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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2014/09/12

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

NCSE's Glenn Branch discusses Ohio's antiscience bill. Sad news of the
death of the theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg. Ben Santer is featured in
a climate change social media extravaganza. Developments with Ohio's
antiscience bill. And a milestone for NCSE's page on Facebook.


Ohio's House Bill 597 is still a threat to the integrity of science
education in the Buckeye State, NCSE's Glenn Branch told Ohio Public
Radio (September 8, 2014).

As NCSE previously reported, a provision requiring the state's science
standards to "prohibit political or religious interpretation of
scientific facts in favor of another" was removed by the House Rules
and Reference Committee, only to be replaced by a provision requiring
students to "review, in an objective manner, the scientific strengths
and weaknesses of existing scientific theories."

Such "strengths and weaknesses" language, Branch explained, is
invariably selectively applied to evolution, climate change, and
similarly socially -- but not scientifically -- controversial topics.
"You're surely not going to see the scientific strengths and
weaknesses of osmosis or photosynthesis being presented under the
provision of the bill should it pass," he commented.

As for the status of HB 597, Ohio Public Radio reported, "The bill is
still in a House committee -- no word yet on when a vote could be

For the Ohio Public Radio story (via WCBE), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit: 


The distinguished theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg died on September 5,
2014, at the age of 85, according to his former student Philip
Clayton, posting at the Theoblogy blog (September 7, 2014). Often
described, as Clayton says, as "the greatest theologian of the second
half of the 20th century," Pannenberg's wide interests included the
relationship of science and religion. His writings on the topic
include Wissenschaftstheorie und Theologie (1973; translated as
Theology and the Philosophy of Science, 1976) and the papers collected
in Toward a Theology of Nature: Essays on Science and Faith (1993) --
named as a central text of the discipline by the International Society
for Science and Religion -- and Historicity of Nature: Essays on
Science and Theology (2007).

To the extent that Pannenberg was interested in the
creationism/evolution controversy in the United States, he was
dismissive of both the scientific and the theological legitimacy of
creationism. In "Human Life: Creation versus Evolution?" (1998), for
example, he wrote, "the theory of evolution still provides the most
plausible interpretation of what is known about the history of organic
life on this planet." Acknowledging that "the modern picture of nature
... is ... at variance with the image in the first chapter of Genesis
that the whole order of creation was produced in six days and
continues to exist unchanged," he insisted that the Bible also
represents creation as a continuing process. "Such a conception of
continuous creation does not have difficulties with a doctrine of
evolution, according to which the different species of animals emerge
successively in the long process of life's history on earth."
Similarly, in a 2001 interview, Pannenberg recommended, "In
criticizing the doctrine of evolution, our creationist friends among
Christian theologians should read their Bibles more closely." In the
same interview, he described himself, not as a theistic evolutionist,
but as a Trinitarian evolutionist.

Pannenberg was born in Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland), on
October 2, 1928. He attended the Universities of Berlin, Göttingen,
Basel (where he studied under Karl Barth), and Heidelberg from 1947 to
1953, receiving his Th.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 1953.
He served as professor of systematic theology at the University of
Heidelberg from 1955 to 1958, at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal
from 1958 to 1961, the University of Mainz from 1961 to 1967, and the
University of Munich from 1967 until his retirement in 1993. He was a
visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Harvard University,
and the Claremont School of Theology. He received honorary degrees
from the Universities of Glasgow, Manchester, and Dublin.

For Philip Clayton's obituary of Pannenberg, visit: 

And for the 2001 interview of Pannenberg, visit: 


Ben Santer, a member of NCSE's board of directors, was among the
ninety-seven climate scientists featured in Skeptical Science's 97
Hours of Consensus campaign. Launched on September 7, 2014, the
campaign featured an hourly statement on climate change from, along
with a playful caricature of, ninety-seven leading climate scientists.

Santer, a noted climate researcher, was quoted as saying, "We look at
many, many different aspects of climate change and they're telling us
an internally and physically consistent story. The message in that
story is clear: Humans are affecting the global climate, and natural
causation alone can't explain the observed changes that we see."

Also included in the 97 Hours of Consensus campaign were Michael E.
Mann (a member of NCSE's Advisory Council) and Richard Alley, both of
whom received the inaugural Friend of the Planet award from NCSE in
2014 for their efforts to support NCSE and advance its goal of
defending the teaching of climate science.

The number 97, of course, alludes to the result of a study, published
inEnvironmental Research Letters in 2013, that found that 97% of
relevant papers on climate science accepted the reality of
human-caused global warming; the purpose of the campaign is to help to
publicize the existence of the scientific consensus on global warming.

John Cook of the University of Queensland's Global Change Institute
explained, "Less than 10% of Americans are aware of the 97% consensus
on climate change. This 'consensus gap' matters. When the public
aren't aware of the overwhelming agreement on global warming, they're
less likely to support action to mitigate climage change."

The 97 Hours of Consensus campaign used social media extensively. The
quotes and caricatures were Tweeted each hour from the Skeptical
Science Twitter page(@skepticscience) with the hashtag #97hour and 
also posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page, and the associated
images are available on Imgur.

For the 97 Hours of Consensus campaign, visit: 

For information about the Friend of the Planet award to Mann and Alley, visit: 

For the Environmental Research Letters study, visit: 

And for NCSE's resources on climate science and climate education, visit: 


The antiscience provision was removed from Ohio's House Bill 597 by
the House Rules and Reference Committee on September 4, 2014 -- only
to be replaced by a provision requiring students to "review, in an
objective manner, the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing
scientific theories in the standards." The same language is familiar
from antiscience bills across the country, including Tennessee's
"monkey law."

Also added to HB 597 was a similarly familiar provision -- "Nothing in
... this section shall be construed to promote any religious or
nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a
particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote
discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion" -- which is
apparently intended to immunize the bill from the charge that it would
violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.

"If the sponsors of the bill are trying to reassure the public that
they're not trying to open the classroom door to creationism, climate
change denial, and pseudoscience of all kinds," commented NCSE's
deputy director Glenn Branch, "they're not doing a good job." He
added, "As a product of Ohio's public schools myself, I earnestly hope
that the state legislature will not accept such a bill that would
compromise the integrity of science education."

As NCSE previously reported, HB 597, aimed primarily at eliminating
Common Core, also contained a provision requiring the state's science
standards to "prohibit political or religious interpretation of
scientific facts in favor of another." A sponsor of the bill, Andy
Thompson (R-District 95), explained that local school districts would
be allowed to teach creationism along with evolution and global
warming denial alongside climate science.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (August 22, 2014) warned, "Count on a
serious court battle if a few state legislators have their way and
Intelligent Design and other religious interpretations of science are
allowed to be taught in public schools," and NCSE's Glenn Branch told
the Cincinnati Enquirer (August 22, 2014), "It's a hugely bad idea.
... Some [local school districts] will be tempted to push the limits
and teach creationism. If they do, they'll get sued over it."

What are the prospects of HB 597? Matt Huffman (R-District 4), a
sponsor of the bill and chair of the Rules and Reference Committee
would not predict when the committee would vote on the bill, according
to the Columbus Dispatch (September 5, 2014). The Speaker of the House
was not willing to predict whether the bill would receive a floor vote
in the House, and Gerald Stebelton (R-District 77) predicted that
there were not enough votes for it to pass.

For information about Ohio's House Bill 597, visit: 

For the stories from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cincinnati Enquirer,
and Columbus Dispatch, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit: 

FACEBOOK: N > 80,000

A milestone: there are now over 80,000 fans of NCSE's Facebook page.
Why not join them, by visiting the page and becoming a fan by clicking
on the "Like" box by NCSE's name? You'll receive the latest NCSE news
delivered straight to your Facebook Home page, as well as updates on
evolution-related and climate-related topics. Or if you prefer your
news in 140-character chunks, follow NCSE on Twitter. And while you're
surfing the web, why not visit NCSE's YouTube channel, with hundreds
of videos for your watching pleasure? It's the best place on the web
to view talks by NCSE's staff, including the new series of activist
workshop webinars.

For NCSE's Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel, visit: 


Have you been visiting NCSE's blog, The Science League of America,
recently? If not, then you've missed:

* Glenn Branch discussing the definition of "theory": 

* Stephanie Keep reviewing the relevance of embryology to evolution: 

* Glenn Branch telling the story of the Elmer Chubb hoax in Dayton: 

And much more besides!

For The Science League of America, visit: 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x303
fax: 510-601-7204

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