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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2014/12/05

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

NCSE is featured in the new Climate Education and Literacy Initiative.
A creationist lawsuit against the adoption of the NGSS in Kansas is
dismissed. And there is a major new survey on religion and human
origins, plus a preview of The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate
Change.

THE NEW CLIMATE EDUCATION AND LITERACY INITIATIVE

"[T]he White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) is
launching a new Climate Education and Literacy Initiative to help
connect American students and citizens with the best-available,
science-based information about climate change," according to a
December 3, 2014, press release from the White House. And NCSE is
involved.

NCSE's Mark McCaffrey applauded the new initiative. "Education,
training, and public awareness about the risks and possible responses
to climate change is vital," he explained. "The Climate Education and
Literacy Initiative helps to amplify existing efforts, builds support
for new ones, and provides a solid foundation for further efforts."

As part of the launch, a series of educational videos were released
highlighting key elements of the Essential Principles of Energy was
released. The videos were developed by the Department of Energy
together with the American Geosciences Institute and the National
Center for Science Education. Accompanying the videos are guides for
students and teachers.

Also highlighted in the press release were a new Action Fellowship
with the Alliance for Climate Education, new resources that will be
added to the digital collection of the Climate Literacy and Energy
Awareness Network, and a series of regional climate-science workshops
for educators that will be held by NOAA in 2015.

For the White House press release (PDF), visit:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/climateed-dec-3-2014.pdf 

For the Essential Principles of Energy videos, visit:
http://energy.gov/eere/education/downloads/energy-literacy-videos 

LAWSUIT OVER NGSS DISMISSED

A federal court dismissed a creationist lawsuit seeking to prevent
Kansas from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards on the
grounds that doing so would "establish and endorse a non-theistic
religious worldview." In a December 2, 2014, order in COPE et al. v.
Kansas State Board of Education et al., Judge Daniel D. Crabtree of
the United States District Court for the District of Kansas granted
the defendants' motion to dismiss the case.

The complaint contended that the NGSS "seek to cause students to
embrace a non-theistic Worldview ... by leading very young children to
ask ultimate questions about the cause and nature of life and the
universe ... and then using a variety of deceptive devices and methods
that will lead them to answer the questions with only
materialistic/atheistic explanations." Both the Big Bang and evolution
were emphasized as problematic.

Judge Crabtree's decision did not address the content of the
complaint, instead finding that that the Kansas state board of
education and the Kansas state department of education enjoyed
Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity against the suit and that the
plaintiffs lacked standing to assert any of their claims, failing to
establish any of the three relevant requirements for standing: injury,
causation, and addressability.

As NCSE previously reported, the lead plaintiff, COPE, Citizens for
Objective Public Education, is a new creationist organization, founded
in 2012, but its leaders and attorneys include people familiar from
previous attacks on evolution education across the country, such as
John H. Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network. The Kansas board of
education voted to adopt the NGSS in June 2013, and the lawsuit in
effect attempted to undo the decision.

NCSE's Josh Rosenau, who dismissed the lawsuit as "silly" to the
Associated Press (September 26, 2013) when it was filed, expressed
satisfaction at the outcome. He predicted that even if the plaintiffs
had established standing, they would have lost the case: "They were
trying to say that anything not promoting their religion is promoting
some other religion, and that argument has been repeatedly rejected by
the courts."

The NGSS have been adopted in twelve states -- California, Delaware,
Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon,
Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington -- plus the District of
Columbia. The treatment of evolution and climate science in the
standards occasionally provokes controversy (especially in Wyoming,
where the legislature derailed their adoption over climate science),
but COPE v. Kansas is the only lawsuit to have resulted.

For the order granting the motion to dismiss the case (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/files/2014-12-02_Order_on_Motion_to_Dismiss.pdf 

For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit:
http://ncse.com/legal/cope-v-kansas-state-boe 

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

A MAJOR NEW SURVEY ON RELIGION AND HUMAN ORIGINS

A new survey suggests that public attitudes toward religion and human
origins are more diverse and less confident than the Gallup findings
indicate. "It's important to know that a large portion of the
population is unsure about their beliefs, and there is a large portion
of the population that doesn't care," Jonathan P. Hill told the
Atlantic (November 23, 2014), prior to the December 2, 2014, release
of the National Study of Religion & Human Origins.

"To help generate a better picture of the landscape of beliefs, the
NSRHO includes separate questions about human evolution, God’s
involvement, the manner in which God created, the existence of a
historical Adam and Eve, belief in literal 24-hour days of creation,
and the geological timeframe for the emergence or creation of humans,"
the report explains. Accordingly, there are varying ways in which to
parse the results.

If creationism is defined as involving denying human evolution and
affirming that God created humans, the study found that 37% of the
public are creationists and 29% are convinced (absolutely or very
certain) creationists. If creationism is defined as further requiring
that God miraculously created a historical pair of progenitors of the
entire human race, then 25% of the public are creationists and 22% are
convinced creationists.

Only 8% of the public are young-earth creationists, who accept that
the days of creation were literally twenty-four hour days and that
humans came into existence within the last 10,000 years. But the
report adds, "The remaining two-thirds of creationists do not take the
Old Earth view[,] however." Rather, many "are simply unsure whether
the days of creation were literal, and they are especially unsure
about when humans first came into existence."

As for theistic evolutionism, the report described it as less popular
than creationism: "Using the broadest categorization, respondents who
(a) believe in human evolution and (b) believe that God (or an
intelligent force) was somehow involved in the creation of humans, 16
percent of the population can be placed in this category. Furthermore,
only half of this group (8 percent) is very or absolutely certain of
both of these beliefs."

Just 9% of the public are atheistic evolutionists (in the sense that
they deny that God was involved in human evolution, not necessarily in
the sense that they deny the existence of God). The remaining 39% of
the population is unsure (or holds "uncommon views (such as believing
that humans did not evolve from earlier species while simultaneously
believing that God had nothing to do with the emergence of humans").

The survey also asked respondents to indicate whether having the right
beliefs about human origins was personally important to them: 42%
indicated that it was very or extremely important, with 63% of
creationists, 52% of atheistic evolutionists, 35% of theistic
evolutionists, and 23% of unsure respondents thinking so. These
respondents were also asked to explain why, and the report describes
their responses at length.

The Atlantic observed, "Even if people don't personally care about
being right, they do seem to care a lot about what's taught in science
classrooms, particularly in public schools," and NCSE's Josh Rosenau
suggested that creationists are particularly concerned about
evolution's account of human origins. "Who are we as people? That's
the question that they think evolution is answering. What does it mean
to be a person?"

The survey also investigated demography. The Atlantic summarizes,
"Hill found that religious belief was the strongest determinant of
people's views on evolution -- much more so than education,
socioeconomic status, age, political views, or region of the country.
More importantly, being part of a community where people had stated
opinions on evolution or creation, like a church, had a big impact on
people's views."

In a post for BioLogos's blog (December 2, 2014) describing the study
and explaining the factors it found to be relevant to belief about
human origins, Hill wrote, "The most important takeaway here is that
individual theological beliefs, practices, and identities are
important, but they only become a reliable pathway to creationism or
atheistic evolutionism when paired with certain contexts or certain
other social identities."

For the story in the Atlantic, visit:
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/11/you-cant-educate-people-into-believing-in-evolution/382983/?single_page=true 

For the report of the survey (PDF), visit:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/k8pm1s48uaqvvm3/NSRHO%20Report.pdf?dl=0 

For Hill's post at BioLogos's blog, visit:
http://biologos.org/blog/the-recipe-for-creationism 

And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/polls-surveys 

A PREVIEW OF THE THINKING PERSON'S GUIDE TO CLIMATE CHANGE

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Robert Henson's The
Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change (American Meteorological
Society, 2014). The preview consists of chapter 14, "The Predicament:
What Would It Take to Fix Global Warming?" Henson writes, "The global
warming problem isn't going to be solved tomorrow, next week, or next
year: we're in this one for the long haul, and there clearly isn't any
single solution."

The publisher writes, "This fully illustrated reference for
nonscientists and scientists alike is an updated and expanded revision
of Robert Henson's The Rough Guide to Climate Change, previously
published in the UK. It provides the most comprehensive, yet
accessible, overview of where climate science stands today,
acknowledging controversies but standing strong in its stance that the
climate is changing -- and something needs to be done."

For the preview of The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change (PDF), visit:
http://ncse.com/book-excerpt 

For information about the book from its publisher, visit:
http://bookstore.ametsoc.org/catalog/book/thinking-persons-guide-climate-change 

WHAT'S NEW FROM THE SCIENCE LEAGUE OF AMERICA

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

* Glenn Branch examining the history of "lumpers and splitters":
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/11/whence-lumpers-splitters-0016004 

* Stephanie Keep discussing misconceptions about fossils:
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/11/misconception-mondaythursday-fossils-everywhere-0016006 
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/11/misconception-monday-fossils-everywhere-part-2-0016012 
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/11/misconception-monday-fossils-everywhere-part-3-0016018 

* Mark McCaffrey pondering the Public Religion Research Institute's
poll on climate:
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/12/climate-confusion-0016024e 

And much more besides!

For The Science League of America, visit:
http://ncse.com/blog 

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

--
Sincerely,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x303
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

Check out NCSE's new blog, Science League of America:
http://ncse.com/blog 

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http://reports.ncse.com 

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