a lawsuit against the University of California. The central issue of the case was the university's disapproval of high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books. The university maintained that high school biology courses that use these textbooks did not meet their college preparatory requirements. In January 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a federal district court's summary judgment supporting the University of California system in ACSI et al. v. Stearns et al.
According to a recent report from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), "the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a federal district court's summary judgment in favor of the University of California system in ACSI et al. v. Stearns et al." The ruling was released on 12 January 2010.
"The case, originally filed in federal court in Los Angeles on August 25, 2005, centered on the University of California system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs -- the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school -- charged that the university system violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college," reported NCSE's Glenn Branch.
Branch further reported: "After the trial judge granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on August 8, 2008, the plaintiffs promptly appealed, asserting, inter alia, that the University of California's policy on high school biology courses 'constitutes viewpoint discrimination, content discrimination, and content-based regulation, which conflict with the First Amendment.' Of particular interest in the preparation from the appeal was the California Council of Science and Technology's amicus curiae brief. Coauthored by attorneys from Pepper Hamilton LLP who were part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case over 'intelligent design' creationism, the brief argued, 'Students educated with these textbooks will not be adequately prepared for science courses.'"
"The Ninth Circuit affirmed the trial court's ruling that the University of California's policy was constitutional on its face and as applied, writing, 'The plaintiffs have not alleged facts showing any risk that UC's policy will lead to the suppression of speech. ...the plaintiffs fail to allege facts showing that this policy is discriminatory in any way. ... The district court correctly determined that UC's rejections of the Calvary [Baptist School] courses [including a biology class that used Biology: God's Living Creation] were reasonable and did not constitute viewpoint discrimination. ...The plaintiffs assert a myriad of legal arguments attacking the district court's decision, all of which lack merit.' Documents from the case are available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v. Stearns."
For the Ninth Circuit's ruling (PDF), visit: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2010/01/12/08-56320.pdf.
For more information about NCSE, please go to: http://ncse.com/.
The University of California (UC) prevailed in a multi-year court case brought against the UC system by the Association for Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school. At issue in the case was a claim by the plaintiffs that UC had violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. In short, according to the NCSE, the plaintiff's objected to the UC system policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."
Earlier this year Federal Judge S. James Otero issued a ruling on a portion of the suit. In that decision, Otero ruled in favor of the UC system's motion for partial summary judgment. That decision established the constitutionality of the university's policies for evaluating applicant credentials. On 8 August, the court ruled on the balance of the case. In the August decision, Otero granted the UC system's motion for "summary judgment" on the university's claim that it properly applied its policies - ruled constitutional by Otero's prior decision.
According to a recent report from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the University of California (UC) has prevailed in a multi-year court case brought against the UC system by the Association for Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at the school. At issue in the case was a claim by the plaintiffs that UC had violated the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. In short, according to the NCSE, the plaintiff's objected to the UC system policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."
Earlier this year Federal Judge S. James Otero issued a ruling on a portion of the suit. In that decision, Otero ruled in favor of the UC system's motion for partial summary judgment. That decision established the constitutionality of the university's policies for evaluating applicant credentials. On 8 August, the court ruled on the balance of the case. In the August decision, Otero granted the UC system's motion for "summary judgment" on the university's claim that it properly applied its policies - ruled constitutional by Otero's prior decision.
For more extensive coverage of this latest victory for science education, please visit the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseonline.org.
The California Academy of Sciences, the oldest scientific institution in the American West, adopted a new official statement on evolution on 28 March 2007: "Evolution is a central concept in modern science, including biology, geology, and astronomy. The California Academy of Sciences, with its broad mission to explore, explain, and protect the natural world, recognizes that evolution is fundamental to understanding biological diversity and is a critical organizing principle for both scientific research and science museums."
Additionally, the statement comments on evolution's place in the science classroom, adding, "The California Academy of Sciences recognizes the importance of understanding evolution for both scientists and the public, and we emphasize that evolution belongs in school curricula and textbooks as one of the fundamental concepts of modern science."
On 7 September 2007, Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. issued a summary judgment against plaintiff, Larry Caldwell, in Caldwell v. Roseville Joint Union High School District et al. Caldwell, a lawyer and parent in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, had unsuccessfully lobbied the RJUHSD Board of Trustees in 2003 and 2004 to adopt his "Quality Science Education Policy" mandating that alternatives to evolution be taught in science classes. Following Board rejection of his proposals, Caldwell filed suit against RJUHSD and school officials in federal court, claiming his civil rights had been violated during the controversy. The Discovery Institute and a number of media sources on the religious right publicized Caldwell's case. In his decision, Judge Damrell ruled that Caldwell provided insufficient evidence to support his claims of religious discrimination.
For the decision in Caldwell v. RJUHSD (PDF), visit:
A U.S. District Court in California dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Understanding Evolution, a website sponsored by the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education, endorsed religious doctrines.
The suit was filed by Jeanne Caldwell, the wife of anti-evolution activist Larry Caldwell, who objected to site language that called attention to the fact that evolution does not conflict with most religions. The site said, "Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings." Caldwell claimed language such as this favored certain religious groups over others, thereby violating the Constitution's Establishment Clause.
Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton did not consider the merits of Caldwell's claim; rather she dismissed the case because Caldwell lacked standing, or a sufficiently strong personal interest in the outcome of the case.
After strong criticism from the science community and civil liberties advocates, a settlement has been reached in Hurst et al. v. Newman et al. The lawsuit was filed by a group of parents to force Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec, California, to cancel its course "Philosophy of Design." In the settlement, the defendants agreed to end the class and to ensure that no school in the El Tejon School District "shall offer, presently or in the future, the course entitled 'Philosophy of Design' or 'Philosophy of Intelligent Design' or any other course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design."
To read more about the case, please refer to the 18 January 2006 AIBS Public Policy Report available at: http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/2006_01_18.html.
Lawsuits involving science education and evolution continue in California, with the latest involving a school's offering of a four-week high school elective entitled "Philosophy of Design." A group of parents is suing the school district to force it to cancel the course at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec.
During the high-profile Dover trial in Pennsylvania, where a judge decided last month that the inclusion of intelligent design in a public school science curriculum is unconstitutional, some scientists stated that intelligent design might be applicable to a class on culture, religion, or philosophy. The problem with the Frazier Mountain course, according to the lawsuit, is that it advocates rather than examines intelligent design. Of the two-dozen videos on the syllabus, only one was not "produced or distributed by religious organizations" with "a pro-creationist, anti-evolution stance." As for the two evolution experts listed as class speakers, one was a local parent and scientist who had refused to speak to the class (and is now included in the lawsuit), and the other was Francis Crick-who passed away in 2004.
A course description, according to the New York Times, stated, "This class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid."
Lawyers from Americans United for Separation of Church and State are representing the parents. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, the leading intelligent design group, has sought to distance itself from the course by writing a letter to the school district stating, "The title and nature of this course are problematic and appear to misrepresent the content of the course and intelligent design. Sum We respectfully request that you either reformulate the course by removing the young earth creationist materials or retitle the course as a course not focused on intelligent design."
The latest creationism battle may be fought in federal court once again. This time, the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and students at the school have filed a complaint because of a UC policy that rejects high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books. The books have been described as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."
For much of the past year, the Roseville Joint Union School District board of trustees has been occupied by a proposal to mandate that alternatives to evolution be included in science courses. On June 1, 2004 the school district near Sacramento voted down a resolution that would have established "The Quality Science Education Policy." Ultimately, the proposal was only supported by the school board president, Dean Forman, and board member Kelly Lafferty. Three board members opposed the resolution. According to the Roseville Press-Tribune, in public debate in opposition to the proposal, board member Jan Pinney stated, "We need [teachers] with us, not against us. They have spoken with one voice."
The House Committee on Education has rejected a measure that would have undermined the teaching of evolution. In a 7-6 vote, the committee postponed further action on the bill indefinitely.
House Bill 13-1089 would have encouraged teachers in Colorado to help students assess the strengths and weaknesses of evolution and climate change. The bill would have applied for K-12 as well as higher education.
Colorado scientists recently formed the Colorado Evolution Response Team (CERT) to combat attacks on science and oppose efforts to weaken the teaching of evolution in the science classroom. They were motivated by the comments made by Janet Rowland, 2006 Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, in support of teaching creationism alongside evolution in Colorado science classrooms as well as the 2005 replacement of "evolution" with the term "adaptation" in statewide science aptitude tests. CERT's members include scientists from the Health Sciences Center, CU-Boulder, National Jewish Hospital, Colorado State University, the University of Denver, CU-Denver and the School of Mines.
In a 5 October 2006 interview with the Denver Post, CERT member and School of Mines physicist Matt Young said of proponents of creationism and intelligent design, "They're taking religious beliefs and pretending they can make them science. I hope that CERT will be able to support teachers and parents in situations where science is being distorted."
A bill sponsored by Senator Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5) that would have required a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in the state's public schools has died in committee. The bill's (SB 1854) prospects for advancing ended when the state legislature finished its session on 7 May 2011.
Senator Stephen R. Wise (R-District 5) has introduced a a bill in the Florida Senate to require a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" in the state's public schools. Senate Bill 1854 is similar to a bill introduced by Wise in 2009; that legislation was never reported out of committee and died when the legislature adjourned in May 2009.
On 12 July 2009, a creationist theme park in Pensacola, Florida (Dinosaur Adventure Land), was seized by the federal government after it failed to pay taxes and evaded the Internal Revenue Service.
Senate Bill 2396, filed on 27 February 2009, aimed to amend a section of the Florida state law to require a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." It was immediately denounced by the Florida Academy of Sciences. The bill died in committee with the conclusion of the legislative session in May 2009.
The "Evolution Academic Freedom Act" (HB 1483, SB 2692) died when the Florida legislative session ended 2 May 2008. Despite passing each chamber, a compromise was not reached before the end of the session. These legislative initiatives were introduced in response to the new state science standards approved by the Florida State Board of Education in February that include the term "evolution." In their original form, the bills sought to "protect the right of teachers to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution."
In Florida, the “Evolution Academic Freedom Act” (HB 1483, SB 2692) is moving swiftly through the state legislature despite criticism and protests from teachers, scientists, the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and staff for the Florida legislature. These legislative initiatives were introduced in response to the new state science standards approved by the Florida State Board of Education in February that include the term “evolution.” If passed, the legislation would “protect the right of teachers to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution.” Science education advocates argue that the legislation would allow teachers with narrow religious agendas to “teach the controversy” when it comes to evolution, presenting ideas like creationism and “intelligent design” as if they were science. Like other “academic freedom” bills, the proposed Florida legislation would also protect students who provide non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena in class assignments.
Staff with the Florida legislature have raised concerns that the measures address a non-existent problem; in fact, a report to one Senate committee stated, “According to the Department of Education, there has never been a case in Florida where a public school teacher or public school student has claimed that they have been discriminated against based on their science teaching or science course work.”
The measures have been reviewed, amended, and approved by 2 Senate Committees (Education Pre-K-12 Committee; Judiciary Committee) and the House’s School and Learning Council. They now await second readings in both houses.
In response to these developments, the Florida Citizens for Science and a coalition of science organizations held a press conference and roundtable discussion on 14 April 2008 to highlight the threats HB 1483 and SB 2692 pose to the science curriculum in Florida’s public schools (http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=535).
On 19 February 2008, by a 4-to-3 vote, the Florida State Board of Education approved new science standards that include -- for the first time -- the term "evolution." These new standards replace the 1996 Sunshine State Standards for Science, widely criticized by science education experts for their deficiencies. The version accepted by the Board today, however, did include a last minute addition of the words "scientific theory of" to precede evolution and other major scientific concepts (e.g., cells, atoms, plate tectonics, and electromagnetism) in each Big Idea or Benchmark described in the standards. (http://www.fcrstem.org/Uploads/1/docs/FLDOE/K-12_Proposal2ScienceStandards.pdf)
The newly adopted standards were written by a committee of parents, scientists, and educators, and clearly state: "Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence."
The draft standards were open to written public comment through 19 December 2007, and the Florida Department of Education received thousands of comments both praising and denouncing the standards. Education officials organized several public hearings, the last of which occurred 11 February 2008 in Orlando. Despite high marks from Dr. Lawrence Lerner, an expert on statewide science education standards at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and the scientific community, the proposed science standards evoked vocal opposition. Eleven county school boards adopted resolutions calling for evolution to be taught as theory, not fact. Additionally, the proposed standards were opposed by the Florida Baptist Convention, the Christian Coalition of Florida, the Community Issues Council, and the Florida Family Policy Council.
AIBS commented on the draft standards on 8 February 2008 with a letter to each member of the State Board of Education. The letter is available at: http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20080208_february_2008_a.html
Immediately prior to the 19 February vote, the State Board permitted one hour of public comment, where 10 representatives from each side were allowed to comment for three minutes each. Following this public comment period, the Board engaged in a sometimes heated debate prior to approving the standards. The Board-approved standards do include the phrase "scientific theory of." The added verbiage was a compromise proposed by Eric Smith, Commissioner of Education, who said it helped "clarify for our classroom teachers how to address these concepts."
A situation similar to the recent email controversy in Texas, yet with a much different final outcome, recently came to light in Florida. The St. Petersburg Times reported 8 December that Selena “Charlie” Carraway, program manager for the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Instructional Materials, recently sent a message from her personal e-mail account urging fellow Christians to oppose newly proposed Florida science standards that prominently include evolution.
In the e-mail, widely distributed across Florida, Carraway invoked her official position in order “to give this email credibility.” She further stated, “Districts will not have a choice in teaching evolution as a theory, but will be expected to teach it as stated in these standards, big ideas, and benchmarks… Whose agenda is this and will the Christians in Florida care enough to do something about it?”
Carraway was reprimanded for her actions by the Department of Education, but remains on the job.
Florida’s draft standards have been applauded by science education advocates and are considered a significant improvement over the deficient 1999 standards. Public comments on the new draft standards are welcome until 19 December 2007 (http://tools.fcit.usf.edu/ScienceReview/). The Florida Board of Education is expected to vote on adopting the new standards sometime in January 2008.
In dramatic contrast to its deficient 1999 science standards, the Florida Department of Education released a draft revision of science standards on 19 October 2007 that prominently feature evolution. Joe Wolf, president of Florida Citizens for Science commented to the Orlando Sentinel on 20 October that should these revised standards be adopted, "the kids will have a better understanding of science, which is what it's all about."
Public comments on the standards are welcome until 19 December 2007 (http://tools.fcit.usf.edu/ScienceReview/).
The Florida Board of Education is expected to vote on adopting the new standards sometime in January 2008.
In response to the Florida Department of Education's review of science teaching standards for K-12 classrooms---a process that began in May 2007 month and is projected to conclude in the spring of 2008---the Tallahassee Scientific Society Board of Directors passed a statement of resolution against the teaching of intelligent design (ID) as science on 4 June 2007: http://www.tss.eng.fsu.edu/news.htm
In 2004 the state of Minnesota struggled through an aggressive and combative debate over the state's science standards. According to many, a central figure that led to the controversy was MN Education Commissioner Cherie Pierson Yecke. Yecke endorsed the idea that local teachers should be free to teach creationism and seemingly re-wrote draft science standards. Following the controversy, Yecke's standards were rejected and the state Senate refused to confirm her for the post of Education Commissioner. For more on the Minnesota situation, please visit www.aibs.org/public-policy/evolution_state_news.html#824.
According to the Tampa Tribune, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) has announced that Yecke will fill the number two post in the Florida Department of Education where she will work on middle school reform. According to one report, Yecke has noted that she does not intend to advocate for intelligent design/creationism when Florida's science standards are reconsidered next year.
Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley (R) has been pushing an "academic freedom" bill that aims to protect students with conservative views from what Baxley perceives as a strong liberal bias on college campuses. The bill seeks to, among other things, allow students to have access to a "broad range of serious scholarly opinion pertaining to the subjects they study." If enacted, the legislation would pave the way for student lawsuits against professors. While promoting the bill, Baxley used the teaching of evolution as an example of a case in which he believed such a lawsuit might be justified. Although the bill has passed the House Choice and Innovation Committee, part of the Education Council (which Baxley chairs), its chance of landing on state law books appears slim. Senate President Tom Lee told the St. Petersburg Times that he was not sure the legislation was needed, and Governor Jeb Bush expressed the same view, saying, "I don't know if the bill itself is the correct solution."
On 19 December 2006, a settlement was announced in Selman v. Cobb County, Georgia, that was lauded by both science education and civil liberties groups and eliminated the need for a retrial. In the agreement, the Cobb County Board of Education and School District agreed not to restore the warning sticker (in any form) that described evolution as "a theory, not a fact" to science textbooks. Additionally, the Board and District were enjoined to not take any number of actions that "would prevent or hinder the teaching of evolution" and must reimburse $166,659 of the plaintiffs' legal fees. This settlement follows the 25 May 2006 Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that sent the case back to the District Court over concerns about evidence. The Cobb County Board of Education had appealed a 13 January 2005 federal court ruling where the textbook warning stickers were considered a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and were immediately ordered to be removed. The initial trial of Selman v. Cobb County took place in late 2004 after eleven parents filed suit against the Cobb County Board who, under pressure from local creationists, originally adopted the stickers in 2002.
This settlement has been hailed by the science education community as a real victory for Cobb County students who now "will be free to learn about evolution — the central principle of the biological sciences — without the distortions of a narrow religious agenda," according to Eugenie Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education.
In an appeal to the Selman vs. Cobb County School District case, which originated in 2002 after a Georgia school district placed on science textbooks disclaimer stickers that called evolution a "theory, not a fact," the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the District Court for further proceedings. The three-judge panel decided there was not enough evidence to decide the case. This means the lower court can now start a new trial or flesh out the evidence in a series of questions posed by the appeals court.
In January 2005, the federal district court ruled in favor of the parents who sued to have the stickers removed. AIBS was among 56 scientific organizations to submit an amicus curiae brief—or a "friend of the court" document—to the Appeals Court in defense of US District Judge Clarence Cooper's decision to disallow the evolution disclaimers on the grounds that they violated the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. Cooper wrote that any "reasonable observer" would understand the school board to be endorsing creationism in the schools.
According to an Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial, "Fortunately, there doesn't seem to be much interest within the current [school] board in reviving the stickers in Cobb while the case goes back before a trial court. Nor has any of the 10 or so candidates for the two school board seats up for election this year indicated that would be a good idea."
The federal appeals court in Atlanta is set to hear arguments this week on the legality of "evolution disclaimers" included in Cobb County, Georgia biology textbooks. The case stems from a 2001 decision by the Cobb County school district to include in biology textbooks sticker disclaimers that read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." Five parents sued the school district in 2004 seeking removal of the stickers. In January 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the stickers were unconstitutional because they unacceptably endorsed religion. The school district appealed the decision claiming, "The mere fact that a part of the language of the sticker may coincide with the religious views of some citizens does not render it unconstitutional."
The American Institute of Biological Sciences joined 55 other scientific societies in submitting an Amici curiae, or friend of the court, brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. The amicus brief supports Federal Judge Clarence Cooper's decision in the case of Selman et al versus Cobb County School District. Selman et al filed suit against the school district following a requirement by the school board that evolution "warning labels" would be required in every biology textbook used by the district. Judge Cooper heard the case and ruled that the school district's "warning labels" constituted a violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. The district has appealed Judge Cooper's decision.
Scientific societies are not the only organizations that have filed amicus briefs. Separate briefs were also filed by the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers, and National Center for Science Education and People for the American Way.
On 4 May 2005, a federal appeals court denied a request by the school board of Cobb County, GA, to delay the removal of evolution disclaimers from its science textbooks. School board officials ordered use of the disclaimers--which call evolution "a theory, not a fact"--in 2002. A group of concerned parents responded with a lawsuit and US District Judge Clarence Cooper subsequently ruled the disclaimers unconstitutional. Cobb County officials are appealing the decision, but for now, they will have to stick to the Court-ordered plan to remove the disclaimers this summer. (See the 18 January 2005 Public Policy Report for more details, www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2005_01_18.html).
In January, members of state legislatures returned to their capitols and began introducing legislation that reflects their policy priorities. Not surprisingly given the increased public profile of evolution education, legislators in many states have introduced measures that would require disclaimers be placed in textbooks, require that intelligent design/creationism be taught along side evolution, or requiring that science teachers 'teach the controversy.' Back in Georgia, where a federal judge recently ruled that Cobb County's textbook disclaimers are unconstitutional, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives introduced House Bill 179. This legislation would require that "Whenever any theory of the origin of human beings or other living things is included in a course of study," evidence against evolution would also be included. When the Speaker of the Republican-controlled state House was asked about the measure, he simply noted that any member of the caucus can introduce any legislation they like. Georgia Citizens for Science Education and other organizations that support a strong K-12 science curriculum are not taking the measure lightly.
On 13 January 2005, United States District Judge Clarence Cooper issued a 44 page ruling in the case of Selman et al versus Cobb County School Board. Briefly, the case was brought by parents that objected to the Cobb County School Board's decision to place anti-evolution stickers in textbooks. In essence, the parents argued that the stickers are a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause, which prevents the government from intruding on religion. Judge Cooper's ruling found that the school board's actions are unconstitutional and ordered that: "1. Defendants shall immediately remove the Sticker from all science textbooks into which the Sticker has been placed 2. Defendants are permanently enjoined from disseminating the Sticker in any form." Finally, the Defendants were also ordered to pay plaintiff's court costs.
According to an 18 January 2005 report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, it seems that the Cobb County School Board has not yet enjoyed enough time in the national spotlight. Following Judge Cooper's ruling, the board met with its lawyer and promptly voted 4-2 to pursue an appeal of the federal court's ruling. Reportedly, the board members feel the court overstepped its bounds by ruling on a local school control issue. The board's attorney, who has pledged to pursue the appeal at no additional cost to the district, plans to file a motion on 18 January 2005, seeking a stay of the order to remove the stickers.
Caution: Before the recent statewide fight about whether "evolution" should be included in state science standards, there was Cobb County. Many may recall that Cobb County has approved a policy that requires a sticker with a disclaimer be placed in the front of textbooks that include information about evolution. The sticker reads, "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." In August 2002 six parents in Cobb County filed suit against the school system to get the stickers removed. The parents contend that the disclaimer restricts the teaching of evolution, promotes and requires the teaching of creationism and discriminates against particular religions. In response to a motion by the school district to have the case dismissed, a U.S. District Judge recently ruled the suit has merit and can proceed to trial. The judge noted that the disclaimer could have the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion. According to a CNN.com report, the judge "weighed the constitutionality of the issue by applying a three-pronged test handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971. In order to get the lawsuit dismissed, the school board had to show that the disclaimer was adopted with a secular purpose; that its primary effect neither advances nor inhibits religion; and that it does not result in an excessive entanglement of government with religion." The school board reportedly only met the first test. The judge further noted that while the disclaimer does not include any specific biblical references, it was clear that most of the school board wanted students to consider non-scientific alternatives.
As reported in the 3 February 2004 edition of the AIBS Public Policy Report the Georgia state superintendent of education recently proposed eliminating evolution and other important science concepts from Georgia science standards. In response, a broad coalition lead by the Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education (GCISE) launched an aggressive public education campaign to inform the public and decision makers about the nature of science and the importance of student understanding of these concepts to the future economic competitiveness of the state. In response to sharp and mounting public criticism, the proposal has been withdrawn. Moreover, the State Board of Education, which ultimately must adopt Georgias standards, has issued a consensus statement calling for the use of national standards in all areas of the curriculum, including science education.
Georgia is again center stage in the political debate on K-12 science education standards. The state is in the midst of reviewing and adopting statewide science standards that will shape the content of middle and high school science courses and the content of statewide student assessments. The problem is that the Georgia Superintendent of Education, Kathy Cox (R), has stated that the standards should not include the term "evolution," but should instead refer to "changes over time." If this were not bad enough, Cox is on record as supporting the active presentation of 'alternative theories of evolution,' specifically creationism and intelligent design. Further, media reports indicate that references to the age of Earth and "long" Earth history have been removed from the standards to placate young-Earth creationists. Since the release of the draft standards and following a press conference in which Superintendent Cox referred to "evolution" as nothing more than a "buzzword," scientists, teachers and parents throughout Georgia have come together to actively oppose the standards. While the Governor has reportedly declined to make a detailed statement on the proposed standards, he has stated through a spokesperson that on such a controversial issue as evolution public debate is appropriate. Importantly, there is high-profile opposition to the Superintendent's proposed standards. Following the release of the standards, some Democrats in the State Senate took to the floor to criticize the proposed standards. Opposition has also come from Georgia's most recognized son, former President Jimmy Carter. "As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students," Carter stated. Carter further asserted, "There can be no incompatibility between Christian faith and proven facts concerning geology, biology, and astronomy."
For additional information about the Georgia science standards
"As a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University, I am embarrassed by Superintendent Kathy Cox's attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia's students. Her recommendation that the word "evolution" be prohibited in textbooks will adversely affect the teaching of science and leave our high school graduates with a serious handicap as they enter college or private life where freedom of speech will be permitted."
"Nationwide ridicule of Georgia's public school system will be inevitable if this proposal is adopted, and additional and undeserved discredit will be brought on our excellent universities as our state's reputation is damaged."
"All high school science teachers, being college graduates, have studied evolution as a universal element of university curricula, and would be under pressure to suppress their own educated beliefs in the classroom."
"The existing and long-standing use of the word "evolution" in our state's textbooks has not adversely affected Georgians' belief in the omnipotence of God as creator of the universe. There can be no incompatibility between Christian faith and proven facts concerning geology, biology, and astronomy."
"There is no need to teach that stars can fall out of the sky and land on a flat earth in order to defend our religious faith."
"Fortunately, it is the responsibility of the State Board of Education to make the final decision on the superintendent's ill-advised proposal."
A lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Cobb County Board of Education, challenging the county's infamous textbook disclaimer labels wasn't enough to make the Board of Education think twice about taking up a request to allow its teachers to teach "alternatives to evolution" in the county's science classrooms. In March, several dozen parents asked the board to bring alternatives such as "intelligent design" into the classroom. The board has issued a press release stating, "the Board wants to ensure that the science curriculum of the District exposes students to a variety of testable theories and scenarios regarding the origin of species in compliance with the Constitutions of the United States and Georgia." A vote is expected at the Board's September 26 meeting. Meanwhile, the Board has been sued over the disclaimer labels that it pastes into its biology, astronomy, environmental science, botany, and zoology textbooks, reading "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." Biologists at the largest universities in Georgia petitioned the school board this summer, unsuccessfully, to stop the disclaimers.
House Resolution 145 would recognize February 12 of each year as Darwin Day "to celebrate all of Charles Darwin's achievements in the field of science." Unlike efforts in other states, the resolution would establish Darwin Day on an ongoing basis, and not just for one year. The bill is sponsored by Representative Kaniela Ing (D-District 11).
In a recent letter to faculty, staff, and students, University of Idaho president, Timothy P. White, Ph.D., clearly stated the University's position on evolution. Dated October 4, the statement explains, "As an academic scientific community and a research extensive land-grant institution, we affirm scientific principles that are testable and anchored in evidence...[Evolution] is the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences." White continued, "At the University of Idaho, teaching of views that differ from evolution may occur in faculty-approved curricula in religion, sociology, philosophy, political science or similar courses. However, teaching of such views is inappropriate in our life, earth, and physical science courses or curricula."
The debate over intelligent design has intensified recently at the University of Idaho after it was announced that Scott Minnich, professor in the Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry will testify in Kitzmiller v. Dover case. Minnich, a fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture - the leading national proponent of intelligent design, will testified in defense of the school board's intelligent design curriculum.
To read the statement in its entirety, please visit http://www.president.uidaho.edu/default.aspx?pid=85947.
House Bill 1283 died on 25 February 2013, when the deadline passed for the third reading of the bill. The legislation was similar a bill that passed the Indiana Senate in 2012.
A new iteration of an anti-science bill has been introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives. House Bill 1283 is similar to legislation that passed the Indiana Senate in 2012.
Although evolution is not specifically mentioned in the bill, the legislation contains language that is similar to previous anti-evolution bills. HB 1283 is sponsored by Jeff Thompson (R-28), who sponsored the House version of the creationist bill passed by the upper chamber last year.
The bill would encourage school administrators to create an environment that "encourages students to explore questions, learn about evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to different conclusions and theories concerning" such topics.
HB 1283 would also encourage teachers to help students to assess the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific concepts.
The bill states that it "may not be construed to promote: (1) any religious or nonreligious doctrine; (2) discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs; or (3) discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."
The Indiana Senate voted 28-22 in favor of a bill that opens the door to the teaching of creationism in Indiana schools. SB 89 is sponsored by Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), who chairs the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development.
The bill was amended before passage to require that lesson on theories on the origin of life include viewpoints from "multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology."
Regarding the potential unconstitutionality of the legislation, Kruse acknowledged that the bill would be problematic but, he told the education blogger at the Indianapolis Star: "This is a different Supreme Court. This Supreme Court could rule differently."
The bill now awaits consideration by the Indiana House of Representatives. Two representatives, Jeff Thompson (R-District 28) and Eric Turner (R-District 32), are co-sponsoring a companion bill in the House.
A bill sponsored by the chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development has been passed by the committee. The legislation, if enacted, would allow schools to require the teaching of "various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science." The bill received bi-partisan support and passed in a 8-2 vote. Senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), who sponsors S.B. 89, introduced similar legislation in the 2000 and 2001 sessions of the legislature.
The Chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development is sponsoring a bill that would allow schools to require the teaching of "various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science." Senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) introduced similar bills in the 2000 and 2001 sessions of the legislature. The current bill, Senate Bill 89, was referred to his committee.
Following recent statements supporting the teaching of intelligent design/creationism by President Bush, Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), nearly 120 Iowa State University faculty members have signed a letter rejecting "all attempts to represent ID as a scientific endeavor." The statement is currently available at online at www.iowastatedaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/08/23/430a8680abec8.
On Tuesday, 13 February 2007, the Kansas Board of Education approved new science standards that reflect the consensus of the scientific community on evolution and reject the "teach the controversy" stance of intelligent design/creationism advocates. The new guidelines replace those approved in November 2005 that called into question well-accepted concepts in evolution and permitted the teaching of supernatural phenomena, such as intelligent design/creationism, in public school science classrooms. Those standards were intensely criticized by scientific and educational organizations, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Center for Science Education.
The new Kansas science standards further clarify that science is "a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us."
The 6-4 vote for the new science standards was a result of last November's elections, in which two anti-science board members were defeated. The science guidelines, the fifth set passed in eight years, will be used to develop tests that determine how well Kansas students are learning science.
On 7 November 2006, Kansas voters placed control of the state Board of Education back in the hands of members who support teaching evolution. Supporters of evolution education once again control the board with a 6-4 majority. Republicans Sally Cauble (District 5) and Jane Shaver (District 9), both supporters of evolution education, replaced anti-science members of the board. However, Republicans John Bacon (District 3) and Ken Willard (District 7) were re-elected. Bacon and Willard were part of the 6-4 anti-evolution majority that redefined science in 2005 and allowed the teaching of intelligent design/creationism. Incumbent governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) was re-elected to a second term. In October 2006, Sebelius called the Board of Education "an embarrassment to the state" and vowed to push for a constitutional amendment to make the board advisory and shift power to a Secretary of Education in the governor's Cabinet.
On 1 August 2006, voters in Kansas went to the polls to select party candidates for various state and federal offices, including the highly politicized state board of education. Five seats on the ten member board are up for grabs this November.
Among the various hotly debated issues in each of the board of education primary contests was the state's 'science standards.' As most in the science community are well aware, in 2005 the Kansas board of education voted 6-4 to redefine science so that supernatural phenomena, such as intelligent design/creationism, could be taught in the state's science classrooms.
The five board primaries included one democratic and four republican contests. After the dust settled, a democrat and two moderate republican candidates opposed to the 2005 standards won their races. Two conservative republican incumbents that helped craft the standards retained their parties slot to run in November. As most Kansas political observers have noted, the outcome of the primary suggests that regardless of who wins in the November elections, candidates opposed to the 2005 anti-evolution standards are poised to hold at least a two seat majority on the board. Optimistic science education advocates also note, however, that the two conservative incumbents that support the 2005 standards will face challengers in November. If the challengers won either or both of these races, the "pro-science" board majority would be larger than two votes.
In a press statement released following the primary, AIBS president Kent Holsinger said, "This appears to be a great outcome...when scientists, educators, parents and the business community come together to explain the value of quality science education, everyone benefits. People want students to get the best education possible so that they will be able to compete for quality jobs. The lesson for the science community is that we must recommit ourselves to making sure that every American understands the nature of science."
To read the complete press release, please go to ../position-statements/20060802_biologists_resp.html.
For those tracking evolution education developments, the spotlight will be on the Kansas primary election on 1 August 2006, where candidates on both sides of the issue will face off before Kansas voters. At the center of this controversy are the Kansas state science standards that were amended by the state board of education in November 2005 to allow for the teaching of intelligent design. The terms of five board members expire this year and the August primary election will give science education supporters a chance to take back control of the panel.
Kansas residents that are interested in registering to vote, please visit the Kansas Secretary of State's website available at: www.kssos.org/elections/elections_registration.html.
For more information about Kansas science education issues, visit the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org.
The Kansas State Board of Education has done a disservice to the state's K-12 students by voting today to adopt a curriculum that redefines science such that intelligent design/creationism and other supernatural concepts could be taught in science classes.
While Kansas legislators and business leaders have worked to provide incentives and opportunities for scientists—for instance, by passing the Kansas Economic Growth Act, a $500-million investment in bioscience—the Kansas school board has worked equally hard to undermine those incentives.
As expected, the board adopted science standards that question evolution, ignoring objections from an external review panel and from the original committee of scientists and educators tasked with writing the standards. Members of the mainstream scientific research community maintain that there is no controversy about evolution, a unifying principle of biology.
"Unfortunately the Kansas State Board of Education is determined to disregard advice from the scientific community," says Dr. Marvalee Wake, president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. "The sad thing is that the students, particularly those interested in pursuing science careers, are in danger of falling behind their peers in other states and nations."
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have denied the Kansas board of education use of copyrighted material in the state's new science education standards. In a joint statement released 27 October, the organizations criticized the standards, saying the most recent draft "inappropriately singles out evolution as a controversial theory...the use of the word controversial is confusing to students and the public and is entirely misleading." Additionally, both groups criticized the decision to delete language that defined science as "a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena."
Media reports suggest that after removing the references to the organizations' materials, the 6-4 conservative majority on the school board will adopt the anti-evolution standards on 8 November. These developments are similar to a case in 1999 when NAS, NSTA, and AAAS denied copyrights for the science standards developed by the then pro-creationism Kansas Board of Education.
For more information on the Kansas science education standards, please read the 10 May AIBS public policy report at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2005_05_10.html.
The Kansas State Board of Education has voted 6-4 to adopt science standards that question evolution and redefine science such that intelligent design and other non-scientific concepts could be taught in science classes. The standards will now go through an external review panel before a final vote this fall, but observers expect the board to approve them in their current form. Readers will recall that it was this board that held the widely criticized "kangaroo court" hearings on intelligent design in May 2005. (For more history, please see the 5 July 2005 AIBS Public Policy Report.)
Following the "kangaroo court" style hearings on evolution, the Kansas state board of education voted 7-3 last month to adopt a draft version of science standards that are critical of evolution. The outcome is not a surprise; members of the board's conservative majority had previously expressed their predisposition to including the teaching of intelligent design in science classrooms. According to the National Center for Science Education, the May court hearings cost Kansas taxpayers roughly $17,000.
Next month the writing committee will review the latest draft of the science standards. The board will then evaluate the standards again after reading the writing committee's comments and send them on to an external reviewing body. A final vote will likely occur in September.
The Kansas State Board of Education began its 'hearings' on evolution and intelligent design/creationism on 5 May 2005. The American Association for the Advancement of Science and other invited science organizations and scientists have refused to participate in what has been described as a kangaroo court designed to build public support for the Board's anticipated decision to reintroduce intelligent design/creationism into statewide science standards.
In Kansas where anti-evolutionists regained control of the state Board of Education in the last election, efforts are underway to add intelligent design into the state science curricula — again. In February, the Board of Education approved a plan to establish a subcommittee "to conduct hearings to investigate the merits of the two opposing views." The subcommittee's structure and method of operation are still somewhat uncertain, though the underlying purpose is clear.
Following widespread criticism of the Kansas State Board of Education's (SBOE) 1999 decision to adopt science standards that "de-emphasized" evolution, Kansans embarrassed by the negative attention their state received elected a new state school board. The SBOE reversed the 1999 decision by a 6-4 vote. However, since that action was taken the SBOE membership has changed and the Board has been deadlocked 5-5 on the issue of evolution in the state science standards. Thus, both sides acknowledged the importance of this year's election to the future of K-12 science education in Kansas.
Two SBOE seats on the board were strongly contested in the 3 August 2004 Republican primary. One held by evolution supporter, Bruce Wyatt (R), and the other by Steve Abrams (R). Abrams supported the 1999 move that restricted evolution education in science courses. Wyatt and Abrams both faced challenges from fellow Republicans. Wyatt was opposed by conservative Kathy Martin (R), a former school teacher, creationist, and champion of the 1999 policy. Martin received the support of the conservative Kansas Republican Assembly. The KRA also supported incumbent board member Steve Abrams, who defeated evolution supporter Tim Aiken (R). Results from the primary are significant as Wyatt and Abrams will face no challengers in the fall SBOE election. Thus, it appears that individuals wishing to "de-emphasize" evolution or otherwise weaken evolution content in Kansas science courses will soon enjoy a one vote majority on the Kansas SBOE.
Ark Encounter, a proposed creationist theme park to be located in northern Kentucky, has been granted a 75 percent property tax break for the next 30 years by the city of Williamstown, Kentucky. This is in addition to nearly $200,000 given to the project's developer by Grant County's economic development arm, as well as 100 acres of reduced-price land.
The Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority previously approved tax incentives for the theme park. According to the National Center for Science Education, the "tax incentives will allow Ark Encounter to recoup 25 percent of its development costs by retaining the sales tax generated by the project. With the development costs of the park estimated at 150 million dollars, the incentives would amount to 37.5 million dollars over ten years."
On 19 May 2011, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority unanimously approved tax incentives for Ark Encounter, a proposed creationist theme park to be located in northern Kentucky. According to the National Center for Science Education, the "tax incentives will allow Ark Encounter to recoup 25 percent of its development costs by retaining the sales tax generated by the project. With the development costs of the park estimated at 150 million dollars, the incentives would amount to 37.5 million dollars over ten years."
The Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act (House Bill 169) has died in the Kentucky legislature after the body adjourned on 9 March 2011. The bill would have allowed teachers to "use, as permitted by the local school board, other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."
Rep. Tim Moore (R-District 26) has introduced the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act (House Bill 169), which would allow teachers to "use, as permitted by the local school board, other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."
Kentucky may soon be home to two creationist attractions: the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter theme park. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) announced the deal with Ark Encounter, LLC for the construction of a $150 million religious theme park in northern Kentucky that will feature a full scale replicate of Noah's ark. Although the amusement park will be built with private funds, the state will give the developer $37.5 million in tax breaks.
In April 2010, the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act (House Bill 397) died in committee when the Kentucky legislature adjourned. The bill would have allowed teachers to use instructional materials to help students analyze and critique scientific theories including "the study of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
Until late August, the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau's Web site described the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum as a local attraction aiming to "counter evolutionary natural history museums that turn countless minds against Christ and Scripture." Daniel Phelps, evolution advocate and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, protested this description by the tax-supported tourism agency as an inappropriate use of public funds. He explained to the Cincinnati Enquirer (26 August 2007), "There's many people who are very religious, and they don't have a problem with evolution," he added. "If the creationists want to say things like that on their own Web site, that's their business." By 1 September, the Bureau had quietly revised its Web site, now describing the Creation Museum as "[a] walk through history via the pages of the Bible -- exploring how scripture provides an eye-witness account of the beginning of all things."
The doors of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, located in northern Kentucky, just minutes from Cincinnati, Ohio, opened to the public on 28 May 2007. Over 4000 people visited the museum on its first day, with reports of many waiting up to two and a half hours to see the exhibits.
The $27 million, 60,000 square-foot museum features scientific-appearing dioramas and exhibits that present the story of Biblical creation as literal truth. The exhibits, which employ high-tech animatronics, videos, murals, and live animals that are so often used in natural history museums, depict dinosaurs coexisting with humans, the Garden of Eden, and a replica of Noah's Ark. One exhibit, "Dinosaur Dig Site," compares the work of an evolutionary paleontologist to a creationist paleontologist and directs visitors to the conclusion that science can and should involve the supernatural.
On its opening day, protesters gathered for a "Rally for Reason" at the gates of the museum - called "the creationist Disneyland" by Dr. Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). A number of scientists and critics, many of whom were among the 800 from Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana who signed the NCSE statement of concern about the scientific inaccuracy of the museum, toured the exhibits.
One such visitor, critic and professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, Lawrence Krauss, commented to the Cincinnati Enquirer, "It's really impressive - and it really gives the impression that they're talking about science at some point." When asked to rate the Creation Museum on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, Krauss said, "I'd give it a 4 for technology, 5 for propaganda. As for content, I'd give it a negative 5."
After his endorsement of intelligent design in the 9 January 2006 State of the Commonwealth speech, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) has replaced a democratic member of the Kentucky Board for Proprietary Education. The new member is a commercial truck driver for Dayton Freight. An Associated Press article on 24 January reported that the seven members of the board who are up for reappointment, one Republican and six Democrats, expect to be replaced in the next week.
Gov. Fletcher's spokesman, Brett Hall, has said the governor "hasn't been totally enthusiastic about the responses he's gotten from some of the proposals he's made. ... He feels like some of the members could be more open-minded, and he looks forward to working with a board that is." To read more about the Gov. Fletcher's State of the Commonwealth speech, please read the 18 January 2006 AIBS Public Policy Report available at: http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/2006_01_18.html.
On 9 January 2006, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) started out the year by inserting a brief endorsement of intelligent design into his State of the Commonwealth speech.
"What is wrong with teaching intelligent design in our schools?" he rhetorically asked the audience.
Later, the governor told an Associated Press reporter that schools should teach intelligent design because it is "the foundational principle of our nation."
ID, he said, is "not a matter of faith and it's not a matter of religion. It's a matter of something called self-evident truth."
Some state lawmakers later expressed their bafflement at the governor's mention of the topic. A Kentucky statute, which apparently has not been tested in court, specifically allows local educators to choose to teach creationism-essentially the "older sibling" of intelligent design-in public schools.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) are pleased to announce that a new evolution list serve has joined the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network. The list, launched last week, is now accepting new subscribers. Scientists and science educators in Kentucky that are interested in issues related to evolution education or science education more generally are encouraged to participate in this free online exchange. For more information about the new KY list serve or evolution lists in other states, please visit the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network.
An effort to remove an unconstitutional law from the books failed after no debate by the Louisiana Senate. The chamber rejected SB 70 in a 5 to 32 vote. The legislation would have repealed the state's Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act, which was enacted in 1981. The law was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987.
The bill had passed the Senate Education Committee "without action" earlier in the month. This designation meant that the committee did not formally approve or disapprove of the bill.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Dan Claitor (R-District 16), who tried unsuccessfully to repeal the law in 2013.
Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) has once again filed a bill to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. SB 175 is her fourth attempt at undoing the 2008 law that allows the teaching of creationism in public schools. Last year, the repeal effort was rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
The Louisiana state legislature concluded its legislative session and failed to remove a 1981 creationist law from the law books. The so-called Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1987. It is different from the more recent Louisiana Science Education Act.
The state Senate passed an unrelated education bill, SB 205, in mid-May 2013, that included a provision to repeal the Balanced Treatment Act. The House Education Committee opted to remove that provision from SB 205. That version of the bill subsequently passed the House. A conference committee formed to work out differences between the House and Senate bills decided not to include the repeal in the final bill, which passed both chambers on 6 June 2013.
The Louisiana Senate passed a bill on 13 May 2013 that included a provision to repeal a 1981 creationist law. The so-called Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1987.
A provision to repeal the law was unanimously adopted by the Senate Committee on Education. That provision was included in SB 205, an unrelated education bill. SB 205 passed the Senate in a vote of 36-2.
The Senate Education Committee voted against a bill to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. S. 26 is sponsored by Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans). Her legislation would repeal a state law that opens the door to the teaching of creationism in Louisiana schools. The bill was defeated in a vote of 2-3.
Democratic New Orleans Senator Karen Carter Peterson recently filed a bill (SB 26) to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). Bearing a misleading name, the LSEA has allowed the teaching of creationism in public schools since 2008. This bill marks Senator Peterson's third attempt at repealing the LSEA; in 2012, Peterson's bill was last defeated in committee.
Supporters of the repeal, which include nearly 40% of living Nobel Laureate scientists and over 70,000 people from Louisiana and the rest of the country that signed a petition, are optimistic, however, as Louisiana's public officials have become increasingly pro-science. Said Nobel laureate chemist Sir Harry Kroto, "The present situation should be likened to requiring Louisiana school texts to include the claim that the sun goes round the Earth."
The Orleans Parish School Board voted to ban the teaching of intelligent design in science classes and the purchasing of textbooks that promote creationism. The policy will only apply in the six schools run by the city's local school board; other schools in New Orleans are run independently or by the state.
The policy does not appear to be prompted by any particular threat to the teaching of evolution. The vote was taken at the behest of Thomas Robichaux, the outgoing president of the board.
This is the second action taken in New Orleans in opposition to creationism. In 2011, the city council approved a resolution that endorsed the repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act, which most science education experts consider the state law to be a misguided effort to allow the teaching of creationism in public schools.
Louisiana state Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) has filed a bill that would repeal an anti-evolution education law. SB 374 would repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, which was enacted in 2008. Most science education experts consider the state law to be a misguided effort to allow the teaching of creationism in public schools.
The repeal effort has the support of several science educator associations and scientific societies, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Moreover, 75 Nobel laureates have written to the Louisiana state legislature in support of overturning the law.
"This year the Governor has asked the Louisiana legislature to focus on education," said Senator Peterson. "If this Legislative session is truly about improving Louisiana's education system, then the first place to start is to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act."
The Louisiana Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 to postpone action on SB 70, a bill that would have repealed the Louisiana Science Education Act. The state law, which has been in place since 2008, encourages science teachers to include supplemental materials that attack evolution and promote creationism in their lessons. The Committee's vote means that the repeal legislation is not likely to be considered again in this session of the legislature.
Louisiana state Senator Karen Carter Peterson has introduced legislation that would repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. The state law, which has been in place since 2008, encourages science teachers to include supplemental materials that attack evolution and promote creationism in their lessons. Senator Peterson introduced the bill at the request of the Louisiana Coalition for Science and high school senior Zack Kopplin, who together launched a campaign to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act last summer.
Baton Rouge Magnet High School Senior Zack Kopplin has launched a campaign to have the Louisiana Science Education Act repealed. The state law, which has been in place since 2008, encourages science teachers to include supplemental materials that attack evolution and promote creationism in their lessons. State Senator Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5) will sponsor the repeal legislation. Kopplin was central in a grassroots effort last year that successfully convinced the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve new biology textbooks that include the teaching of evolution.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recently approved new high school biology textbooks that include the topic of evolution, despite the objections of some creationists. The 8-2 vote means that the state will purchase textbooks that do not mention creationism or intelligent design.
Supporters of evolution education praised the decision. "We are pleased and proud that the board has done the right thing," said the Louisiana Coalition for Science in a statement. "As a result, students in Louisiana public schools will have the most current, up-to-date information about biology, including the theory of evolution, which is the strongest explanation of the history and development of life on Earth ever constructed...Students in our public schools deserve the best science education we can give them. Thanks to [the board's] decision, they won't have to wait any longer for decent textbooks."
According to Eugenie C. Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, "The board's decision is a ray of sunlight, especially because the creationist opponents of these textbooks were claiming -- wrongly -- that the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act requires that biology textbooks misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial. It's refreshing to see that the board withstood the pressure to compromise the quality of biology textbooks in the state."
According to recent reports from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Associated Press, advocates for science education have won a recent skirmish in the battle for evolution education in Louisiana. Recently, the Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council for the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-4 to recommend textbooks that include evolution. The full board must still approve the new textbooks, which could happen during its meeting on 7-9 December 2010.
Despite this victory, science education advocates in Louisiana continue to work to fend off efforts to introduce creationist and other pseudo-scientific content into the science curricula through the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008.
Additional information about developments in Louisiana is available online from the National Center for Science Education (http://ncse.com/news/louisiana).
Science education took another step backwards in Louisiana on 16 September 2009 when the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) ignored education professionals in the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) and allowed a religious lobbying group, the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), to dictate procedures for complaints on creationist supplementary materials used in school science classes.
The Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), enacted in June 2008, provided that "[a] teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner." A subsequent January 2009 provision adopted by the BESE prohibited the promotion of religious views, but still allowed teachers to introduce supplementary material on creation and intelligent design into the classroom.
The state DOE had provided recommendations to the BESE stating that when a complaint about supplementary materials is filed, "the DOE will select three reviewers" who "should be experts" who can determine if contested materials meet criteria for use in public school science classes. However, the 16 September 2009 meeting of the BESE Committee was dominated by the testimony of numerous creationists, including University of Louisiana-Lafayette linguistics professor John W. Oller, Jr., a member of the "Technical Advisory Board" of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas, Texas, and Charles Voss, vice-president of the creationist Origins Resource Association. Based on this testimony, the procedures for addressing complaints were modified.
As currently written, the reviewers are not chosen by the Louisiana DOE, but rather by the challenger, the publisher of the material, and the school district. For both the publisher and a school district that allows the use of creationist materials, it is unlikely that a reviewer who does not have a bias towards teaching creationism will be chosen, rendering a fair evaluation impossible. This allows the BESE to essentially rubber stamp any materials that the LFF and other creationist reviewers recommend.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) submitted comments to the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on 4 June 2009 regarding the state's implementation of the Louisiana Science Education Act (SB 733). The Act, which was signed into law in June 2008, is viewed by many as another attempt to introduce creationism/intelligent design into the classroom. The implementing rule, which was approved by the Louisiana Board of Education in April 2009, would "allow and assist educators in promoting critical thinking skills and objective discussion of scientific theories." Under the proposed rule, teachers would be allowed to use supplemental textbooks and materials in science classes after covering the content of the state's science curriculum.
To read AIBS' comments, please visit www.aibs.org/position-statements.
Louisiana’s governor Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 733 into law, twenty-seven years after the state passed its Balanced Treatment for Evolution-Science and Creation-Science Act, a law overturned by the Supreme Court in 1987. News of Jindal’s approval of the bill was buried in a press release issued on June 25, 2008, in which Jindal listed seventy-five bills he recently signed. SB 733 will, according to Houma Today (June 27, 2008), “empower educators to pull religious beliefs into topics like evolution, cloning and global warming by introducing supplemental materials.”
Various state and national organizations have already indicated that lawsuits will be filed if teachers and local school districts attempt to introduce religious content into science classes, a practice that has repeatedly been ruled unconstitutional be the courts.
For more information about previous AIBS and AIBS member statements on SB 733, please go to http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/
After unanimously passing the Louisiana Senate 28 April 2008, The “Louisiana Science Education Act” (SB 733), formerly known as the “Louisiana Academic Freedom Act” (SB 561), was considered by and unanimously passed the House Education Committee on 21 May 2008. As previously reported (/public-policy-reports/20080428.html), the measure intends to create questions that do not exist around evolution and climate change. The bill’s original language was rooted in the policy passed by the Ouachita Parish School Board in 2006 that protects teachers who want to “teach the controversy” about evolution.
The "Louisiana Science Education Act" (SB 733), formerly the "Louisiana Academic Freedom Act" (SB 561), unanimously passed the Louisiana Senate 28 April 2008. The measure, originally sponsored by state Senator Ben Nevers (D-District 12), is considered by education experts to be "stealth" creationism legislation, intended to create questions that do not exist around evolution and climate change. Prior to passing the Senate Education Committee, the original bill was renamed, renumbered, and "sanitized" by removing "strengths and weaknesses" language and the list of specific scientific topics. Nevers, however, later restored the list of topics, "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning," to SB 733, and the measure unanimously passed the Senate.
In the House of Representatives, HB 1168, the counterpart to SB 561 and also named the "Louisiana Academic Freedom Act," was assigned to the House Education Committee.
The Louisiana Senate Education Committee will consider the "Louisiana Academic Freedom Act" (SB 561) on 17 April. The measure, sponsored by state Senator Ben Nevers (D, 12th district), is considered by education experts to be "stealth" creationism legislation. Nevers has previously sought methods to introduce creationism into the science classroom. The intent of SB 561 is to create questions that do not scientifically exist around issues like evolution and climate change. Language in the bill emphasizes controversy and critical analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of these well-accepted scientific concepts.
The legislation's language is rooted in the policy passed by the Ouachita Parish School Board in 2006 that protects teachers who want to "teach the controversy" about evolution. The policy was written by an associate of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), an organization that continues to solicit other local school districts to adopt the policy. Regular Policy Report readers will also recall that the LFF was the intended recipient of a controversial $100,000 earmark "to develop a plan to promote better science education" by United States Senator David Vitter (R-LA). A coalition of concerned organizations, including AIBS, joined forces to oppose the earmark which Vitter eventually withdrew. http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/2007_10_29.html#004207
On 23 September 2007, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that embattled Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter requested $100,000 in a fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill for the Louisiana Family Forum, a Christian group that opposes the teaching of evolution in the public school classroom.
The earmark, buried in the appropriations legislation for the departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education (S.B. 1710), would be used "to develop a plan to promote better science education."
The Louisiana Family Forum most notably backed efforts by the Ouachita Parish School Board in 2006 to permit science teachers to teach the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution, a common tactic of the intelligent design movement known as "teach the controversy." The non-profit group's mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking."
A coalition of concerned organizations, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Herpetologist's League, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the National Center for Science Education, joined forces to oppose the earmark. On 10 October, they sent a joint letter to every member of the Senate, asking that the provision be removed. Additionally, numerous concerned citizens individually contacted their Senators to express their concern about the troublesome earmark.
On 18 October, Vitter requested that the earmark be removed. On the floor of the Senate, the Louisiana Republican insisted that the money was not designed to promote creationism and blamed the controversy on groups promoting "hysterics."
"The project, which would develop a plan to promote better science-based education in Ouachita Parish by Louisiana Family Forum, has raised concerns among some that its intention was to mandate and push creationism within the public schools," Vitter said. "That is clearly not and never was the intent of the project, nor would it have been its effect. However, to avoid more hysterics, I would like to move the $100,000 recommended for this project by the subcommittee when the bill goes to conference committee to another Louisiana priority project funded in this bill."
In response, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "Senator Vitter's defense of the earmark is obviously disingenuous, given the Louisiana Family Forum's record of fighting tooth and nail against evolution education. But I'm glad to see that, with the removal of his earmark, public funds are not going to be misused to miseducate the children of Louisiana about the science of evolution."
Despite a recently thwarted attempt to censor Louisiana public school teachers, creationist and intelligent design advocates in Louisiana are continuing their assault on public science education. The latest threat is aimed at textbooks and course materials. Louisiana State Representative Ben W. Nevers (D, 75th District) has introduced House Concurrent Resolution Number 50 "To encourage city, parish, and other local public school systems to refrain from purchasing textbooks that do not provide students with opportunities to learn that there are differing scientific views on certain controversial issues in science."
Louisiana Concurrent Resolution 50 builds on U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) effort to amend the No Child Left Behind Act with anti-evolution rhetoric. While the U.S. Senate defeated the Santorum Amendment, he was successful at including conference committee language so as to provide state and local creationist and intelligent design advocates with the idea that they have a federal mandate to include their religious beliefs in public science courses. While this is not the case, Representative Nevers refers to the No Child Left Behind Act in an attempt to bully this resolution through the State House. Concurrent Resolution 50 states that "WHEREAS, included in the No Child Left Behind conference report is the following language: 'The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society". Louisiana science education advocates believe proponents of intelligent design will use this language to pressure local school systems into including intelligent design or creationism into science courses.
Science education advocates in Louisiana are concerned that if this resolution is approved it would send a dangerous message to local school districts and could have a negative impact on the selection and use of quality science textbooks throughout the state. Louisiana education advocates have requested that supporters of evolution education make their voices heard. Citizens from other states (e.g., those that have received negative attention for attempting to remove evolution or add creationism/intelligent design to curriculum) could tell Louisiana legislators about the negative attention their state has received. Louisiana residents should contact their elected officials to make their thoughts and feelings known.
Louisiana. As reported in the April 28th issue of the AIBS Public Policy Report, the Louisiana State House of Representatives has been considering House Bill 1782. This legislation would "prohibit any branch, department, agency, official, employee, or other entity of state government or of any political subdivision from knowingly printing or distributing material that contains information that is false or fraudulent." Evolution education advocates worry that if this legislation becomes law it would provide creationists with a legal tool that can be used to tie evolution up in the courts. As reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the implications of the legislation have not gone unnoticed by House leaders who have moved to block the measure. The Louisiana House has tabled the legislation by a vote of 57-34. Tabling legislation generally means it lacks the necessary support to pass.
There is yet another threat to evolution education in Louisiana (see also AIBS Public Policy Report for 15 April 2003 http://www.aibs.org/publicpolicy/index.html). The Louisiana House of Representatives is considering a bill, HB 1782, that prohibits any branch, department, agency, official, employee, or other entity of state government or of any political subdivision from knowingly printing or distributing material that contains information that is false or fraudulent. According to Skip Evans of the National Center for Science Education, "the language is similar to that of a bill debated in Arkansas in 2001, HB 2548, that contained similar language, but went further by listing many standard creationist claims. Well-known creationist Kent Hovind testified as an 'expert' for that bill, and it was noted that the bill contained claims listed in a notorious anti-evolution comic book by Jack Chick."
According to Evans, "The Louisiana bill, HB 1782, makes none of the specific claims as the Arkansas legislation did." The concern is that this legislation would provide creationists with a legal tool to attack evolution education in the courts. For the complete text of the bill, see: http://www.legis.state.la.us/, and search for HB 1782.
A resolution has been introduced into the Louisiana House of Representatives urging local school districts to reject the adoption of science textbooks that present evolution as fact. The complete text of the resolution can be found at: 0000K4Q7.PDF. Louisiana scientists, educators and others are strongly urged to contact their State Representatives to express their opinion on the resolution. Following are excerpts from a National Center for Science Education (www.ncseweb.org) letter that may be used as the basis for personal letters and phone calls.
"On April 1, Louisiana representative Ben Nevers introduced House Concurrent Resolution 50, which '[e]ncourages city, parish, and other local public school systems to refrain from purchasing certain text-book.' On April 2nd, that resolution was assigned to the House Education Committee. The resolution states that 'in the effort to encourage the development of students' critical thinking skills, city, parish, and other local public school systems should refrain from purchasing textbooks that do not present a balanced view of the various theories relative to the origin of life but rather refer to one theory as proven fact.'
Observers of the evolution/creationism controversy will recognize this language as an attempt to downgrade evolution from a sound and well supported scientific theory to one of questionable status, thereby making it easier for school districts to reject textbooks that present it accurately. The phrase may also open the door to the teaching of "creation science" and other faith-based views." The Louisiana House of Representatives Education Committee website is located at: http://house.legis.state.la.us/WebRepresentatives/edcommittee.asp.
Two anti-evolution bills (HB 1531 and HB 1228) died at the end of the legislative session on 10 April 2006 after receiving unfavorable reports by the Maryland House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee.
More information can be found at the NCSE Newsroom: http://www.ncseweb.org
In a 9 August 2007 Boston Globe editorial, health and science writer Sally Lehrman provided her fellow residents of Massachusetts a warning that should be heeded by all advocates for science education: "A well-thought out curriculum in science does not guarantee that evolution will be taught in all its glory -- or even coherently."
Lehrman expressed concerns that even in Massachusetts, a state noted for its excellent science standards, teachers licensed for biology are not required to take a course in evolution to be certified. She pointed out 2007 state statistics that indicate "11 percent of schools had assigned at least one-fifth of teachers outside of their expertise." Moreover, in a 2006 AAAS survey, many teachers nationwide revealed that they do not feel confident in their knowledge about evolution.
Lehrman argued that concerns about teaching evolution should not be limited to places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kansas where high-profile creationism vs. evolution battles have taken place in local public school districts and court rooms.
Despite the landmark December 2005 Federal Court ruling in the Kitzmiller (Dover, PA) case that devastated the intelligent design-in-the-classroom movement, and numerous defeats experienced by anti-evolution candidates in state school board elections last November, intelligent design and creationism proponents have persevered. Advocates for science education should take notice that organizations such as the Seattle-based Discovery Institute have altered their tactics and rhetoric in order to continue promoting their pseudo-scientific ideas in the science classroom.
Most recently, the Discovery Institute has begun distributing a new textbook entitled, "Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against New-Darwinism." Rather than blatantly endorsing creationism or intelligent design, the Discovery Institute encourages science educators to "teach the controversy," emphasizing the process of critical inquiry when teaching evolution. According to promotional materials, the textbook examines fossil succession, anatomical homology, embryology, natural selection, and mutation, and then, for each of these areas, "explains the evidence and arguments that lead some scientists to question the adequacy of Darwinian explanation."
Science education advocates everywhere should remain vigilant in order to thwart attempts by anti-science advocates to introduce "Explore Evolution" as a required or supplemental text in their state biology curricula.
HB 6027, another "academic freedom" bill, was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives on 30 April 2008 and was referred to the House Committee on Education. Science education advocates argue that HB 6027, like similar legislation under consideration in Louisiana and Missouri, intends to create questions that do not scientifically exist around the issues of evolution and climate change. Its language emphasizes controversy and the critical analyses of strengths and weaknesses of these well-accepted scientific concepts. Such rhetoric has a long history in the creationism movement and is intended to provide a foothold for the introduction of non-scientific information into the science curriculum. HB 6027 is co-sponsored by John Moolenaar (R-District 98, Midland) who previously co-sponsored legislation that would have encouraged the teaching of "the design hypothesis as an explanation for the origin and diversity of life" in public school science classes.
The Michigan Science Teachers Association, who previously opposed anti-evolution state legislation in 2003 (HR 4946 and HR5005) and 2005 (HR 5251), recently adopted a new position statement on evolution education and the nature of science. The new statement, approved 3 February 2007, concludes:
"It is the position of the Michigan Science Teachers Association that evolutionary theory is an integral, validated and therefore essential component of modern scientific inquiry and should therefore be taught in a manner commensurate with this importance. Furthermore, it is the position of the MSTA that teachers should teach only evolutionary theory as a scientific explanation of the development and diversification of life on Earth. Evolution should be taught unaccompanied by non-scientific ideologies offered as "alternatives" to evolution. Teaching theological or philosophical explanations alongside or in place of evolution theory would not make the classroom presentation "fair or equal" but would result in the offering of false scientific alternatives to our students which would be a violation of academic honesty and our professional responsibilities as trustees of our student's academic development and science literacy."
The statement can be viewed in its entirety at: http://www.msta-mich.org/
On 10 October 2006, the Michigan Board of Education unanimously approved 'science content expectations' that require high school students to explain the process of evolution and the scientific evidence supporting it. The Board struck language from the standard that suggested controversy and lack of scientific consensus.
The new science standards can be viewed at the Michigan Department of Education website.
Proponents for including religious beliefs in public school science curricula no longer limit theIr activities to small school districts or states with large fundamentalist Christian populations. Anti-evolution advocates now use "intelligent design theory"--a dressed-up version of creationism--to try and influence science education in states across the country. In some cases, these political initiatives seek to influence school boards charged with selecting or approving textbooks (e.g., Texas) or public science curricula (e.g., Minnesota and New Mexico). In other locations the tactics are more direct-get the state legislature to define what constitutes evolution and dictate what educators can say on the subject. The latter appears to be the strategy in Michigan where two pieces of legislation were introduced over the summer in the State House of Representatives.
Michigan State Representative Kenneth Bradstreet (R, 105th) and a group of 24 other members of the State House of Representatives introduced House Bill 4946 on July 2, 2003. Bradstreet and eight other cosponsors of HB 4946 are members of the House Education Committee, where the legislation has been referred for consideration. The legislation would change the Michigan school code to require the Board of Education to modify state science standards to include the concept of "intelligent design by a Creator" wherever evolution is mentioned. The anti-science portion of the legislation reads: "(10) As soon as practicable after the effective date of this subsection, the state board shall revise the recommended model core academic curriculum content standards under subsection (2) as follows: (a) In the science standards, all references to 'evolution' and 'how species change through time' shall be modified to indicate that this is an unproven theory by adding the phrase 'all students will explain the competing theories of evolution and natural selection based on random mutation and the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator. (b) In the science standards for middle and high school, all references to 'evolution' and 'natural selection' shall be modified to indicate that these are unproven theories by adding the phrase 'Describe how life may be the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator'. (c) In the science standards for middle and high school, all references to 'evolution' and the 'natural selection' shall be modified to indicate that these are unproven theories by adding the phrase 'Explain the competing theories of evolution and natural selection based on random mutation and the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a Creator."
In the event that HB 4946 might be too blatant an attempt to include religious studies in public school science courses, on July 17th Representative Hoogendyk (R, 61st, Kalamazoo County) and seven colleagues (including Bradstreet) introduced HB 5005. This legislation has also been referred to the House Education Committee for consideration. HB 5005 would authorize that alternatives to evolution be taught in science courses and endorses teaching the design hypothesis as an explanation for the origin and diversity of life. The text of HB 5005 reads in part: "(1) The teaching in a public school science class of the methodological naturalism hypothesis as an explanation for the origin and diversity of life shall not preclude also teaching the design hypothesis as an explanation for the origin and diversity of life. A public school official shall not censor or prohibit the teaching of the design hypothesis. (2) As used in this section: (a) 'Design hypothesis' means the theory that life and its diversity result from a combination of change, necessity, and design. (b)'Methodological naturalism hypothesis' means the theory that nature is all there is and that all phenomena, including living systems, result only from chance and necessity."
These are not the first attempts by Michigan lawmakers to put religion into science curricula. Similar legislation was defeated in 2001. In part, earlier proposals were defeated when key lawmakers decided that passing such legislation presents an image of Michigan that does not enhance the State's ability to recruit employers, particularly in high-wage industries such as biotechnology. Michigan residents interested in learning more about evolution education related issues in their state should consider joining the Michigan evolution list serve, a node in the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network. For information about other state/province list serves in the Network, visit http://www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html.
On 20 May 2006, an omnibus education bill (SF 2994) passed both the Minnesota State House of Representatives and the Senate. However, a provision in the original bill that banned the state department of education and school districts from "utilizing a non-scientifcally based curriculum, such as intelligent design" was removed from the final bill.
Minnesota has adopted new science education standards. According to the National Center for Science Education, the standards do not include any of the changes or amendments proposed by those seeking to teach "evidence against" or "weaknesses" of evolution. The standard writing process in Minnesota has been contentious. Education advocates have worked tirelessly through what often appeared to be a questionable process to ensure the state adopted the strongest standards possible. Some may recall that earlier this year, then Education Commissioner, Cheri Pierson Yecke, modified draft science standards prepared by a writing committee comprised of scientists and educators. Yecke has also publicly advocated that local school districts should have the freedom to teach creationism if they desire. Yecke's standards would have seriously weakened science education standards. Prior to adjourning for the legislative session, the Minnesota Senate voted 35-31 not to confirm Yecke as the Education Commissioner.
As reported in the September 15, 2003 AIBS Public Policy Report (www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/), Minnesota is in the process of adopting new state science standards. Education advocates throughout the state remain concerned about the efforts of proponents for alternative theories of evolution to weaken the current draft standards. Throughout October the Minnesota Department of Education will hold hearings across the state to receive public input on the draft standards. Scientists, educators and other supporters of strong science standards are encouraged to review the standards and provide comments. For more information about the Minnesota standards, visit: Minnesota Department of Education at www.education.state.mn.us; Minnesota Draft Science Standards at pub_038386.pdf; Minnesota node of the AIBS/NCSE List Serve Network by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and including in the body of the message "subscribe email@example.com email address"; or the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org.
The state committee charged with drafting new public school science standards has issued draft standards. Interested Minnesota scientists and educators may view the draft standards online at the Minnesota Department of ITEMS Education website via pub_038386.pdf. Comments on the draft guidelines may be submitted electronically or at one of a number of scheduled public hearings across the state in coming weeks.
Recall that many education advocates familiar with the Minnesota process have expressed concern with the State Education Commissioner's previous public expression of support for the inclusion of religious concepts in science courses. According to reports from Minnesota media sources, these concerns may have been realized when the standard-writing committee's draft standards were made public. It seems the standards first made public did not reflect the intent of the committee. Some committee members noted that words were changed with the result being a weaker treatment of evolution and encouragement for local schools to include alternative information about evolution. According to news media reports, the wrong version of the standards was accidentally made public but the error has reportedly been corrected. According to a spokesperson for the Education Commissioner, nothing nefarious was afoot.
Nonetheless, many science education advocates in the state are remaining vigilant to ensure that no similar error occurs as the standard adoption process continues. The Minnesota process is not likely to end prior to next year when the State legislature must adopt final standards. Minnesota residents interested in staying appraised of developments in the state may wish to join the Minnesota node of the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message "subscribe email@example.com email address" included in the body of the message.
In June 2003 Minnesota began the process of developing state science standards for K-12 education. Minnesota's goal is to have science standards in place in time for the 2004-05 academic year. Some science education advocates warn that well-placed and active advocates for intelligent design and creationism may negatively affect Minnesota's standards process. The Minnesota Education Commissioner selected the committee that will draft the standards. Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, in an interview with WCCO TV Channel 4 in Minnesota stated, "I believe that God created the heavens and the Earth. I don't know how he did it." Yecke hopes that "this [evolution] would not become a sticking point" in the development of the science standards. In light of Yecke's statements, Randy Moore, a biologist at the University of Minnesota and editor of the journal American Biology Teacher, told WCCO that he would not be surprised if political considerations influenced the selection of members of the standards writing committee. In response, Yecke stated, "let's see...let's see what happens when we put the committee together." Yecke has requested clarification from the U.S. Department of Education on the so-called Santorum Amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act. Yecke is waiting to see if she receives the same guidance provided to Ohio. Yecke seems optimistic that teachings about a higher being may be able to be included wherever the topic of biological evolution is covered. A recent article by John Welbes of the Pioneer Press reports that "The group writing Minnesota's new science standards won't be asked to choose between teaching evolution or creationism, but it will get a recommendation from the state's education commissioner that students be exposed to differing views on the subject." Yecke has also expressed a preference that issues related to evolution education be left to the discretion of local school districts and teachers.
As part of the effort to ensure that scientists, educators, and other concerned citizens are kept informed about the process, a list serve has been established as part of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and National Center for Science Education (NCSE) State Evolution List Serve Network. Interested Minnesota residents are encouraged to join the list serve. Information about the new Minnesota list serve or other state evolution list serves in the network may be obtained at http://www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html.
House Bill 586, introduced on 12 January 2010, would have required local school boards in Mississippi to include a lesson on human evolution at the beginning of their high school biology classes, but the lesson would have had to include "equal instruction from education materials that present scientifically sound arguments by protagonists and antagonists of the theory of evolution." The bill died in committee in February 2010.
In January 2009, House Bill 25 was introduced in the House of Representatives. The bill would mandate that the state board of education require every textbook that discusses evolution to include a disclaimer describing evolution as a "controversial theory." The bill died in committee in February 2009.
Despite the failure of a similar bill he sponsored in 2005 (HB 953), Representative Mike Lott (R-District 104) introduced HB 625, an act to authorize local school boards to teach alternatives to evolution, on 9 January 2007. The bill would have stipulated that "if the theory of evolution is required to be taught as part of the school district's science curriculum, in order to provide students with a comprehensive education in science, the school board also must include the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in the science curriculum." The measure was referred to the House Committee on Education, where it later died 30 January 2007.
On 20 April 2006, H.B. 214 was signed into law, allowing teachers to "answer questions from individual students on the origin of life." This anti-evolution language emerged during the conference committee between the Senate and House.
Two anti-evolution bills introduced to the Mississippi legislature in 2005, HB 953 and SB 2427 died in committee in January and February 2006. HB 953, according to the National Center for Science Education, would have authorized "the teaching of 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' in the public schools" and moreover required it "[i]f the school's curriculum requires the teaching of evolution." SB 2427, which passed the Senate but later died in the House, would have ensured that "[n]o local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the issue of flaws or problems which may exist in Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution and the existence of other theories of evolution, including, but not limited to, the Intelligent Design explanation of the origin of life."
Mississippi science standards are under threat with the introduction of S. 2427 and H.B. 953. S. 2427 would allow teachers to introduce alternatives to evolution, "including, but not limited to, the Intelligent Design explanation of the origin of life." H.B. 953 would "authorize the teaching of 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' in the public schools." Additionally, "[i]f the school's curriculum requires the teaching of evolution, then the teaching of 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' shall be required."
In January, members of state legislatures returned to their capitols and began introducing legislation that reflects their policy priorities. Not surprisingly given the increased public profile of evolution education, legislators in many states have introduced measures that would require disclaimers be placed in textbooks, require that intelligent design/creationism be taught along side evolution, or requiring that science teachers 'teach the controversy.' Legislation introduced in the Mississippi State Senate (SB 2286) would require that classic creationism be taught in schools where evolution is taught. The South Carolina Senate will again be able to consider legislation (S 114) designed to provide anti-evolutionists with control over how textbooks dealing with evolution are approved and adopted by school districts. A similar measure was introduced in the last session.
The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education passed a bill that would require schools teaching the theory of evolution to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism for opting out of such instruction.
House Bill 1587 is the second anti-evolution bill introduced in Missouri this year. The bill would allow teachers "to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution."
Two sponsors of the bill, Andrew Koenig (R-District 99) and Rick Brattin (R-District 55), are sponsoring another anti-evolution bill (H.B. 1472) this session. Koenig unsuccessfully sponsored similar bills in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
House Bill 1472 would requires schools teaching the theory of evolution by natural selection to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism for opting out of such instruction. The bill is sponsored by Rick Brattin (R-District 55) and Andrew Koenig (R-District 99).
Two anti-evolution bills died in committee without being considered at the end of the legislative session.
House Bill 179 would have encouraged public school teachers to help their students explore the strengths and weaknesses of scientific issues. Evolution is highlighted as one topic in need of further evaluation.
House Bill 291 would have required the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.
Representative Andrew Koenig (R-District 99) has introduced a bill that would encourage public school teachers to help their students explore the strengths and weaknesses of scientific issues. Evolution is highlighted as one topic in need of further evaluation.
House Bill 179 calls on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution."
On 7 August 2012, voters in Missouri overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution regarding religious freedom. Although the proposal does not explicitly address the teaching of evolution, it does state "that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs." Some are concerned that this language could allow public school students who believe in creationism to skip school assignments on evolution.
Two bills that could have opened the door to the teaching of creationism died at the end of the legislative session without receiving a hearing. House Bill 1276 would have called on education administrators to work to create a learning environment in public schools that encourages students to develop critical thinking skills and "respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution." A second bill, HB 1227, would have required "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design."
Two bills have been introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives that threaten to open the door to the teaching of creationism.
House Bill 1276 would call on education administrators to work to create a learning environment in public schools that encourages students to develop critical thinking skills and "respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution." The bill would grant permission to teachers to help students to evaluate the strengths and weakness of the theory of evolution. HB 1276 is sponsored by Andrew Koenig (R-District 88). The bill is identical to HB 195, which was sponsored by Koenig in the 2011 legislature.
A second bill, HB 1227, would require "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design." The bill is sponsored by Rick Brattin (R-District 124).
HB 195 died when the Missouri House of Representatives adjourned on 13 May 2011. If enacted, the bill would have called on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution." The bill was nearly identical to a bill (HB 1651) that died in the 2010 session of the Missouri House of Representatives.
Anti-evolution legislation has been introduced in the new session of the Missouri House of Representatives. House Bill 195 is sponsored by Andrew Koenig (R-District 88) and 13 of his Republican colleagues. If enacted, the bill would call on state and local education administrators to "endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution." The bill would allow teachers to help students analyze the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. The bill is nearly identical to a bill (HB 1651) that died in the 2010 session of the Missouri House of Representatives.
In January 2010, House Bill 1651 was introduced. Similar to earlier proposed legislation, the bill would have required educators and administrators to encourage students to critically think about controversial issues in their classes, including "biological and chemical evolution." The bill died without being assigned to committee.
HB 656, introduced in January 2009, would have required state and local education administrators to permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manor the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of theories of biological and chemical evolution." The bill died before being assigned to a committee.
In Missouri, HB 2554, an act "relating to teacher academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution," died on 16 May 2008 when the Missouri legislative session ended. Passed by the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, the legislation was full of similar and suspicious rhetoric used in the other "academic freedom" bills-including an emphasis on the critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. The bill was introduced by Representative Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155) who, in 2004, sponsored HB 911 and HB 1722, unsuccessful legislation that called for equal time for "intelligent design" in Missouri's schools.
HB 2554, an act "relating to teacher academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution," died in May 2008 with the end of the legislative session. Passed by the House of Representatives' Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, the legislation used rhetoric from "academic freedom" legislation of other states. Representative Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155) introduced the legislation.
In Missouri, Representative Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155) introduced HB 2554, an act “relating to teacher academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding evolution.” The legislation is full of similar and suspicious rhetoric used in the other “academic freedom” bills in Florida and Louisiana – including an emphasis on the critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. In 2004, state Representative Cooper sponsored HB 911 and HB 1722, unsuccessful legislation that called for equal time for “intelligent design” in Missouri’s schools.
In April 2006, the anti-evolution Missouri Science Education Act, H.B. 1266, passed the House Education Committee, but was never sent to the full chamber. The bill would have allowed the teaching of critiques of evolution. H.B. 1266 was sponsored by Representative Robert Wayne Cooper (R-District 155), who in 2003 introduced two bills calling for "intelligent design" to be taught in the Missouri public schools.
In January 2005, H.B. 35 was introduced, which would require all public school biology textbooks to have at least one chapter containing a critical analysis of the origins of life. The bill, opposed by the Science Teachers of Missouri, died in the Education Committee when the legislative session ended on 13 May 2005.
The Missouri legislative session has ended without action on two House Bills (HB 911 and 1722) that would have weakened science education. HB 911 would have mandated "the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design" in the public schools. The measure was less than favorably received by the House largely because it included provisions that "Willful neglect of any elementary or secondary school superintendent, principal, or teacher to observe and carry out the requirements of this section shall be cause for termination of his or her contract" and that "Each public school classroom in this state from grades eight through twelve in which science is taught exclusively shall post a copy of this section in a conspicuous manner." HB 1722 omitted these provisions but retained the "equal time" requirement. HB 1722 died in the House Education Committee.
Legislation, HB 911, which has been introduced in the Missouri General Assembly would require the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design. According to the official bill summary, "This bill prescribes definitions for the teaching of standard science in public elementary and secondary schools by distinguishing the differences between scientific law, scientific theory, and hypothesis and by requiring the equal treatment of viewpoints in written and orally presented material." Unlike many legislative threats to science education, HB 911 is a seven page document that includes a long list of proposed definitions of terms and concepts such as "analogous naturalistic process", "biological intelligent design", "destiny", and "extrapolated radiometric data". If passed into law, the legislation would require that "if scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught, biological evolution and biological intelligent shall be taught and given equal treatment." Moreover, textbook publishers would be required to certify that their books meet the requirements set forth in HB 911, and the Commissioner of Education would be required to post a list of suitable textbooks by January 1, 2006. Illustrating the political agenda underlying HB 911, the legislation would require the Commissioner of Education appoint a committee of "no fewer than five supporters of intelligent design who are knowledgeable about science to develop supplemental materials for interim use by September 1, 2005," according to a bill summary prepared by the General Assembly. Teachers failing to comply with the requirements of this legislation would be fired. Finally, according to the bill summary, "State-controlled testing must conform with the bill, and a copy of the bill must be posted in each eighth through twelfth grade public school classroom in which only science is taught. "
Science education advocates in Missouri are monitoring HB 911 to determine whether the legislation has adequate support in the legislature to move forward.
Montana's House Education Committee has tabled a measure that would "encourage critical thinking regarding controversial scientific theories" such as "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries."
House Bill 183 was discussed in the committee on 25 January 2012. According to the National Center for Science Education, over twenty people attended the hearing and spoke in opposition to the bill.
House Joint Resolution 21 was introduced by Representative Robin Hamilton (D-District 92) on 26 January 2007 in the Montana House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Education. The bill, very similar to SJR 8 that was introduced in 2005 but then later died in committee, supports "local adoption of a science curriculum that is based on sound scientific principles" and acknowledges the importance of the separation of church and state.
Senate Joint Resolution 8, a bill supporting the "separation of church and state and quality education," died on 1 March 2005 after receiving a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, but no vote. The resolution indicated the Senate's support for local school districts to implement curricula based on sound science.
A bill allowing schools to teach intelligent design/creationism (LC 1199) that was sponsored by Representative Roger Koopman (R-Bozeman) never completed the drafting process by the 1 March 2005 end of the legislative session.
In January, members of state legislatures returned to their capitols and began introducing legislation that reflects their policy priorities. Not surprisingly given the increased public profile of evolution education, legislators in many states have introduced measures that would require disclaimers be placed in textbooks, require that intelligent design/creationism be taught along side evolution, or requiring that science teachers 'teach the controversy.' A Montana State Senator from Helena introduced a resolution that, if passed, would communicate to local school districts that there is a separation of church and state clause in the Constitution and that school districts should teach students only sound science. Not to be outdone, a newly elected member of the Montana House, State Representative Roger Koopman (R-Bozeman), announced his intent to introduce legislation (LC 1199) that would allow schools to teach intelligent design/creationism.
Voters in the small Montana community of Darby turned out in force on Tuesday, May 4th to send a strong message to the school board - teach science in science classes. In the weeks leading up to the election, Darby gained national attention for the school board's preliminary approval of an 'objective origins science policy.' Science education advocates note that 'objective origins' is simply one of the new phrases used by creationism and intelligent design advocates. According to reports from the Ravalli Republic, the local newspaper, "voters flocked to the polls Tuesday to cast decisive votes." Incumbent Bob Wetzsteon and Erik Abrahamson, both opposed to the 'objective origins science policy' won seats on the board by a significant majority. The new school board should have adequate votes to effectively put an end to the proposed 'objective origins science policy.'
In the small community of Darby, the five member school board recently voted 3-2 to grant preliminary approval to a proposal to change school policy to include "objective origins" in the curriculum. The proposal emerged shortly after a local minister held a community meeting critical of evolution. As in other states, objective origins appears to be little more than code for intelligent design and/or creationism. This action coupled with other recent board practices has reportedly outraged a number of local citizens and caused real divisions in the community. A newly formed citizens group, Darby Taxpayers Against Court Costs, spearheaded a protest rally prior to the last school board meeting. A concern of the group is that the board's actions will ultimately lead to a lawsuit that will divert money away from education or other community services. The group's concerns may be realized if the board does not reverse its actions. On April 6, 2004, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, DC," sent a letter to Jack Eggensperger, superintendent of Darby School District 9, requesting copies of "all documents referring to or relating to any potential decision of the Darby School Board to teach theories of the origins of human life, including evolution, creationism, intelligent design or other 'objective origins' theories."
The "Truth in Science" initiative calling for a Nevada constitutional amendment that requires teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution in public schools was filed with the Secretary of State in February 2006. However, the initiative was withdrawn in June before the necessary 83,184 signatures for it to appear on the ballot in November 2006 were collected.
The House of Representatives recently defeated two anti-evolution bills.
HB 1148 was defeated in a vote of 280 to 7. The bill would have required the teaching of evolution as a "theory."
HB 1457 was defeated by voice vote. The 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."
Two bills have been introduced in the state legislature that would open the door to the teaching of creationism.
House Bill 1148, sponsored by freshman lawmaker Jerry Bergevin (R-District 17), would charge 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."
House Bill 1457, introduced by Gary Hopper (R-District 7) and freshman John Burt (R-District 7), would charge 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." Hopper told the Concord Monitor that he would like to see intelligent design taught in schools: "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."
Both bills are scheduled for hearing in the House Education Committee in mid-February 2012.
HB 302 died in committee when the New Mexico House of Representatives ended their legislative session. The bill would have allowed teachers to inform students about the "scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" scientific topics. The bill had previously been tabled by the House Education Committee.
The New Mexico House of Representatives Eduction Committee has voted to set aside consideration of HB 302. The bill would have allowed teachers to inform students about the "scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" scientific topics. In a 5 to 4 vote, the committee decided to table the bill, meaning that the bill will not advance in the legislature for the time being.
Legislation has been introduced in the New Mexico House of Representatives that would allow teachers to inform students about the "scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" scientific topics. House Bill 302 is sponsored by Thomas A. Anderson (R-District 29). The bill is similar to Senate Bill 433, which died in the 2009 legislative
In 2009, three antievolution bills were introduced in the state legislature, including Senate Bill (SB) 433. SB 433 would have required schools to allow teachers to inform students "about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to biological evolution or chemical evolution." It also would have protected teachers who chose to do so from potential consequences such as termination or reassignment. The bill died in committee when legislature adjourned in March 2009.
With the conclusion of the legislative session on 17 March 2007, the two remaining anti-evolution bills before the New Mexico Senate (SB 371, SJM 9) died. These bills were counterparts to the two House bills (HB 506, HJM 14) that died in committee earlier in the legislative session. If enacted SB 371 would have required the Public Education Department to adopt rules to allow teachers, when teaching a theory of biological origins, to provide "scientific information" about the strengths and weaknesses of a theory and would protect teachers from the consequences of doing so. Additionally, the rules required by the proposed bill would have encouraged students to critically analyze this "information" and come to their own conclusions on biological origins, again without any penalty for doing so.
Two identical bills, HB 506 and SB 371, were introduced to the State Legislature by Representative W. C. "Dub" Williams (R-District 56) and Senator Steve Komadina (R-District 9). The anti-evolution bills would require the Public Education Department to adopt rules to allow teachers, when teaching a theory of biological origins, to provide "scientific information" about the strengths and weaknesses of a theory and would protect teachers from the consequences of doing so. Additionally, the rules required by the proposed bills would encourage students to critically analyze this "information" and come to their own conclusions on biological origins, again without any penalty for doing so.
Representative Williams and Senator Komadina also introduced joint memorials to the House and Senate, HJM 14 and SJM 9. These joint memorials, if adopted by both houses of the legislature, would ask the Public Education Department to comply with the requirements of HB 506 and SB 371. Further, and unlike the proposed bills, HJM 14 and SJM 9 make explicit and suspicious statements regarding the authors' rationale for HB 506 and SB 371. For example, HJM 14 states that "teaching some aspects of evolutionary theory causes controversy" and that "many credentialed scientists challenge certain aspects of evolutionary theory."
Fortunately, the NM House Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to table HJM 14 after hearing it on Monday, 29 January 2007. The Albuquerque Journal (30 January 2007) reported, "Lawmakers said Monday's vote was a signal that the effort to inject intelligent design teaching into classrooms wouldn't get far." The House Education Committee similarly tabled HB 506 by an 8-4 vote on 21 February 2007. The Senate versions of HB 506 and HJM 14, SB 371 and SJM 9, remain active.
On 10 April 2006, the Rio Rancho school board voted to amend Science Policy 401, replacing language considered by some to promote teaching ID with language directly from state science standards. Science Policy 401 was originally adopted in August 2005 and received strong opposition from school district science teachers.
On August 28th the New Mexico State Board of Education adopted by a vote of 13-0 statewide science standards strongly supported by experts in science education. Throughout the process, proponents for the inclusion of alternative theories of evolution, particularly intelligent design, mounted a vigorous campaign to influence the process — their efforts were soundly defeated.
In June 2006, AB 8036, an antievolution bill that would have required students to receive instruction in "all aspects of the controversy surrounding evolution," died in committee.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 to uphold a lower court's decision of the termination of teacher John Freshwater. Freshwater, a middle school science teacher from Mount Vernon, Ohio, sued the school after he was terminated for displaying religious materials in class and burning religious symbols in the skin of some students.
The court rules that" "The trial court properly found that the record supports, by clear and convincing evidence, Freshwater's termination for insubordination in failing to comply with orders to remove religious materials from his classroom."
John Freshwater, a middle school science teacher from Mount Vernon, Ohio, has been terminated by the Mount Vernon City Schools Board of Education. The board decided in a 4 to 1 vote to terminate Freshwater's employment after accusations arose that Freshwater had displayed religious materials in class and burned religious symbols in the skin of some students. The decision came more than two years after the board began proceedings to fire him. Freshwater lost a lawsuit in December 2010 brought by a local family; in that case, a federal judge approved a settlement of almost half a million dollars to the family.
In November 2010, a judge approved a key part of a proposed settlement in Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al. The terms of the settlement include monetary retributions to be paid to the family filing the lawsuit against teacher John Freshwater to cover "mental pain and other damages suffered" as well as attorney fees for the plaintiffs. The lawsuit charged Freshwater had displayed religious materials in class, and burned religious symbols in the skin of some students. Freshwater was suspended without pay from the Mount Vernon School District in 2008, in part due to the lawsuit filed against him.
In Ohio, the John Freshwater saga continues. Freshwater, the eighth grade science teacher facing dismissal for allegedly preaching in the classroom, has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the Mount Vernon School Board, four district administrators, and several others involved in the 2008 federal lawsuit against him. Freshwater had been sued in June 2008 for allegedly bringing religion into school by posting the Ten Commandments and Bible verses in his classroom, branding crosses into students arms with an electrical device, and teaching creationism. The Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education has been involved in proceedings to terminate his employment since October 2008.
In December 2008, the Cincinnati Zoo removed a controversial package ticket deal with the nearby Creation Museum (in Kentucky) after receiving criticism about the partnership.
On 7 November 2006, voters in Ohio elected candidates who support science. Notably, in the Ohio Board of Education District 7 race, former U.S. Representative Tom Sawyer defeated incumbent Deborah Owens-Fink. Fink was a consistent and vocal supporter of anti-evolution measures, leading the campaign to introduce intelligent design/creationism into the Ohio science curriculum. Pro-science candidates also won races in three other Ohio Board of Education districts: District 2 - John Bender, District 4 - G. R. "Sam" Schloemer, District 8 - Deborah L. Cain. In the Ohio gubernatorial election, voters selected Democrat Ted Strickland. Strickland accepts evolution and opposes the teaching of intelligent design in the science classroom. This is another important victory for Ohio science education because the Governor appoints 8 of 19 members of the Board of Education.
In a suspicious act that appeared to circumvent the February 2006 decision by the Ohio Board of Education to remove the "Critical Analysis of Evolution" lesson plan and a corresponding indicator from the state science standards, the "Framework for Teaching Controversial Issues" was introduced in July 2006 and was supported by several board members. However, on 10 October 2006, the Board voted 14-3 to end discussion of these proposed teacher guidelines. Martha Wise, the board member who led the effort to defeat the "Critical Analysis" lesson plan in February, told the Columbus Dispatch, "It was time to move on."
Science supporters received a Valentine's Day present from the Ohio Board of Education. On 14 February 2006, the board overwhelmingly voted to remove a 2002 policy that encouraged public school students to "critically analyze" evolutionary theory. The defeat is a huge blow to anti-evolutionists who had often used the voluntary policy, which did not specifically mention intelligent design, as a model for other states looking to "teach the controversy."
The board that voted down the policy was also the same group that became the first in the nation to "scrutinize evolution" in their public education system. Members of the board that voted to remove the policy had been encouraged by the recent Dover, Pennsylvania federal court decision that ruled the teaching of intelligent design in public school science classrooms unconstitutional.
A plan to remove "Critical Analysis of Evolution" from Ohio's model science curriculum was defeated by the Ohio State Board of Education in January. The anti-evolution "Critical Analysis" lesson calls for students to be able to "describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The Board was previously forced to remove references to creationist publications, but the plan has not been fully scraped. Anti-creationists are hoping that the Board reverses its decision and removes the plan during their February meeting.
As previously reported in the March 15, 2004 AIBS Public Policy Report, the Ohio State Board of Education has approved a model science curriculum that includes a controversial lesson plan (L1OH23, "Critical Analysis of Evolution"). Science education advocates have noted that this lesson plan is little more than a method of introducing intelligent design into the public school science curriculum. On April 6, 2004, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, DC," filed freedom-of-information requests with education officials in Ohio to obtain detailed information about the decision to include the critical analysis provision in the state curriculum. According to an Americans United statement, the group is "investigating the Department of Education's approval of [the] lesson plan." The group has asked Ohio Superintendent of Instruction Susan Tave Zelman to provide copies of "all documents referring to or relating to" the development of the lesson plan. According to Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, "If officials are changing the public school curriculum to conform to religious dogma, that's clearly unconstitutional. Sound science education must not be sacrificed."
Seemingly missing the spotlight now enjoyed by Georgia, Missouri, Minnesota and Oklahoma, to name a few, Ohio has once again emerged as a player in the campaign to introduce creationism and intelligent design into public school science curricula. In February, with a vote of 13-4 the Ohio State Board of Education gave preliminary approval to a science model teaching guide that the Mansfield News Journal reports "includes a chapter titled 'Critical analysis of evolution' that recommends 10th graders debate several common critiques of the theory" of evolution. Critics of the model note that it includes references and links to creationist and intelligent design materials.
The conservative Christian organization, Focus on the Family, has issued a call to action. In an item in their CitizenLink, the organization contends "Fiercely protective pro-Darwinists are attempting to derail the new science standards before kids in the classroom ever reap the benefits of this dramatic change in policy." The organization has also issued an action alert to mobilize their forces in Ohio to contact members of the Board of Education by March 5th.
Despite criticisms that they are merely 'whining,' scientists, educators and concerned citizens across the state are coming together in their opposition to the proposed model. A letter from the State University Education Deans to the Ohio Board of Education notes that "Scientists and science educators among the faculty at Ohio's public institutions have shared with us a concern that Intelligent Design is creeping back into the Ohio science standards through the revised lesson plans recently posted on the Ohio Department of Education website and considered for adoption by the State Board." On February 26th, the Faculty Council of The Ohio State University resoundingly passed a resolution supporting "the removal of the 'critical analysis of evolution' module from the state's Model Curriculum, and "support[ing] the addition of new modules" aligned with state standards that "accurately reflect scientific issues in contemporary evolutionary biology." For more information about the status of the proposed lesson plans, visit the Ohio Citizens for Science website at www.ohioscience.org or contact the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org.
With the final draft of the Ohio Science Standards due to be delivered to the Ohio State Board of Education by the end of July, the battle to undermine the teaching of evolution has heated up with proposed new language that shaves three billion years off the age of biological life on earth and that omits any discussion of the origins of life. Proponents of the teaching of intelligent design disavowed any responsibility for the new attacks, which followed a meeting of a subset of the writing team, but supported the proposed changes because they favor the teaching of criticisms of evolutionary theory. Specifics of the proposed language were not immediately available, but it has been reported that the changes imply that life on earth appeared 1 billion years ago, rather than the 3.5 to 4 billion years that is widely accepted by scientists. The word "origins" has reportedly been deleted from the draft, prompting Ohio Academy of Sciences executive director Lynn Elfner to say, "We're reinventing the history of life on Earth, and for us that's a deal breaker." Ironically, proponents of the teaching of intelligent design, who disavowed any responsibility for the new attacks, are equally unhappy with the proposed changes, because there is no provision for the teaching of alternatives to evolution. Robert Lattimer, a chemist on the writing team and spokesman for the group known as Science Excellence for All Ohioans, continues to try to persuade the Ohio State Board of Education that "public opinion is strongly on our side," and vows to pursue the fight into the legislature and the courts. However, under Ohio law, the State Board of Education is not required to adopt standards, but can defer to local control. In fact, the State Board of Education did just that with the health standards, when battles about sex education broke out.
AIBS has e-mailed Ohio biology faculty members throughout the state, with sample letters and contact info for all members of the Ohio State Board of Education; we've already sent letters to the Ohio Department of Education pertaining to the second draft of the science standards with regard to the evolution issue. This past week, AIBS President Gene Likens wrote to the Ohio State Board of Education, urging them to uphold the highest science standards. AIBS Education Representative Cathy Lundmark has arranged to have Randy Moore, Editor of the National Association of Biology Teachers' journal, American Biology Teacher, lead a formal review of the final draft standards that are expected to go to the Ohio State Board of Education later this summer.
On June 10, the Ohio State Board of Education will again consider the inclusion of "intelligent design" in the state's science standards, which are currently undergoing revision. This third hearing is likely to be the last before the Board begins its formal assessment of the draft standards, which were drafted by a writing team of scientists in the Ohio Department of Education. At this point, the draft standards make no mention of intelligent design or "alternative" ideas about the origin of the earth and of species. A preliminary AIBS review of the draft standards found that they conform closely to the standards established by the National Academies of Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Cathy Lundmark, AIBS Education Representative, has suggested reviewers to the Ohio Department of Education for a more formal review, which AIBS has offered to coordinate. The Board could require the Department of Education to include "intelligent design" in the new standards, but have refrained from doing so up to this point, despite persistent pressure from ID supporters and despite a recent letter from U.S. congressmen John Boehner and Steve Chabot, claiming that the notorious Santorum language in the "No Child Left Behind Act" supports the notion of teaching science by debate or "teach the controversy."
As scientific societies predicted last year, proponents of the effort to persuade the Ohio State Board of Education to include intelligent design concepts, or language that would promote the teaching of such concepts, into the Ohio State Science Standards, have been relying on the Santorum amendment for support. Indeed, Santorum himself entered the fray with a March 14 editorial in the Washington Times, implying that Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), the sponsor of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed into law late last year, supported the teaching of intelligent design. Scientific societies that opposed the Santorum amendment, which was ultimately removed from the actual bill and relocated to "report language" that does not have the force of law, warned Kennedy staffers that this would happen. Kennedy has now been forced to state publicly that Santorum (R-PA) erroneously suggested that Kennedy supports the teaching of "intelligent design" as an alternative to biological evolution. In a letter to the Washington Times, responding to an editorial by Santorum, Kennedy wrote, "That simply is not true. Rather, I believe that public school science classes should focus on teaching students how to understand and critically analyze genuine scientific theories." Going one remarkable step further, Kennedy wrote, "Unlike biological evolution, 'intelligent design' is not a genuine scientific theory and, therefore, has no place in the curriculum of our nation's public school science classes."
Meanwhile, the Ohio State Board of Education heard from scientists at a 11 March 2002 hearing to gather information on whether "intelligent design" ought to be part of the science curriculum in Ohio schools as a counter to evolution. "The question of whether there is a divine intelligence behind creation of the universe is not a question that science can address," said Case Western Reserve University physicist Lawrence Krauss. According to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "It is, however, the question that proponents of intelligent design think science should address."
Proponents of the teaching of intelligent design insisted there is scientific controversy about the theory of evolution, although, the Plain Dealer said, "evidence suggests it is largely because they say there is." The intelligent design supports argued for a compromise — they don't oppose the teaching of evolution, but want students to hear about intelligent design. Characterizing intelligent design as "fun and exciting," they told Board of Education members that, "Your voters overwhelmingly favor this."
The Board of Education will vote later this year on the standards prepared by the Ohio State science supervisors, with input from an advisory panel of experts. Those standards are considered by scientific experts to have strong, scientifically-acceptable standards for the teaching of evolution. Reportedly, at least one-third of the Board of Education members favor the inclusion of intelligent design concepts.
On January 13, the Ohio State Board of Education subcommittee on standards considered a proposal to have an alternative set of science standards developed that would include intelligent design concepts. Elected Board member Michael Cochran requested that the Ohio Department of Education staff produce this alternative draft. Ohio University physiology instructor Steve Edinger attended the meeting, and reported that there were some heated exchanges. One staff member said that if the Board forced the [standards] writing team to insert intelligent design, the entire writing staff would probably resign. Cochran opined that the writing team and the standards committee is "of a homogeneous view" on evolution and is upset that "a diversity of views and opinions" are not represented in the writing and standards committees. Owens-Fink tried to generate confusion about what the word "evolution" means, saying that the term has seven different meanings in the standards. She also argued that, "I do not want to see the whole standards movement derailed by disagreement over one issue." Edinger reported that it appeared there were four or five members who were ready to vote for requiring a draft of alternative standards so both can be considered. On January 16, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that State Board of Education members will "get a cram course on evolution and creationism before establishing science standards for Ohio's children." The Board's standards committee agreed to invite national experts on the topics to a March meeting to help determine whether the science standards should include alternative theories of how human beings came to exist. According to the Plain Dealer, the committee's decision to examine information on alternative theories to evolution could place the board in conflict with the advisory panel of experts charged with helping to frame the proposal. Members of the advisory panel, appointed last year by the state Education Department, have said they have a strong consensus that evolution should stand as the state's standard for explaining life on Earth. When Board member Owens-Fink was told by a member of the advisory panel, which was appointed by the Ohio Department of Education, that there was no common ground on this issue, she suggested that the membership of the advisory group should be changed. The standards committee will meet next on Feb. 4 to talk more about the proposed standards. Later next month, the committee will receive legal opinions relevant to the inclusion of the intelligent design theory in science content standards.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill that would encourage science teachers to assess the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. House Bill 1674 passed with 79 votes in favor and 6 against.
The bill was then referred to the Senate Education Committee, where it died when the committee did not take action prior to a legislative deadline. A similar bill died in the Senate Education Committee earlier in the legislative session.
A bill sponsored by Senator Josh Brecheen (R-District 6) that would have encouraged science teachers to assess the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories died in the Senate Education Committee. The bill was not acted upon prior to the Senate deadline for legislation to pass out of committee.
On 10 February 2014, AIBS sent a letter to the members of the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee in opposition to the "Oklahoma Science Education Act." The bill would encourage science teachers to assess the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. Many view the bill as a way to introduce creationism into the science classroom. Read the letter from AIBS at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20140210_ok_science_ed_act.html.
Senator Josh Brecheen (R-District 6) has reintroduced a bill that would encourage science teachers to assess the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. Senate Bill 1765 is Brecheen's third bill in as many legislative sessions on the topic.
Senate Bill 758 died in committee on 25 February 2013. The Senate Education Committee adjourned on that date without considering the legislation.
AIBS wrote to the members of the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee about SB 758, the Oklahoma Science Education Act. The letter urges the committee to oppose the bill.
Read the full letter at www.aibs.org/position-statements/20130206_ok_education.html.
SB 758 would require science teachers to help students evaluate the scientific strengths and weaknesses of "existing scientific theories." Although evolution and climate change are not directly mentioned in the legislation, the bill is similar to efforts in other states to introduce creationism into the classroom.
The bill is sponsored by Oklahoma State Senator Brecheen. Senator Brecheen previously sponsored legislation to weaken the teaching of evolution in Oklahoma. In 2010, he wrote in the Durant Daily Democrat about a bill he sponsored: "I have introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which conflicts with Darwin's religion."
SB 758 could be considered by the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee as soon as 11 February 2013.
Legislative prospects for HB 1551 have died after the Senate Education Committee failed to act on the bill before the deadline of 5 April 2012. The bill would have encouraged teachers to present the strengths and weakness of "controversial" topics, including evolution and climate change. The bill passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on 16 March 2012.
AIBS sent a letter to Oklahoma Senate leaders in opposition to HB 1551. If enacted, the bill would encourage teachers to present the strengths and weakness of "controversial" topics, including evolution and climate change. The bill passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on 16 March 2012.
A second anti-evolution bill that was pending in the Senate died in committee in early March.
Read the letter from AIBS at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20120320_oklahoma_evolution.html.
A bill that would have enabled the teaching of creationism in schools has no further prospects for this session. Senate Bill 1742 died in committee, when the deadline passed for bills in the Senate to be reported from their committees. SB 1742 was modeled on the Louisiana Science Education Act. The bill was sponsored by Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who sponsored a similar measure last year.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives Common Education Committee approved legislation on 21 February 2012 that would encourage teachers to present the strengths and weakness of "controversial" topics, including evolution and climate change. The bill, HB 1551, was approved in a 9-7 vote by the committee.
HB 1551 was introduced in 2011 by Rep. Sally Kern (R-District 84). Although the bill was rejected by the House Education Committee last year, the bill could be resurrected by request. Rep. Gus Blackwell (R-District 61) made such a request this month, opening the door to the committee's reconsideration of the legislation.
Senate Bill 554 has died in the Oklahoma state Senate. The bill, sponsored by Senator Josh Becheen (R-District 6), was not reported from committee by the chamber's deadline of 28 February. If enacted the bill would have supported "academic freedom" for teachers who wish to inform students about the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including evolution.
The Oklahoma House Common Education Committee rejected a bill that would have required state and local educational authorities to assist science teachers in presenting scientific controversies such as evolution and climate change. The bill, House Bill 1551, would have also permitted teachers to help students to analyze and critique the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. HB 1551 was rejected in a 7 to 9 vote. The bill's sponsor, Sally Kern (R-District 84), could bring the measure back up in committee later in the legislative session.
Two bills have been introduced in the Oklahoma legislature regarding the teaching of evolution.
The Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act (House Bill 1551) is sponsored by Sally Kern (R-District 84), a persistent sponsor of anti-evolution legislation in Oklahoma. She has previously sponsored legislation calling for "academic freedom" with respect to "biological or chemical origins of life." That bill passed the House by a vote of 77-10 in March 2006. According to the National Center for Science Education, if enacted, H.B. 1551 would require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught." The only topics specifically mentioned as controversial are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
The other bill introduced in Oklahoma is Senate Bill 554, sponsored by Josh Brecheen (R-District 6). If enacted the bill would support "academic freedom" for teachers who wish to inform students about the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including evolution. The bill would also require the state board of education to adopt standards and curricula that are very similar to standards the Texas board of education rejected in 2009 for its high school biology courses.
Two resolutions (HR 1014 and HR 1015) targeted the University of Oklahoma for inviting Richard Dawkins to speak on campus in March 2009. Both resolutions died after Dawkins spoke during the University's celebration of Darwin's 150th anniversary of his publication, "On the Origin of Species."
The Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act or Senate Bill 320, died in committee on 16 February 2009. It would have required state and local educational authorities to help teachers "find more effective ways to present scientific curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies." The only topics specifically mentioned as controversial were "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
In Oklahoma, the former “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” (HB 2211) was resurrected by its supporters in the form of a Senate amendment to HB 2633, an act related to the schools. The amended measure passed the House 12 May 2008 by a 70 to 28 vote and has been sent to Governor Brad Henry for his signature. AIBS and one of its member organizations, the Animal Behavior Society, wrote to the Governor expressing serious concern about the amendment and urged him to veto the bill because contains the onerous provision (http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20080506aibswrites_let.html).
In Oklahoma, the "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act" (HB 2211) has been resurrected by its supporters in the form of a Senate amendment to HB 2633, an act related to the schools. The legislation in its original form died in the Senate Rules Committee on 2 April 2008 (http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/2008_04_14.html). Science education advocates in Oklahoma report that HB 2633 should pass the House before the legislature's scheduled adjournment 23 May since HB 2211 originally passed the House by a 71- 25 vote. In anticipation of the legislation arriving on Governor Brad Henry's desk, AIBS wrote to the Governor expressing serious concern about the amendment and urging him to veto the bill if it contains the onerous provision (http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20080506_aibs_writes_let.html).
The “Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” (HB 2211) died in the Oklahoma State Senate Rules Committee on 2 April. This legislation, similar to a measure in Texas, would have allowed non-scientific concepts, such as creationism and intelligent design, to be taught as though they represent accepted scientific principles and would have required teachers to accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena in class assignments. Science education advocates in Oklahoma reported that the Rules Committee received a large number of letters and calls opposing the measure, including a letter from AIBS (www.aibs.org/position-statements/).
AIBS recently wrote to members of the Rules Committee of the Oklahoma State Senate to express serious concerns with HB 2211, the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. If enacted, the legislation would have serious negative consequences on education, including science education, in Oklahoma.
Like legislation signed into law in Texas by Governor Perry (R) in June 2007, the so-called "academic freedom" bill now moving through the Oklahoma legislature would explicitly permit public school students to express religious viewpoints and beliefs in classroom assignments and public events where student speakers are permitted.
"HB 2211 grants permission to individuals with specific, narrow religious agendas to disrupt the teaching of evolutionary science in Oklahoma public school classrooms. This legislation would allow non-scientific concepts, such as creationism and "intelligent design," to be taught as though they represented accepted scientific principles, which they are not. To require that teachers accept non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena is counter to quality science education. Further, it risks setting the students of Oklahoma well behind their national and international counterparts."
HB 2211 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on 13 March 2008 by a 71-25 vote. It was assigned to the Senate Rules Committee, rather than the Education Committee, and must be reported out of the Committee by 2 April 2008 or it will be considered 'dead.'
Science education advocates in Oklahoma report that the Rules Committee has received a large number of letters and calls opposing the measure. However, they remain concerned that Republican members of the committee could use a special loophole to advance the bill or that it could re-appear as an amendment to other legislation.
The AIBS letter can be viewed at: http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/
During the 2006 legislative session, four anti-evolution bills were introduced to the Oklahoma state legislature, H.B. 2107, H.B. 2526, H.C.R. 1043, and S.B. 1959. H.B. 2107, "The Academic Freedom Act," which fully supported the "teach the controversy" approach to evolution education, was the only bill to pass the House of Representatives, by a 77-10 vote, on 2 March 2006. However, all four bills eventually died at the end of the legislative session, 26 May 2006.
In January 2006, three anti-evolution bills were introduced: S.B. 1959, H.B. 2107, and H.B. 2526. Two of the bills are designed to allow teachers to introduce alternative theories to evolution. H.B. 2526 would authorize school districts to include "intelligent design" in "any public school instruction concerning the theories of the origin of man and the earth which includes the theory commonly known as evolution."
On 7 July the Tulsa, Oklahoma Park and Recreation Board reversed its decision to add a creationist exhibit at the Tulsa Zoo. In June, the board voted 3-1 to accept a plan to add a zoo display portraying the biblical account of creation. Residents showed up in droves to both support and oppose the measure, creating a "standing-room-only crowd," according to USA Today.
Critics such as zoo employees argued that religion should not be a part of a taxpayer-funded scientific institution. But proponents, including Mayor Bill LaFortune (R), pointed to other zoo displays with religious elements, such as a Hindu elephant statue that is part of an exhibit on elephant images in different cultures. One month after the board's initial vote, perhaps reeling from national coverage of the decision, the board voted 3-1 to scrap plans for the creationist exhibit. The lone dissenter was LaFortune, who advised the formation of a committee to examine other religious symbols at the zoo. The board took no action on the mayor's suggestion.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed legislation, HB 2194, which would require the inclusion of a disclaimer in science textbooks. HB 2194 as introduced provided a mechanism for the state to purchase Braille and electronic format materials for blind and low vision students, bringing the state into compliance with federal education requirements. However, the legislation was amended by State Representative Bill Graves (R-Oklahoma City), a perennial champion of creationism. Education advocates in Oklahoma suspect that many members of the Oklahoma State House were unaware that Rep. Graves' textbook disclaimer provision, which has repeatedly been defeated in recent years, had been inserted into the legislation. The disclaimer closely resembles the one used in Alabama from 1996-2001. Specifically, Section 2 of the passed version of HB 2194 would establish a new law requiring that all textbooks used by school districts in the state in which evolution is discussed shall include the following disclaimer: "This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory which some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants and humans. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact. The word evolution may refer to many types of changes. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species, for example, white moths may evolve into gray moths. This process is microevolution which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing to another, such as reptiles into birds. This process, called macroevolution has never been observed and should be considered a theory. Evolution also refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things." "There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including: Why did the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil record, known as the Cambrian Explosion? Why have no new major groups of living things appeared in the fossil record in a long time? Why do major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record? How did you and all living things come to possess such a complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body?" "Study hard and keep an open mind. Someday you may contribute to the theories of how living things appeared on earth." According to the legislation, the State Textbook Committee "shall determine which textbooks shall include the disclaimer" and if the disclaimer is not included by the publisher the Committee shall ensure the inclusion of the disclaimer in books approved for use in public schools. Furthermore, the legislation includes provisions that were removed from legislation in the State Senate, SB 894, which would enable local districts to adopt textbooks not on the statewide approval list, and require that the state pay for up to 25 percent of the cost of these unapproved textbooks. This provision increases the potential that books which include intelligent design, young-Earth creationism, or other concepts lacking scientific credibility could be adopted by school districts in Oklahoma. Science education advocates in Oklahoma are working to inform members of the State Senate about the negative impacts of the disclaimer provision now in HB 2194 and to encourage them not to support legislation that includes these provisions.
According to Victor Hutchison, the Oklahoma node manager in the AIBS/National Center for Science Education Evolution-L List Serve Network, legislation (SB 894) that would allow local school district textbook committees to select textbooks that are not on the approved state list has been introduced in the Oklahoma State Senate. SB 894 would allow for 20 percent of the state funds given to the districts to purchase approved textbooks to be used to purchase these unapproved books. Currently, districts may not use state funds to purchase unapproved textbooks. Because previous legislative attempts to eliminate evolution or introduce religious concepts into science textbooks have failed, SB 894 represents a new approach to introducing non-scientific content into textbooks. In addition to enabling local school systems to purchase science textbooks that include unaccepted explanations for evolution, the legislation would enable school systems to purchase textbooks in other subjects (e.g., social studies) that include religious or political ideology.
In reality, the legislation may represent an attempt by a broader coalition of generally conservative groups that are dissatisfied with the state of public education. On 12 January 2004, the Cato Institute — a non-profit Washington, DC-based libertarian think tank — held a policy forum entitled "A Textbook Problem: The Politics of Textbook Adoption." Forum speakers included Diane Ravitch the author of "The Language Police," Frank Wang the former president and CEO of Saxon Publishers and now a mathematics instructor in Oklahoma, and Stephen Driesler of the Association of American Publishers. All panelists generally identified problems or frustrations with the current textbook adoption process, particularly in the 21 states that have a state-level process for identifying textbooks the state will help school systems purchase. However, Driesler generally contended that while the current system is challenging it generally works. Ravitch correctly noted that the textbook adoption process has become hyper-politicized. Political interest groups from the left and right have pressured states and thus publishers to alter the content of textbooks. Ravitch and Wang criticized the state adoption process and proposed that this level of government involvement is not necessary and impedes schools from selecting the best books for their community. In general, Ravitch and Wang suggested that local schoolteachers should be empowered to select textbooks. While this idea conforms to the Cato Institute's philosophy of less government and utilizing market pressure to ensure quality, many teachers, parents, and science education advocates express concern with such proposals. For example, teachers in some communities may select weak or incomplete textbooks to avoid harassment and pressure from interest groups within their community.
The Cato Institute's Policy Forum may be viewed or listened to online at http://www.cato.org/events/040112pf.html.
As the Oklahoma State Legislature nears the end of its term, creationist forces have again employed stealth tactics in an effort to amend education-related legislation moving through the State House. The proposed amendment would require "evolution disclaimers" on all textbooks that mention evolution. It is not yet clear if the creationists have the votes to pass their amendment. Earlier this year, the measure was introduced in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives but was killed in committee. A similar effort was beaten back two years ago by a broad coalition of Oklahoma science education advocates. Evolution education supporters in Oklahoma may wish to subscribe to the Oklahoma node of the AIBS/NCSE Evolution List Serve Network to keep appraised of the latest developments. For information about the Oklahoma list serve visit www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html.
In Pennsylvania on 7 November 2006, with 59 percent of the vote, Democrat Bob Casey defeated incumbent Senator Rick Santorum (R). Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, was a powerful and influential supporter of the "intelligent design" movement. Santorum attempted to amend the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 to permit the teaching of religious alternatives to evolution in the science curriculum. Santorum was also on the advisory board to the legal group that defended the Dover school board in the landmark case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, in 2005.
On 20 December the biological science community received its own holiday gift: Judge John E. Jones III ruled in favor of the parents in Dover, PA, who sought to prevent the incorporation of intelligent design into science lessons on evolution.
Last year, the Dover Area School District added intelligent design to its science curriculum and mandated that teachers read a statement referring students to a creationist/ID textbook. Eleven parents then filed suit in federal district court against the school district on the grounds that the Dover policy violated the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. In November, Dover citizens voted to oust all eight school board members up for reelection.
Jones' strongly worded opinion was a boon to scientists. Excerpts are below.
On intelligent design: "ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community."
On the school board: "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom. ... The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."
The decision in a nutshell: "The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."
A link to the full opinion is at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/051220_biologists_appla.html
The intelligent design trial in Harrisburg, PA, moved a step closer to resolution on Friday, November 4, when both sides presented their closing arguments. The non-jury trial now goes before U.S. District Judge John Jones, III, who hopes to decide the case by year's end. Both sides are planning to appeal if they lose.
During plaintiff's closing arguments, attorney Eric Rothschild characterized intelligent design (ID) as a repackaging of creationism. Over the course of the trial, Rothschild has called several expert witnesses who described the clear development of creationism into ID. Later in his closing arguments, Rothschild returned to the most controversial testimony of the trial — defense witness William Buckingham. Buckingham, a former board member who strongly supports the teaching of ID in Dover schools, testified that he was a "deer caught in headlights" when he "mistakenly" was captured on video saying "it's OK to teach Darwin, but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism." Throughout his testimony Buckingham contradicted his deposition statements numerous times on issues ranging from his statements before the board to his raising money from his local church to purchase the ID textbook "Of Pandas and People." Rothschild strongly encouraged the court to disregard Buckingham's excuses because "that was no deer in the headlights...that deer was wearing shades and was totally at ease."
During defense's closing argument, attorney Patrick Gillen explained ID as "the next great paradigm shift in science" and "a legitimate educational objective." According to Gillen, the school board members' concern was to counteract "science taught as dogma." The defense has called witnesses such as sociology professor Steve Fuller, who called the scientific community a monolith that was unreceptive to emerging theories such as ID.
In other courtroom developments, on October 24 Judge Jones struck a brief filed by the Discovery Institute on behalf of the Dover Area School District. The plaintiffs argued that the brief included statements from William Dembski, an expert witness who decided not to testify in the Dover trial. Dembski, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, withdrew from the trial at the last minute, along with another Discovery Institute fellow Stephen Meyer. Some have speculated that their withdrawal was a move on the part of the Discovery Institute to shield itself from blame if the defense loses the Dover case.
The Dover Intelligent Design trial continues in Harrisburg, PA this week after the defense began calling its first witnesses on 17 October. Before the plaintiffs rested their case, the court heard testimony from expert witnesses Barbara Forrest, Professor of Philosophy, Southeastern Louisiana University; Brian Alters, Associate Professor of Education, McGill University; Kevin Padian, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley; and Kenneth Miller, Professor of Biology, Brown University. In addition, science teachers and members of the school board also testified.
The defense called its first witness on 10 October. Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry, Lehigh University, and author of "Darwin's Black Box," was the first witness for the defense. According to reports, Behe attempted to argue that there is a scientific basis to ID and that it is simply misunderstood by many academics. During cross examination, Behe was asked if he was aware of the Lehigh University Department of Biology's statement that explained, "While we respect Professor Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective decision that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific." The defense continues its case this week.
In other news, the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank, recently convened a forum entitled "Science Wars: Should Schools Teach Intelligent Design?" The event featured expert witnesses Kenneth Miller and Barbara Forrest as well as lead defense counsel, Richard Thompson of the Thomas Moore Law Center, and Mark Ryland, Director of the Discovery Institute's Washington, DC office. Thompson and Ryland are advocates for intelligent design. While the event unfolded rather smoothly with proponents and opponents of ID stating their positions, a disagreement between Thompson and Ryland surfaced. When asked to explain why three Discovery Institute representatives withdrew themselves as expert witnesses in the Dover case, Ryland responded, "The Discovery Institute never set out to have schools get into this issue...we have unfortunately gotten sucked into it because of our expertise in this issue...as far as I know, there was no institutional decision made one way or the other."
Thompson quickly quoted a Discovery Institute book, "Intelligent Design and Public School Science Curriculum" which states that "school boards have the ability to permit and even encourage the teaching of design theory...this includes the use of textbooks such as 'Of Pandas and People.'" When it came time to have the Discovery Institute representatives testify, Thompson explained, "they wanted their own attorneys to consult with for objections...that caused us some concern about where was the heart of the Discovery Institute. Was it really something of a tactical decision? Was it the strategy they'd been using? In Ohio and other places they push the school board to go in with Intelligent Design and as soon as there was a controversy they back out for a compromise."
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania the Kitzmiller v. Dover case completed its second week of the closely watched Intelligent Design trial. The Plaintiff's Counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, have presented a number of witnesses who have studied Intelligent Design and concluded that it is a religious movement based originally on Creationism. The Defense has not yet called a witness to the stand, but has been aggressively cross examining the Plaintiff's witnesses. The trial resumes Tuesday, October 11 after the holiday weekend.
For more information on the Dover case please see the AIBS Public Policy Report from 26 September, http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/public-policy-reports-2005_09_26.html.
The long anticipated court case of Kitzmiller v. Dover is set to go to trial on Monday, 26 September 2005. The case has drawn widespread national attention because it represents the first legal challenge to intelligent design/creationism.
A judge in the Dover, PA case brought by parents seeking to reverse the school board's pro-intelligent design policy denied standing to the Foundation for Thought and Ethics--publisher of the intelligent-design textbook "Of Pandas and People". FTE failed to convince Judge John E. Jones III that it had a financial stake that necessitated its participation in the case. According to some sources, FTE sought to gain standing by arguing that it is not a religious organization in nature and that educators would not purchase its publication if the book were determined to be religious rather than scientific.
In Pennsylvania a House education subcommittee held hearings on 20 June on a bill that would allow local school boards to include intelligent design in their science curricula. Detractors of the bill included the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Observers are uncertain about the bill's prospects; so far it has not moved on to the full education committee.
On 16 March 2005, Pennsylvania joined the list of states where intelligent design/creationism legislation has been introduced into the state legislature. House Bill (HB) 1007 was introduced into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by State Rep. Creighton (R-District 37, Lancaster County) and cosponsored by 11 other Republican State Representatives generally representing districts from spanning the southern half of the state. Science education advocates throughout Pennsylvania have quickly organized to oppose the measure, which was referred to the House education committee. If enacted, HB 1007 would add a section on "Teaching Theories on the Origin of Man and Earth" to the Public School Code of 1949. According to an analysis by the National Center for Science Education's Nick Matzke, this section would enable school boards to "add 'intelligent design' to any curriculum containing evolution and allow teachers to use, subject to the approval of the board, 'supporting evidence deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of intelligent design." For more information on efforts to combat this and other threats to science education in Pennsylvania, consider joining the Pennsylvania node of the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network.
In January, members of state legislatures returned to their capitols and began introducing legislation that reflects their policy priorities. Not surprisingly given the increased public profile of evolution education, legislators in many states have introduced measures that would require disclaimers be placed in textbooks, require that intelligent design/creationism be taught along side evolution, or requiring that science teachers 'teach the controversy.' The challenges in Dover, Pennsylvania are far from over. Following the school board's decision to approve the teaching of intelligent design/creationism, local parents in conjunction with national organizations filed a lawsuit against the school district. Meanwhile, the school district prepared a four-paragraph long disclaimer statement that high school biology teachers were to read to their classes prior to beginning a unit on evolution. In short, citing their obligation under the state's Code of Professional Conduct and their professional and "solemn responsibility to teach the truth" the district's biology teachers sent a letter to their administrators refusing to read the disclaimer statement. The statement was, however, read before each class by a school administrator.
As reported in the 6 December 2004 AIBS Public Policy Report, the Dover (PA) Area School Board has amended the school district's science curriculum to include intelligent design/creationism. Not surprisingly, a number of local parents have expressed their dissatisfaction with the school board's decision. Because the school board was unwilling to reverse its position, 11 local parents have filled a federal lawsuit against the district. The lawsuit was filed in Federal district court on 14 December 2004 on behalf of the parents by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and attorneys with Pepper Hamilton LLP. In part, the parents argue that presenting intelligent design in public school science classrooms violates their religious liberty by promoting particular religious beliefs to their children under the guise of science education. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, states "There is an evolving attack underway on sound science education, and the school board's action in Dover is part of that misguided crusade. 'Intelligent design' has about as much to do with science as reality television has to do with reality."
In October the Dover (PA) Area School Board adopted a resolution reading "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design." Passage of the resolution coincided with an outside entity donating 50 copies of the pro-intelligent design book, "Of Pandas and People." Since the board's adoption of this curriculum requirement, tension in the small community has increased. A number of local citizens have contacted civil liberties organizations to evaluate potential lawsuits against the district. Meanwhile, the district's science teachers are struggling to understand the ramifications of the policy. Bill Miller, a union spokesman for the Dover Area Education Association told the York Daily Record that teachers were confused and frustrated by the lack of guidance as to how they are supposed to implement the resolution. The school district promised to eventually develop guidelines in cooperation with the teachers; however, Miller said that the union would not do so: "If we have any directional discussions with the administration on how to answer these questions, it implies that we are cooperating on the issue," he told the York Daily Record. Miller went on to note that, "If given a direction by the administration, we will not be insubordinate. But they must be the ones to say how we answer the students in this area." Miller also made it clear that reports that teachers helped craft resolution language are inaccurate.
Meanwhile, a recent front page article in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted the Dover intelligent design/creationism situation. In the article, Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, noted that the Dover case is emblematic of a broader national trend: "There is a new energy as a result of the last election, and I anticipate an even busier couple of years coming on." Scott further noted that while proponents of intelligent design/creationism usually maintain a strategic silence on the identity of the intelligent designer, it is not the case in Dover. The article reported, "supporters of the new curriculum in this religiously conservative slice of rural Pennsylvania say they know exactly who the intelligent designer is." A contention supported by a local resident who was quoted in an Associated Press article stating that anyone that opposes intelligent design is "taking a stand against God."
On October 18, 2004, the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania amended its science curriculum to include, "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught." The curriculum change was spearheaded by board member and creationism advocate, William Buckingham, and approved over the objections of science teachers, school administrators, and 11 of 12 parents that testified at the board meeting. Buckingham's crusade to include alternatives to "Darwin's Theory" is seemingly the result of a request by Dover science teachers to adopt the 2002 edition of Kenneth R. Miller and Joseph Levine's "Biology: The Living Science." Buckingham, who chairs the board's curriculum committee, reportedly complained that the Miller and Levine book focused on "Darwinism" and vowed to adopt a textbook in which both evolution and creationism are presented. Citizens and other board members that expressed a concern that such a book is illegal and would result in the school district being drawn into a costly lawsuit did not dissuade Buckingham.
A number of local citizens are working to reverse the board's recent actions. Scientists and educators that live in or have friends and family in or near the Dover, PA area and wish to become involved with efforts to reverse the Board's decision should contact Nick Matzke at the National Center for Science Education. Pennsylvania residents interested in this and other threats to science education in Pennsylvania may wish to join the AIBS/NCSE Pennsylvania State Evolution List Serve.
A seemingly innocuous bill to designate the woolly mammoth as the official state fossil of South Carolina was rejected by the House of Representatives. The bill gained some unwelcome amendments during consideration by the Senate, including a provision that referred to the sixth day of creation.
HB 4482 was amended by Senator Kevin Bryant (R-District 3), who sought to add "as created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field" after each instance of "mammoth." Another amendment established a moratorium on new state symbols and emblems. The amended bill passed the Senate on 2 April 2014 in a 35-0 vote.
When the bill returned to the House for consideration, it was rejected.
The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee avoided the issue of evolution in the new science standards it approved for the 2014-2015 school year.
The clause in question reads: "Conceptual Understanding: Biological evolution occurs primarily when natural selection acts on the genetic variation in a population and changes the distribution of traits in that population over multiple generations."
Committee member Mike Fair led the charge to leave out the teaching of evolution. "To teach that natural selection is the answer to origins is wrong," Fair said. "I don't have a problem with teaching theories. I don't think it should be taught as fact."
The state board of education approved the standards in January 2014. The board and Education Oversight Committee must agree on the standards in order for them to go into effect.
In South Carolina, Senate Bill 873 was introduced on 21 May 2009. This bill, if enacted, would require the state board of education to review all science curricula for neutrality towards religion to ensure that it does not show preference for "those who believe in no religion over those who hold religious beliefs." The sponsor of the bill, Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6), has previously sponsored bills that would support the teaching of intelligent design in science courses.
Two antievolution bills, Senate Bill 873 and Senate Bill 875, died in committee on 10 June 2010. SB 875 was an "academic freedom" bill that would require educators to "help students understand, analyze, critique and review...the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories." SB 873 was unique in that it would have required the state board of education to "examine all curriculum in use in this state that purports to teach students about the origins of mankind to determine whether the curriculum maintains neutrality toward religion."
In South Carolina, SB 1386, another so-called "academic freedom" bill aimed at undermining the teaching of evolution, was introduced 15 May 2008 in the state Senate. The bill singles out biological and chemical evolution as a controversial subject and encourages critical analyses of its strengths and weaknesses. Its lead sponsor, Senator Michael Fair (R-District 6), previously spearheaded other anti-evolution legislative efforts and led an attack on evolution in the state science standards. With the legislative session due to end 5 June, it is unlikely the bill will receive a reading. However, the Greenville News reported last week that Fair "hopes it starts a debate that will carry over next year, when he plans to re-introduce the bill.
On 12 June 2006, the state Education Oversight Committee (EOC) finally approved new state science standards that include a "critical analysis" indicator in the evolution section. This vote occurred seven months after the South Carolina Board of Education approved the standards (November 2005). The "critical analysis" indicator in the evolution standard includes language that could allow the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in the science classroom. The new standards will take effect in August 2007.
On 8 March 2006 the South Carolina Board of Education voted 11-6 to reject an anti-evolution proposal from the state Education Oversight Committee (EOC). The EOC proposal would have required teachers to include a "critical analysis" of evolution in their lesson plans. Science education experts say that such language has emerged as one of intelligent design/creationism proponents' main strategies in the wake of the Dover, Pennsylvania verdict, that prevented the inclusion of intelligent design in a science curriculum. [See the 1 January 2006 Public Policy Report at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/2006_01_01.html for more information on the Dover decision.]
According to the National Center for Science Education, the EOC cannot now revise the state's science standards, but it still has the power to approve or reject the standards as a whole. If the EOC and the Board cannot agree on new standards, the state will continue to use the current standards. South Carolina residents interested in learning more about these standards should contact South Carolinians for Science Education (http://www.sc-scied.org/EE/index.php).
On 24 January, a hearing was held in the Academic Standards and Assessments Subcommittee of the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee (EOC) to assess four sentences addressing evolution in the state's science standards. Anti-evolutionists, lead by state Senator Mike Fair (R), had pushed to have the sentences rewritten to allow for students to question evolution in public schools. After hearing testimony from two scientists opposed to the new language and two others who supported critical analysis of evolution, the panel ultimately decided to postpone its decision indefinitely. The subcommittee instead decided to work on a resolution with the state Department of Education. If the anti-evolution language had been approved, it would have faced the full EOC on 13 February 2006.
Apparently troubled by South Carolina's inclusion on lists of states that have strong science education content standards, SC State Senators have taken action. On April 29, 2003, the South Carolina State Senate passed S 153, which would amend state laws governing the adoption of instructional materials for the public schools and establish a committee to review evolution and science. The legislation now moves to the House for consideration before the Education and Public Works Committee. The legislation would create the "South Carolina Science Standards Committee." Committee membership is spelled out in the legislation and includes individuals appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, State Board of Education, the State Superintendent of Education, State Commission on Higher Education, South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, Chamber of Commerce and State Medical Association. The committee would be charged with reporting to the General Assembly on the following issues: (1) study science standards regarding the teaching of the origin of species; (2) determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of science; and (3) determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools.
South Carolina activists, science educators, and science education administrators are concerned about this legislation because it undermines South Carolina's strong science standards and targets evolution. Interested South Carolinian's are encouraged to share their thoughts with their elected state officials, especially their members in the State House of Representatives.
The Senate Education Committee voted against a bill that would have allowed the teaching of creationism in schools. The rejection came at the request of the legislation's sponsor, Senator Jeff Monroe. SB 112 would have prohibited a school from preventing a teacher in "public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics."
Monroe told the Associated Press that: "Some [members of the Senate Education Committee] agreed with the bill, but they would have had to vote against it, based on the fact that it was written poorly."
An anti-evolution bill introduced in the South Dakota Senate goes against a 2005 federal court ruling that teaching intelligent design in public schools in unconstitutional. S.B. 112 would prohibit a school from preventing a teacher in "public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics." The bill is sponsored by Senators Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), Phil Jensen (R-District 33), Dan Lederman (R-District 16), Ernie Otten (R-District 6), Bruce E. Rampelberg (R-District 30), and Bill Van Gerpen (R-District 19).
Under a new Tennessee law, teachers would be encouraged to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics, including "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." The bill became law despite the fact that it did not receive the signature of Governor Bill Haslam (R), who neither signed the bill nor vetoed it.
Although the law would not require the teaching of creationist theories, it would prevent school administrators from reproaching educators who pursue alternatives to evolution.
"I am glad that the governor recognized that this bill does not do all of the things that its critics have alleged," said the bill's sponsor Senator Bo Watson. "It does not change the state's science curriculum and it does not change how science is taught. Both of those assertions are red herrings."
Critics of the legislation argue that the measure will allow teachers to introduce non-scientific ideas into the science classroom.
The Tennessee Senate approved a bill on 20 March 2012 that would encourage teachers to present the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of "controversial" topics, including "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." SB 893 was passed in a 24 to 8 vote.
The House passed a similar measure (HB 368) a year ago. The chambers are now expected to try to reconcile the differences in their versions of the bill. If that happens, each chamber would need to pass the bill again in order for it to be sent to the governor's desk for a signature to become law.
According to the National Center for Science Education: "Tennessee's governor Bill Haslam has previously indicated that he would discuss the bill with the state board of education, telling the Tennessean (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.' "
AIBS wrote to Governor Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, and House Speaker Beth Harwell in opposition to House Bill 368 and Senate Bill 893. Read the letter at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20120316_tennessee_evolution_bill.html.
The Tennessee Senate has stalled its consideration of legislation that would promote the teaching of 'controversial' subjects such as evolution. The bill's sponsor, Senator Bo Watson, delayed committee action on the legislation (SB 893) because of concern from faculty at the University of Tennessee. The delay makes it unlikely that the bill will become law this year, despite the passage of a similar measure by the Tennessee House of Representatives earlier this month.
The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill on 7 April that would protect the 'academic freedom' of public school teachers. Critics say that the measure, House Bill 368, would allow for the teaching of creationism and other unscientific concepts. The bill was passed in a 70-28 vote.
If enacted, the bill would require state and local education authorities to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught." The only examples provided of "controversial" theories are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
An identical measure is pending in the state's Senate and is scheduled to be considered later this month.
The Tennessee House Education Committee passed House Bill 368. If enacted the bill would require state and local education authorities to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught." The only examples provided of "controversial" theories are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
The bill is scheduled to be considered by the entire chamber on 7 April 2011.
The Tennessee House General Subcommittee of Education has passed anti-evolution legislation. House Bill 368 was passed on a 9-4 vote, with no testimony or discussion. If enacted the bill would require state and local education authorities to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught." The only examples provided of "controversial" theories are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
The next step is for the bill to be considered by the full House Education Committee on 29 March 2011.
A second anti-evolution bill has been introduced in the Tennessee legislature. Senate Bill 893 would require state and local educational authorities to assist teachers in presenting scientific controversies. The bill would also permit science teachers to help students to analyze and critique the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, such as evolution and climate change. The bill is sponsored by Bo Watson (R-District 11), and and is identical to HB 368, which was introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives on February 9, 2011.
Representative Bill Dunn (R-District 16) has introduced legislation (HB 368) that would require state and local education authorities to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught." The only examples provided of "controversial" theories are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning."
The measure is the first anti-evolution legislation introduced in the Tennessee legislature since 2007.
Senator Raymond Finney (R-District 8) enraged evolution advocates by introducing Senate Resolution 17 a bill which, if enacted, would request the commissioner of education to justify the fact that creationism is not taught in the state's public schools. Senator Shea Flinn (D-District 30) requested that the measure be examined by the state attorney general's office to determine if it violated either the U.S. or Tennessee constitution, which ban religious tests for public officials. Although the attorney general's office ruled that the proposed legislation violated neither the federal nor state constitution, the opinion keenly observed that "the resolution clearly appears to constitute a rhetorical device designed to advocate the teaching of creationism as an alternative to the theory of evolution." With the conclusion of the first session of the 105th Tennessee General Assembly 12 June 2007, SR 17 failed to pass. However, the bill could be revived during the second legislative session which begins 8 January 2008.
On March 5th the Blount County, Tennessee board of education rejected the adoption of three biology textbooks because they covered evolution but do not include creationism. The vote was 2-1 with four board members not voting because they were reluctant to engage in the controversial issue. The rejected biology books were selected from a state approved list by the county's high school science teachers. According to reports in the Maryville, TN Daily Times, Mike Treadway, one of the board members that voted against the textbooks, explained he is not against evolution but wants it taught as a theory along side creationism. Treadway further explained the biology textbooks have overwhelming references to evolution. It is now expected that the high school science teachers will be asked to develop a new curriculum that includes creationism. If the curriculum includes creationism, the board is expected to adopt the biology books.
Tennessee scientists and science education advocates are encouraged to become engaged in this process by letting the non-voting members of the board no that their failure to defend science education is unacceptable. Individuals in Tennessee may wish to subscribe to the Tennessee node of the AIBS/NCSE Evolution-L list serve network. Instructions for subscribing may be found at /mailing-lists/the_aibs-ncse_evolution_list_server.html. Evolution education information is also available from the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org.
An expert panel appointed by the Texas Board of Education has unanimously approved scientific content in a biology textbook disputed by creationists. Approval by the outside pane clears the way for the Board of Education to approve the textbook for use in public schools in Texas. In November, the Board delayed preliminary approval for the textbook because of concerns raised by citizen reviewers over the book's content on evolution. The publisher, Pearson Education, refused to make the suggested changes.
The Texas Board of Education delayed preliminary approval for one biology textbook because of concerns raised by citizen reviewers over the book's content on evolution. Twenty criticisms were raised by the review panel, including lessons on natural selection. The publisher, Pearson Education, refused to make the suggested changes.
The Board ultimately voted to pick three outside experts to further scrutinize the book. Final votes on all science textbooks will occur in January.
The Board of Education has less sway than in past years because of a change in state law that allows individual school districts to choose their own textbooks. Most schools, however, continue to use the books recommended by the Board. The Board's selections influence education nationally, as the large size of its market affects the texts offered by publishers.
The House Committee on Higher Education has failed to act upon a bill that would have prevented Texas institutions of higher education from discriminating against faculty or students based on their beliefs on intelligent design. House Bill 285 died in committee after faculty from the University of Texas voiced their opposition to the bill. The bill's sponsor was Bill Zedler (R-District 96), who introduced an identical bill in 2011.
When the Texas State Board of Education met to consider supplemental teaching materials for science, many expected the board to approve materials that would open the door to the teaching of creationism. Instead, the school board did not act upon the pro-intelligent design materials submitted by International Databases.
The materials were evaluated last month by a state advisory panel, who did not recommend them for approval. Many had expected the State Board of Education to ignore the recommendation, and to vote to approve the creationist materials.
Ultimately, none of the supplemental materials approved by the school board during their two-day meeting were pro-creationist. This outcome was surprising for many, since the board's membership is dominated by conservatives. In March 2009, the board adopted science standards that scientists and educators claim allowed for the teaching of intelligent design.
The adjournment of the Texas legislature on 30 May 2011 means that House Bill 2454 has no chance of being law this year. The legislation died in the House Committee on Higher Education without receiving a hearing. Rep. Bill Zedler (R-District 96) has introduced the bill to protect the academic freedom of faculty and students who conduct research on intelligent design. House Bill 2454 states: "An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member's or student's conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms."
Rep. Bill Zedler (R-District 96) has introduced a bill in the Texas House of Representatives to protect the academic freedom of faculty and students who conduct research on intelligent design. House Bill 2454 states: "An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member's or student's conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms."
The former head of the Texas Education Agency, Christine Comer, lost her appeal regarding her former employer's neutrality policy on evolution and creationism. On 2 July 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court's decision that the education agency had the right to require its employees to be neutral when talking about evolution and creationism. In December 2007, Comer was pressured to resign from the Texas Education Agency after forwarding an e-mail about an upcoming talk by Barbara Forrest, coauthor of Creationism's Trojan Horse, a scholarly work that chronicles how creationist politics influence public school science curricula.
In June 2010, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) voted to close their graduate school after unsuccessfully seeking accreditation from the state for a master's degree in science education. In a lawsuit filed by the ICR to appeal the state's decision, a U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the state.
On 2 March 2010, creationist Don McLeroy (R) lost hid bid for reelection to the State Board of Education. McLeroy had served on the board since 1998. His nomination to chair the board was blocked by the Texas Senate in May 2009 over concerns about his support of creationism.
Nearly one third of Texans believe that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time and half disagree with the theory of evolution, according to a new poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune.
As reported by the Texas Tribune, "38 percent said human beings developed over millions of years with God guiding the process and another 12 percent said that development happened without God having any part of the process. Another 38 percent agreed with the statement 'God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago.'"
"Most of the Texans in the survey -- 51 percent -- disagree with the statement, 'human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.' Thirty-five percent agreed with that statement, and 15 percent said they don't know," the Tribune reported.
People's beliefs on evolution also varied based on their political beliefs. Self-identified Democrats were more likely to agree with evolution, with 21 percent believing that humans developed over millions of years without God's guidance. Of Republicans polled, only 7 percent supported the concept of evolution.
House Bills (HB) 2800 and 4224 died when the Texas state legislature adjourned on 1 June 2009. HB 2800 would have allowed institutions such as the Institute for Creation Research's (ICR) graduate school to offer a master's degree in science education despite the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board (THECB) 2008 decision to deny the ICR's request to offer the degree. The ICR is currently suing in federal court over the THECB decision. The second bill, HB 4224, would have required the SBOE to restore the controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language in the Texas state science standards that was removed after a vote during the 25-27 March 2009 meeting of the SBOE.
On 10 July 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) named Gail Rowe to chair the State Board of Education (SBOE). Lowe will replace Don McLeroy, the avowed creationist who failed to win confirmation from the Texas Senate on 28 May 2009. Evolution advocates are not happy with the appointment of Ms. Lowe, who in 2003 and 2009, voted to include creationist criticisms of evolution in science textbooks and curriculum standards.
Every ten years the Texas Education Agency (TEA) revises the curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). In addition to guiding classroom content, the TEKS inform textbook content and adoption. Science education advocates have been focused on Texas since the latest revision of the Science TEKS began in 2008.
The battle over the Science TEKS has been brewing since 1997, when the standards were last revised. Those standards included evolution for the first time, but contentious wording to teach the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories, particularly of chemical and biological evolution. Strengths and weaknesses is language lobbied for by intelligent design/creationism advocates. This phrase was included as compromise language because the TEA was concerned that creationist members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) would object to the addition of evolution in the standards. A 2003 attempt to use the language to guide statewide textbook adoption was unsuccessful.
The Texas debate has national implications. After California, Texas is the largest textbook purchaser. If Texas requires books include non-scientific explanations for natural phenomena, then textbook publishers would likely introduce this content into books.
The TEA released new draft science standards in September 2008 that no longer included "strengths and weaknesses" language. In January 2009, the Texas SBOE voted to accept the revised science standards in a 7-7 decision. A majority vote was needed to defeat the proposed change. Thus, the tie vote supported removal of the language. However, the process still required a public comment period, and the final vote on adoption of the TEKS was not cast until March 2009.
The 25-27 March 2009 SBOE meeting featured testimony from science education experts, including Eugenie Scott from the National Center for Science Education. Following a day of testimony, the SBOE held the final vote on the "strengths and weaknesses" language. The final vote was a 7-7 tie, and therefore upheld the preliminary January decision to remove the controversial language from the TEKS. The revised TEKS will guide science instruction in Texas for the next ten years.
On 21 January 2009 the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) began a two-day hearing on proposed changes in wording to the state science standards. The revised standards being considered did not include controversial "strengths and weaknesses" language. An amendment before the Board that would have restored this language failed (7-7 vote). The removal of this language is a victory for science education advocates in Texas.
Testifying at the Board meeting were several scientists, including Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Dr. David Hillis, professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas-Austin, Dr. Arturo DeLozanne, professor of cell biology at UT-Austin, Dr. Ronald Worthington, professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University, and Dr. Gerald Skoog, professor in the College of Education at Texas Tech. Evolution opponents included a representative of the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based organization that promotes intelligent design/creationism.
The battle is not over, however. The SBOE considered a flurry of amendments on the second day of the meeting. These amendments are intended to weaken the teaching of evolution; for example, one successful revision required that students "analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record." The phrase "sudden appearance" is well-established as a creationist catchphrase. On the third day of the meeting, the board voted unanimously to adopt the standards as approved the previous day. The vote however is only preliminary, with a final vote on the standards expected at the Board's 26-27 March meeting.
On 24 April 2008 the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) unanimously rejected an application from the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research (ICR) to grant graduate degrees in science education. ICR, like Answers in Genesis, espouses Young-Earth Creationism, a literal view of the Bible that contends the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. ICR sought approval from the THECB to begin offering degrees immediately while waiting for accreditation from the state-recognized Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.
This decision was a reversal from December 2007 when the Certification Advisory Council of the THECB preliminarily recommended that ICR be allowed to offer on-line Master's degrees in science education. This recommendation was soundly criticized by science and education experts, including a letter from 2007 AIBS president Douglas J. Futuyma (see http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20071228_aibs_letter_to_5.html).
In response to the concerns raised by the scientific and education communities, THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes appointed a second committee of scientists and science educators to re-evaluate the ICR. Paredes requested ICR to supply more specific information on its online learning program, science curriculum, and faculty research. The entire THECB was initially scheduled to vote on the ICR request on 23 January 2008, but ICR asked for an extension to address Paredes' concerns; the vote was postponed until 24 April 2008.
The day before the THECB vote, the Academic Excellence and Research Committee heard public comments from 10 people, including Steve Schafersman, president of Texas Citizens for Science; the majority of the speakers, like Schafersman, urged the committee to reject ICR's request. THECB Commissioner Paredes agreed and recommended a denial of the ICR proposal. According to an article from the 23 April 2008 Dallas Morning News, Paredes said, "Evolution is such a fundamental principle of contemporary science it is hard to imagine how you could cover the various fields of science without giving it [evolution] the proper attention it deserves as a foundation of science." He continued, "Religious belief is not science. Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing."
Henry Morris III, chief executive officer of the ICR, indicated that his organization will appeal the decision within 45 days and may pursue legal action in the Texas courts.
The Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research (ICR) asked the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to delay final consideration of its request to grant graduate degrees in science education until April 2008. ICR, like Answers in Genesis, espouses Young-Earth Creationism, a literal view of the Bible that contends the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. ICR is seeking approval from the THECB to begin offering degrees immediately while waiting for accreditation from the state-recognized Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.
In mid-December 2007 the Certification Advisory Council of the THECB preliminarily recommended that ICR be allowed to offer on-line Master's degrees in science education. This recommendation elicited significant outcry from science education advocates; according to the Dallas Morning News, the THECB received over 200 emails on the subject, including a letter from 2007 AIBS president Douglas J. Futuyma urging the THECB to deny ICR certification. On behalf of AIBS, Futuyma wrote, "It is unacceptable for the state to sanction the training of science educators committed to the practice of advancing their religious beliefs in a science classroom." He continued, "The THECB will ill-serve science students if it certifies a science teacher education program based on a religious world-view rather than modern science." The letter may be read at: http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20071228_aibs_letter_to_5.html
In response to the AIBS letter and those from many other science education advocates, THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes appointed a second committee of scientists and science educators to re-evaluate the ICR. He told Education Week on 9 January, "Our primary objective in looking at this program is to make sure any master's degree in science education will prepare teachers who can get students in high school ready to do college-level work in science."
To this end, Paredes requested ICR to supply more specific information on its online learning program, science curriculum, and faculty research. The entire THECB was initially scheduled to vote on the ICR request on 23 January 2008, but ICR has asked for an extension to address Paredes' concerns; the THECB is now expected to consider the application at its 24 April 2008 meeting.
In mid-December 2007 the Certification Advisory Council of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) recommended that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research (ICR) be allowed to offer on-line Master’s degrees in science education. ICR, like Answers in Genesis, espouses Young Earth Creationism, a literal view of the Bible that contends the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. This world-view permeates the ICR graduate program in Science Teacher Education. ICR is seeking approval from the THECB to begin offering degrees immediately while waiting for accreditation from the state-recognized Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.
In light of this troubling development, 2007 AIBS President Douglas J. Futuyma wrote to THECB Commissioner Raymund Paredes on behalf of AIBS expressing his serious concerns with the ICR request and encouraging the THECB to deny certification. Futuyma wrote, “It is unacceptable for the state to sanction the training of science educators committed to the practice of advancing their religious beliefs in a science classroom.” He continued, “The THECB will ill-serve science students if it certifies a science teacher education program based on a religious world-view rather than modern science.”
The letter may be read at: http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20071228_aibs_letter_to_5.html
In response to the AIBS letter and those from many other science education advocates, Commissioner Paredes has appointed a second evaluation committee, to re-evaluate the ICR application to grant graduate degrees in science education. This committee is scheduled to meet for the first time 7 January, and the entire THECB is scheduled to consider the ICR request on 24 January 2008.
On Friday, 15 December 2007, the Certification Advisory Council of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) recommended that the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research be allowed to offer on-line Master’s degrees in science education. According to the report prepared by THECB on-site evaluators, “The proposed degree would be generally comparable to an initial master’s degree in science education from one of the smaller, regional universities in the state.”
ICR, like Answers in Genesis, espouses Young Earth Creationism, a literal view of the Bible that contends the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. This world-view permeates the ICR graduate program in Science Teacher Education where its intent is to “assist the learner in developing creation apologetics in his/her science classroom” and “teach the learner how to develop curriculum, instructional strategies, and classroom activities related to creation science thus helping the science teacher equip his/her students with truth.”
ICR is seeking approval from the THECB to begin offering degrees immediately while waiting for accreditation from the state-recognized Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. The full THECB will consider the ICR request on 24 January 2008.
Science education advocates - already irritated by Texas Education Agency policies that require “neutrality” towards evolution and the threat that Intelligent Design proponents pose to the upcoming review of state science standards - are outraged by these latest developments.
In Texas, the current state high school biology standards require that “the student knows the theory of biological evolution.” However, the latest actions by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) suggest that Texas will become the next battleground for evolution education.
Christine Castillo Comer, with nearly three decades of experience as a science teacher, was recently pressured to resign from her post after forwarding an e-mail about an upcoming talk in Austin by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, and coauthor of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” a scholarly work that chronicles how creationist politics are behind the movement to insert intelligent design into the public-school science curriculum. Forrest was an expert witness in the landmark 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case that ruled against the teaching of intelligent design in the local Dover, Pennsylvania, public schools. The e-mail, originating from the National Center for Science Education, was titled “FYI” by Comer and distributed to a few people and members of a local online community.
According to a memo from TEA officials calling for Comer’s dismissal that was obtained by The Austin American-Statesman through the Texas Public Information Act, “Ms. Comer’s e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.”
Biologists and evolution education advocates across the United States have expressed outrage that the TEA requires, as agency policy, neutrality when talking about evolution and creationism. They are particularly concerned by the TEA policy given the upcoming 10-year review of the science portion of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills to be undertaken by the State Board of Education. The chairman of the State Board, Don McLeroy, has spoken favorably about intelligent design in the past and voted against the state’s current high school biology textbook because it did not include discussions of the weaknesses of evolution.
A statement from AIBS President Douglas Futuyma about the Texas evolution controversy can be found at: http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20071206_aibs_president_1.html
Recent developments in Texas could seriously jeopardize the quality of public education in the state. If past scuffles in Texas over curriculum and textbooks are any indication, the latest attempt to introduce politically-driven material into the curriculum will jeopardize the quality of science (including evolution and environmental studies), health education, and social studies.
On 16 June 2007, Governor Rick Perry (R) signed House Bill 188, a law that changes the process by which textbooks are reviewed and adopted by public school districts or open-enrollment charter schools. The law requires the Texas State Board of Education to adopt new rules for the mid-cycle review and adoption of textbooks. Currently, the next K-12 science education textbook review proceedings are slated to begin in 2009. Additionally, the law provides for the review and adoption of supplementary instructional materials. Science education advocates are concerned that the new law will permit non-scientific books such as the Discovery Institute's "Explore Evolution," a book that repeats creationist arguments under the guise of "critical analysis," to be incorporated into the biology curriculum as supplementary material.
The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) met 18-20 July 2007. The meeting was presided over by a new chairman, Dr. Don McLeroy, appointed a day prior by Governor Perry. The appointment of Dr. McLeroy, a Republican dentist from Bryan, Texas, concerns supporters of data-based science education. A board member since 1998, McLeroy voted against the state's current high school biology textbook because it did not include a discussion of the weaknesses of evolution. Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a citizen group advocating the separation of church and state, told the Dallas Morning News on 18 July that she would give the governor an F for appointing "a clear ideologue who has repeatedly put his own personal and political agendas ahead of sound science, good health, and solid textbooks for students."
The SBOE meeting agenda was to include a discussion of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards for science (ironically, this discussion was also to consider new TEKS for the elective Bible courses recently specified by the state legislature in HB 1287). The science TEKS were scheduled for formal review in fall 2007; however, it now appears that review of the science standards will be postponed due to delays in the completion of the English and reading TEKS.
On 11 June 2007, Governor Perry signed House Bill 3678, the Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act, into law. This law explicitly permits public school students to express religious viewpoints and beliefs in classroom assignments and public events where student speakers are permitted. The law also permits students to organize, advertise, and conduct non-curricular religious activities to the same extent that students are permitted to organize and conduct other non-curricular activities in school facilities.
Proponents for real science education are concerned that HB 3678 makes no exception for science classes, suggesting that the law allows religious and creationist explanations for natural phenomena to be accepted in class work, homework, and exams without penalty. The law applies to the 2007-2008 school year, taking effect 1 September 2007.
On 18 September 2006, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott reaffirmed a state law that limits the power of the Texas state board of education to review and reject textbook content as they relate to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards and any factual errors. While biology textbook adoption proceedings will not likely occur again until 2009, evolution advocates are concerned that anti-evolution members of the board may argue that the textbooks have factual errors or do not conform to TEKS standards. TEKS standards for science will be reviewed in 2007.
On 7 November 2003 the Texas State Board of Education voted 11 to 4 to approve 11 high school biology textbooks supported by scientists and educators for their appropriate treatment of evolution. The vote followed months of debate and an aggressive campaign by intelligent design advocates and other antievolution activists who sought to pressure the Board into approving textbooks that included commonly posed antievolution criticisms of evolution. Under the banner of "Don't Mess with Textbooks," a broad coalition of scientists, educators, authors, civil liberties advocates, and others throughout Texas aggressively worked to defend the scientific content of biology textbooks. In addition to speaking out on the editorial pages of Texas newspapers and at the Board's public hearings, evolution advocates borrowed tactics from the antievolution camp. For example, over 550 scientists representing all disciplines signed a letter urging the Board to adopt textbooks that had been reviewed and found acceptable by research scientists and educators. Earlier this year, intelligent design advocates in Texas circulated a letter signed by Texas PhD's that supported the inclusion of intelligent design in biology textbooks. Notably, a significant number of the PhD's that signed the intelligent design letter were from disciplines other than the sciences and education. The evolution education advocates' sustained effort was an important factor in the Board's decision. Reports are that the Board was under pressure from influential Texans, including the Governor, to adopt scientifically sound biology textbooks.
The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is in the process of reviewing and approving biology textbooks that local school districts may adopt and use. On September 10th the SBOE heard testimony from more than 100 citizens concerned about how evolution is presented in Texas textbooks. Within the crowd were various pro-evolution science advocates representing the University of Texas at Austin, National Center for Science Education, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Citizens for Science, Texas Association of Biology Teachers, parents, clergy, and others. One of the messages they carried to the SBOE was written by leading authors of biology textbooks-"Don't Mess with Textbooks." In short, science textbook content is reviewed and evaluated as science is done. Peer reviewed science should be the basis of textbook content, not political or religious belief. There is no credible or accepted scientific support for intelligent design.
For more detailed coverage of the developments in Texas visit the National Center for Science Education online at www.ncseweb.org. Texas residents interested in staying informed about evolution-related education issues in Texas may wish to subscribe to the Texas node of the AIBS/NCSE Evolution List Serve Network. For more information visit http://www.aibs.org/mailing-lists/the_aibs-ncse_evolution_list_server.html. You may also wish to contact the Texas Freedom Network at www.tfn.org, or Texas Citizens for Science at http://www.txscience.org/.
The Texas State Board of Education is in the final stages of its textbook adoption process. The result of the process will be a list of approved science textbooks from which local public schools must select the science books they will use. As most residents of Texas are now aware, advocates for intelligent design/creationism have been largely unable to get intelligent design/creationism included in the Texas science curriculum. Thus, they have changed their focus and are now working aggressively to influence the content of science textbooks used in the public schools throughout the state. A core component of their strategy is to use the Discovery Institute's "Icons of Evolution" to get textbooks modified in ways that would reduce the clarity and integrity of the presentation of evolution. An analysis of Icons of Evolution has been prepared by Dr. Alan Gishlick of the National Center for Science Education and is available at www.ncseweb.org/icons/.
According to the National Center for Science Education, the Discovery Institute has submitted an analysis of each of the textbooks under consideration in which the books are analyzed in terms of four of the Icons from Jonathan Well's book. These are the Miller-Urey experiment, the Cambrian "explosion", vertebrate embryos and Haeckel, and the peppered moth. National and state representatives for the Discovery Institute are registered to testify before the Texas State Board of Education at its next public hearing on September 10. Thus, scientists and educators are encouraged to consider submitting oral and written testimony.
The Texas State Board of Education will hold its second and final public hearing concerning instructional materials under consideration for adoption in November 2003 at 1 p.m. on September 10th. This hearing is currently scheduled to be held at the Travis Building in Austin. Texas residents have until August 21, 2003 to request time to provide oral testimony at the September 10th public hearing. August 21st is also the final date for receipt of written comments. Please consult the Texas State Board of Education (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/) for official details concerning the public comment process.
For more information about threats to evolution education, visit www.ncseweb.org
Residents of Texas that are interested in staying informed about evolution-related developments throughout the state may wish to join the Texas node of the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network. For more information, visit http://www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html.
On Tuesday, April 22nd, the United States Department of Justice announced that it was dropping its investigation of Texas Tech University Professor of Biology Michael Dini. Earlier this year, a Texas Tech student, Micah Spradling, filled a complaint with DOJ accusing Dini of religious discrimination. Spradling charged that Dini's policy of refusing to write letters of recommendation for creationists that did not espouse a belief in evolution violated his right to religious freedom. In an apparent agreement, DOJ dropped its investigation after Dini replaced the evolution belief requirement in his recommendation policy with a requirement that students be able to explain the theory of evolution.
For those who live in the Lone Star State or who have friends and colleagues in Texas, the following alert from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) may be of interest to you. The Texas House of Representatives Public Education Committee has scheduled a hearing on H.B. 1447 on Tuesday, March 18, 2003. As reported by TFN, this legislation, which was introduced by State Representative Charlie Howard (R-Sugar Land), would allow the State Board of Education to edit textbook content and reject textbooks based on Board members' personal political and religious beliefs rather than on factual accuracy. Some education watchdog groups are concerned with this initiative because of recent successful efforts to modify the social studies books adopted in 2002. These modifications included removing references to the age of the earth and changing references referring to environmental issues to avoid criticism of human activity that contributes to phenomena such as global warming, pollution, and habitat destruction. Texas is in the process of adopting new biology textbooks. Additionally, because of its size and purchasing power, textbook decisions made in Texas can influence textbook content and availability in other states.
Scientists, educators and science education advocates that live in Texas may want to follow this issue closely. For more information on this legislation, Texans may wish to contact TFN at www.tfn.org. For more information on evolution education, visit the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org. To track evolution-related issues in your state, join the AIBS/NCSE Evolution List Serve Network by visiting www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html. If your state does not have an active list serve and you are interested in establishing one, please contact Robert Gropp at .
On 27 February 2006, the House of Representatives, in a 48-26 vote, defeated the anti-evolution, S.B. 96, a bill that had passed the Senate on 17 January 2006. The bill would have required teachers to instruct students "that not all scientists agree on which theory [of life] is correct."
On 23 January, anti-evolution legislation, S.B. 96, was passed by the Utah State Senate by a 16-12 vote. The bill, sponsored by state Senator Chris Buttars (R), was approved on 17 January in the state Senate Education Committee. Language contained in the bill would require teachers to "stress that not all scientists agree on which theory is correct" if evolution is included in the science curriculum. The ACLU of Utah and Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote letters urging Utah senators to reject S.B. 96. The bill's companion in the House was introduced on 24 January and could be considered in the coming months.
Any prospect for HB 207 disappeared when the deadline passed for bills to get out of committee this legislative session. The legislation would have prevented school administrators from inhibiting a teacher from helping students to assess scientific controversies, including evolution and climate change.
A bill prefiled in the Virginia House of Delegates is the first antiscience bill of 2014, according to the National Center for Science Education. House Bill 207 is sponsered by Richard P. Bell (R-District 20). The bill calls upon the state board of education and local school boards to "create an environment in public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific controversies in science classes" and to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present scientific controversies in science classes"; they are forbidden to "prohibit any public elementary or secondary school teacher from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in science classes."
On 4 October 2004, the governing council of the Biological Society of Washington issued a new statement regarding the societies' publication of a pro intelligent design paper authored by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute's Stephen C. Meyer. As previously noted in the 13 September 2004 AIBS Public Policy Report, the society notes that journal review procedures were not followed and BSW leadership were not aware that the paper was to be published. The 4 October statement reiterates that if normal procedures had been followed the article would not have been published. Furthermore, the statement makes clear that the journal will not publish a rebuttal, because the subject area is outside of the traditional descriptive systematics for which the journal is known. The new statement also criticized the scientific quality of the article, stating that it "does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings." The decision to publish the Meyer's paper was made by the Proceedings former editor, intelligent design advocate, Richard von Sternberg. For the complete statement please visit the Biological Society of Washington's website. Additional information on this matter may be obtained by visiting the National Center for Science Education.
Intelligent design advocate Stephen C. Meyer, project director of the Discovery Institute's Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, recently succeeded in having a pro-ID review article published in the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. PBSW is a small publication primarily known for publishing taxonomic articles. On 7 September 2004, the Biological Society of Washington issued a statement reading in part, "[Meyer's paper] represents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124 year history. It was published without the prior knowledge of the Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, or the associate editors. We have met and determined that all of us would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings." Furthermore, the PBSW's instructions to contributors states, "Manuscripts are reviewed by a board of Associate Editors and appropriate referees." Thus, it appears that the paper was published in violation of accepted journal policy. The BSW leadership has further stated that they endorse the spirit of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) statement on evolution and intelligent design. Interestingly, recent reports by the National Center for Science Education and The Scientist have shown the connections between Meyer's and Richard Sternberg to creationist and pro-ID organizations. According to an article by Trevor Stokes in The Scientist, Stenberg--editor of PBSW when Meyer's article was published-is affiliated with the Baraminology Study Group (BSG) at Bryan College. The BSG publishes Occasional Papers, which are "committed to publishing constructive scientific research in creation biology." According to the National Center for Science Education, the Discovery Institute's Meyer is affiliated with Palm Beach Atlantic University, an institution that requires its trustees, officers, faculty members, and staff to believe that "man was directly created by God."
On February 20, 2003, the West Virginia Board of Education voted to adopt new science education content standards. The new standards include evolution education. Despite an effort by "intelligent design theory" and other anti-evolution education advocates, the Board unanimously approved the standards drafted by education professionals. The standards are based on frameworks developed by professional scientific organizations.
Note: If you are interested in staying informed about evolution education issues in your state, territory or province, visit the AIBS/NCSE Evolution List Serve Network at www.aibs.org/outreach/evlist.html.
Encouraged by the success and attention garnered by the Answers in Genesis creation museum, Waupaca, Wisconsin, resident Bill Mielke hopes to open his own creation museum in the Wisconsin Dells, a popular vacation destination an hour from Madison, WI.
According to the local newspaper, the Wisconsin Dells Events, Mielke has begun to collect private financial donations and has amassed numerous 'artifacts' and models to stock biology, archaeology, and geology exhibits for the future intelligent design museum.
According to Mielke, "Everybody is getting one side of this. We're going to show another side to what people believe about dinosaurs. And showing through science that science has not disproved deity."
On 4 May 2006, AB 1143 died in the State General Assembly. This education bill, introduced by Representative Terese Berceau (D), would have instructed the school board to ensure that material taught in school science curricula is "testable as a scientific hypothesis and describes only natural processes" and is consistent with the National Academy of Sciences definition of science. The bill was intended to counteract actions that weakened evolution education.
A Wisconsin state legislator is taking steps to prevent creationism and intelligent design from being taught in her state's public schools. State Representative Terese Berceau (D) is planning on introducing legislation that would ban the "teaching of supernaturalistic pseudoscience in the science classroom." The Madison Capitol Times described the bill as "a first-of-its-kind proposal" in the nation, comparable only to a January 2005 Montana resolution that supported sound science in school standards while rejecting "religious interpretations of events" in the curricula. Wisconsin scientists and educators are supportive of Berceau's plan.
In January, members of state legislatures returned to their capitols and began introducing legislation that reflects their policy priorities. Not surprisingly given the increased public profile of evolution education, legislators in many states have introduced measures that would require disclaimers be placed in textbooks, require that intelligent design/creationism be taught along side evolution, or requiring that science teachers 'teach the controversy.' As has been previously reported, Grantsburg, Wisconsin spent most of 2004 flirting with ways to introduce intelligent design/creationism into the science curriculum. Following a prolonged process in which local parents, educators, and university faculty and members of the clergy from across the state expressed strong opposition to the district's plans, in December 2004 the board adopted a resolution stating: "Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of creationism or intelligent design." While the policy is an improvement over earlier iterations, science education advocates remain concerned that evolution is the only area of science listed in the statement. Local evolution education supporters have pledged to remain vigilant.
Under the guise of improving student critical thinking skills, the Grantsburg School Board has adopted a new science curriculum policy that requires, "When theories of origin are taught, students will study various scientific models or theories of origin and identify the scientific data supporting each." According to board chairman, Dave Ahlquist, the policy is "opening the door that was closed before and was too narrow." Board member Cindy Jensen said of the new policy, "I don't think it's that big a deal." Deans from throughout the University of Wisconsin system strongly disagree, however, and have already sent a letter to the Grantsburg School Board that expresses their concern with the policy change, in part noting that teaching non-scientific concepts in science courses does not improve students understanding of the nature of science or improve critical thinking skills. A number of parents, scientists and educators have also expressed a concern with the new policy.
Wisconsin residents that wish to become involved with this matter may wish to contact the National Center for Science Education. Additionally, scientists and educators in Wisconsin may stay appraised of developments via the AIBS/NCSE Wisconsin State Evolution List Serve.
According to reports from the Associated Press, the Cody, Wyoming school district has adopted a new Religion Policy. In addition to permitting prayer in school, as long as it is not required by a school employee, the policy reportedly prohibits the distribution of school-sponsored religious materials. However, as reported by the AP, "The policy also spells out religious curriculum. Religions can be taught in school, but one religion cannot be endorsed. Creationism can be taught in science classes but only among a variety of theories."
Elsewhere in Wyoming, the Worland school board has granted initial approval to a measure that would permit science teachers to teach alternatives to the theory of evolution. According to an Associated Press article in the Casper Star Tribune, "more than 120 people attended the board meeting," which in addition to addressing evolution-education issues dealt with sexual education curriculum. The board must approve the evolution-education measure two more times before it is officially approved, so there is still a short period of time for concerned residents in the Worland school board's jurisdiction to become engaged in the process.
Wyoming residents interested in evolution-education related activities in their state may wish to contact the National Center for Science Education at (510) 601-7203 or www.nceseweb.org, or subscribe to the Wyoming node of the AIBS/NCSE State Evolution List Serve Network. Information about the Wyoming list serve or other state list serves is available at www.aibs.org/mailing-lists/the_aibs-ncse_evolution_list_server.html.
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives expressing support for designation of February 12, 2014, as "Darwin Day'' and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.
Despite a ban on teaching creationism in public schools, some private schools that receive funding through school voucher programs are teaching religious doctrine in science class. Nineteen year old activist Zach Kopplin has uncovered 310 such schools that have received tens of millions of dollars from school vouchers. The schools are located in nine states: Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. For instance, Liberty Christian School in Anderson, Indiana takes students on field trips to the Creation Museum. Another school, Mansfield Christian School in Ohio, uses the creationist website Answers in Genesis to teach science. A full list of the schools is available at http://creationistvouchers.com/.
According to a new study published in the journal Science, only 28 percent of biology teachers in public high schools teach evolution and present it as a unifying theme for theme for biology. Conversely, 13 percent of surveyed teachers spend at least an hour of class time on the subject of creationism. The remaining 59 percent of teachers try to avoid controversy by neither endorsing evolution or creationism/intelligent design.
"Students are being cheated out of a rich science education," said Dr. Plutzer, a professor of political science at Penn State University. "We think the 'cautious 60 percent' represent a group of educators who, if they were better trained in science in general and in evolution in particular, would be more confident in their ability to explain controversial topics to their students, to parents, and to school board members."
Italy's science agency, the National Research Council (CNR), has stirred up controversy with the release of a new book entitled Evolutionism: the decline of a hypothesis. The book was written by Roberto de Mattei, politically-appointed vice-president of CNR and professor of Christianity and Catholicism at the European University of Rome. De Mattei assembled the book from the proceedings of an anti-evolution conference that he organized at CNR in February 2009. In it are claims that evolution is a flawed theory because fossil dating methods are wrong, fossil stratification was determined by the Deluge, and dinosaurs died only about 40,000 years ago.
The book states that it was published with financial contributions from CNR, a statement that has not been denied by agency officials. According to the CNR press office, the president of CNR, physicist Luciano Maini, has confirmed that CNR hosted the conference and contributed to the publication costs of the book, but does not officially endorse the book. Maini does however defend the vice-president's right to publish the book, citing academic freedom. The publication has caused dismay among many Italian scientists, who have issued statements or written letters to the CNR protesting the publication of the book.
To honor the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, NSF has released the new report, Evolution of Evolution: 150 Years of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” This report comes as a written text, as well as an interactive website that contains a one-stop-shop of resources on the subject of evolution as well as on Darwin himself. The website includes eye-catching graphics, easy-to-read texts, interviews from a team of evolutionary experts, a timeline of intellectual achievements in evolution, and downloadable documents on the subject. Two videos—one of researchers discussing the impact of “Origin of Species” as well one of an interview with prominent evolutionary biologist Dr. Mohamed Noor—are also available.
To view the full report, please see: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/darwin/
Two recent news items report that creationism is on the rise around the world. The first, a survey conducted by a UK-based market research company, asked 11,768 adults from 10 countries if they thought evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism. Overall, 54 percent of British, 68 percent of Argentinians, and 51 percent of Americans believed that other perspectives should be taught in science classes; across the 10 countries, the average was 43 percent. India had the highest proportion of evolution supporters, with 49 percent of the population stating that only evolutionary theory should taught in science classes. Many prominent scientists and teachers in the UK have expressed shock at the poll's findings, and some have said that these results come about due to the polarization of science and religion.
In addition, international academics meeting in Amherst, Massachusetts last month reported that belief in creationism is growing in the Muslim world. However, while creationism is growing, young-earth creationists remain almost non-existent among Muslims, likely because of the clearly metaphorical nature of the creation story in the Koran. However, not all Muslims easily accept the findings of modern biology. Many seem to be joining the ranks of old-Earth creationists, who believe that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, but insist that life is the creation of God, not the chance consequence of random occurrences. The evolution debate, which has not existed in Islamic countries until recently, is growing as education improves and more students are exposed to the ideas of modern biology. Experts have noted that growing rejection of evolution may be in part a result of the rejection of western values. Additionally, the debate varies from country to country, as the quality of science education and religious stringency can differ drastically.
Evolution education in the UK sustained a blow when a government agency approved a creationist curriculum for use by Christian schools throughout the UK. The National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), which advises universities and employers on the validity of lesser-known academic and professional qualifications, has ruled that the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) is comparable to qualifications such as the international A-levels offered by the Cambridge International Exam Board.
The ICCE curriculum is based on the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) program, which originated in Texas in the 1970s. The curriculum obtains half of its course material from U.S. evangelical textbooks and is taught to hundreds of teenagers at approximately 50 private Christian schools in the UK. The textbooks teach students, for example, that apartheid helped South Africa because segregated schools "made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children." The textbooks also challenge the theory of evolution by contending that the Loch Ness monster, which "appears to be a plesiosaur," could not have evolved because "no transitional fossils [between fish and reptiles] have been or ever will be discovered since God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals."
After the ruling, NARIC's spokesman issued a statement noting that the agency's role was to guide universities and employers on the rigor of qualifications, and that investigating curriculum content was outside its jurisdiction.
The National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine have released “Science, Evolution, and Creationism,” a book designed to give the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom. The publication is intended to provide coherent explanations and concrete, modern examples of the science of evolution. Additionally, the book addresses creationism in its various forms, including “intelligent design,” and discusses how the evidence for evolution can be compatible with religious faith. A free version of the book is available as a PDF at: www.nap.edu/sec.
The New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that the U.S. Department of Education had removed "evolutionary biology" as an eligible major under the Department's new SMART grant program. The SMART grant program was authorized by Congress in 2005 to help encourage qualified students to pursue college degrees in high-demand areas, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields and foreign languages. Shortly after the national media reported that evolution had been removed from a list of eligible degrees in an interim rule being developed by the Department of Education, senior personnel at the Department of Education issued statements saying that evolutionary biology remains an approved degree. On 24 August 2006, Education Department Chief of Staff, David Dunn said: "The misunderstanding occurred as the result of a draft document that omitted evolutionary biology from a list of majors put forth for use by colleges. As soon as the omission came to our attention, we took steps to correct it. However, regardless of its omission on that one document, evolutionary biology was and continues to be National SMART grant eligible."
While many were impressed by the Department's prompt response, scientists have remained vigilant; waiting to see that the final program guidance does indeed include evolutionary biology. The omission also caught the eye of some on Capitol Hill. On 25 August, Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Waxman, the ranking democrat on the House Committee on Government Reform, requested that the Department replace evolution in the list of accepted degrees and take steps to ensure that no students are penalized as a result of the omission. Further, Rep. Waxman requested an "explanation of how and why evolutionary biology was excluded from the list of fields of study. I request copies of any communications (1) between the Department and private organizations or individuals or (2) within the Department or other parts of the federal government that relate to the preparation of the list of eligible fields of study or the exclusion of evolutionary biology from the list." Waxman requested that the Department provide these materials by 1 September.
As of 29 August, a Dear Colleague letter from the Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the Department of Education was available on a Department of Education Federal Student Aid web site. According to the letter, the Department has updated the list of eligible programs to correct the omission of evolutionary biology, which is once again a listed major.
Arguing that intelligent design/creationism does not reflect true conservative political ideology, Conservatives Against Intelligent Design (http://www.caidweb.org/blog/) was recently established. CAID encourages anyone with a conservative political bent (Republicans, conservative independents, libertarians, etc.) to sign an online petition endorsing the organization's mission statement.
The statement reads:
Conservatives Against Intelligent Design (CAID) was founded to give a voice to Republicans, Independent Conservatives, and Libertarians across the country who stand opposed to the teaching of 'intelligent design' and other forms of creationism in the classroom. In recent years Republican legislators at all levels of government have authored, sponsored, and voted for various anti-evolution bills with perceived immunity, confident that those who vote for them are creationists like themselves. CAID is intended as a wake-up call to these legislators, to remind them that the teaching of evolution is not a partisan issue, but rather one of the separation between theology and science.
CAID holds that there is no conflict between evolution and religion because each speaks to a different level of understanding and to a different level of explanation: Namely empirical versus metaphysical. Neither threatens nor invalidates the other. However, by their very nature alternative theories like 'intelligent design' rely on the supposition of a metaphysical creator and therefore stand outside the domain of rational empiricism. Science-being based upon the latter-has no room within it for theological supposition; therefore such theories must remain outside the science classroom, being more suitable for discussion in philosophy courses.
Darwinian evolution has continued to gain empirical and theoretical support in the nearly 150 years since the original publication of Origin of Species. Although scientists continue to debate the specifics of evolutionary pattern and process, these represent attempts to refine and clarify extant theory rather than supplant or disprove either evolution or natural selection as the dominant mechanism of change.
Because ecological, biochemical, genetic, and paleontological finds have failed to provide support for any competing theory; and because current alternative theories are fundamentally not scientific, it would be irresponsible and disingenuous to teach any theory other than Darwinian evolution in science courses in our nation's public schools.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is concerned with President Bush's recent statement suggesting that it would be appropriate to teach the concept of intelligent design/creationism alongside the well-established theory of evolution. The President made the comments to a group of Texas reporters on Monday, August 1, 2005.
"Intelligent design is not a scientific theory and must not be taught in science classes," said AIBS president Dr. Marvalee Wake, a perspective shared by President Bush's science advisor, Dr. John Marburger III. On Tuesday, August 2, Marburger stated in an interview that "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept."
The majority of biologists utilize the theory of evolution in their work on a daily basis. The scientific method requires generating hypotheses, testing the hypotheses with data, and drawing conclusions based on the data; this is the practice of scientists, including evolutionary biologists. Intelligent design presumes complexity whose origins and pathways are not testable and that demand a "designer" to achieve. This approach is not scientific. A comparison of diverse approaches is amenable to philosophy or religion classes, but not those in science, in which our understanding of life's phenomena is increased through rigorous testing and analysis rather than assumptions.
At a time when national business and education leaders are calling for an increased national commitment to recruit new and highly qualified students into the sciences, the President's comments raise a red flag. Dr. Wake stated, "If we want our students to be able to compete in the global economy, if we want to attract the next generation into the sciences, we must make sure that we are teaching them science. We simply cannot begin to introduce non-scientific concepts into the science curriculum."
On 24 March 2005 the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) released results of an informal survey to gauge how much pressure, if any, science educators feel regarding teaching about evolution in the science classroom. The Arlington, VA-based NSTA is a professional organization promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning. NSTA's membership includes more than 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.
More than 1,050 teachers participated in the survey. The majority of survey respondents, 51 percent, are high school teachers, while 26 percent are from middle level; 12 percent, college/graduate level; and 6 percent, elementary. When asked if they feel pressured to include creationism, intelligent design, or other nonscientific alternatives to evolution in their science classroom, 31 percent of teachers responding said they did. When asked from whom, teachers indicated most of the pressure is coming from students (22 percent) and parents (20 percent). When asked if they feel pushed to de-emphasize or omit evolution or evolution-related topics from their curriculum, 30 percent agreed, indicating the most pressure is coming from students and parents (18 percent each). Few respondents indicated that they feel pressure from administrators or principals (5 and 3 percent, respectively).
NSTA also gauged educators' ability to discuss the issue with parents and other community members. When asked if they feel well prepared to explain the reasons why it is important for students to understand evolution, a strong 85 percent said they did, with 11 percent indicating they did not. When asked how successful they have been at helping parents and others understand the reasons why it is important for students to understand evolution, more than 62 percent said they were successful, with 5 percent indicating they were not.
"It's encouraging that teachers report success in helping parents and others understand the importance of evolution," said Anne Tweed, NSTA President. "Science educators are well qualified to explain why evolution is the foundation of science, but they don't necessarily feel comfortable in the role of community advocate. We are encouraging science teachers to consider playing a more vocal and visible role in this dialogue. Science teachers must be prepared to respond clearly to community questions about evolution to stem the progress being made by anti-evolution groups," said Tweed.
Dr. John Marburger, President Bush's chief science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has once again clearly and publicly denounced the concept of intelligent design. Intelligent design is the neo-creationist critic of evolution. As reported in a recent issue of The American Prospect, Dr. Marburger made the statement in response to audience questions following an address at the National Association of Science Writers meeting. Dr. Marburger has previously defended the scientific merits of evolution. In 2004 during an online discussion with readers of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Marburger noted that evolution is a cornerstone of modern biology.