Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2015/01/02

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

The creationist lawsuit against the NGSS is back. Plus discouraging
signs from West Virginia, where the treatment of climate in new state
science standards was compromised, but encouraging signs from Wyoming,
where a bill to repeal the ban on adoption of the Next Generation
Science Standards was filed.


The dismissal of 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" is now under appeal. The Associated Press (December 31,
2014) reports that the plaintiffs in COPE et al. v. Kansas State Board
of Education et al. filed a notice of appeal with the United States
Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on December 30, 2014.

As NCSE previously reported, the original complaint, filed in
September 2013, 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.

In a December 2, 2014, order, Judge Daniel D. Crabtree of the United
States District Court for the District of Kansas granted the
defendants' motion to dismiss the case. The 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.

As NCSE previously reported, the lead plaintiff, COPE, Citizens for
Objective Public Education, is a relatively new creationist
organization, founded in 2012, but its leaders and attorneys include
figures  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.

The NGSS have been adopted in thirteen states -- California, Delaware,
Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon,
Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia -- 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 Associated Press story (via the Emporia Gazette), visit: 

For NCSE's collection of documents from the case, visit: 

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


"At the request of a West Virginia Board of Education member who said
he doesn't believe human-influenced climate change is a 'foregone
conclusion,' new state science standards on the topic were altered
before the state school board adopted them," reported the Charleston
Gazette (December 28, 2014), in a detailed story.

Where the NGSS called for high school students to "[a]nalyze
geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an
evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional
climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems," for
example, the revised standard asks them to assess the "creditability"
(sic) of such data.

Even more strikingly, where the NGSS called for middle school students
to "ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused
the rise in global temperature over the past century" -- which would
include the burning of fossil fuels -- the revised standard asks them
about "the rise and fall in global temperature."

West Virginia adopted the Next Generation Science Standards in
December 2014, becoming the thirteenth state to do so and joining
California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada,
New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as
the District of Columbia.

But before the standards were offered for public comment in the state,
Wade Linger, a member of the state board of education, asked for
changes to downplay climate change. He told the Gazette, "We're on
this global warming binge going on here," adding,  "We need to look at
all the theories about it rather than just the human changes in
greenhouse gases."

Tom Campbell, a member of the board who expressed his agreement with
Linger, told the newspaper, "Let's not use unproven theories." Asked
why he was concerned especially with the "unproven theory" of climate
change, he responded, "West Virginia coal in particular has been
taking on unfair negativity from certain groups."

A staffer in the state department of education noted that before the
adoption of the new standards, students were not required to learn
about the evidence for climate change, and described the "and fall"
addition as "fabulous." A colleague claimed that the changes were
vetted by departmental staff and were consistent with the intentions
of the NGSS.

Stephen Pruitt of Achieve, the non-profit organization coordinating
the NGSS, commented that "the science is showing that we are seeing a
rise in the mean global temperatures." But he also downplayed the
significance of human-caused climate change in the standards, and a
colleague added that states are free to modify the NGSS without

NCSE's Mark McCaffrey was dismayed by the changes. "While the new
standards are a vast improvement over West Virginia's old standards,"
he explained, "it's disappointing to see that the whims of a few board
members have been allowed to ride roughshod over the scientific
consensus on climate reflected in the NGSS."

"When asked how the state Department of Education would ensure that
teachers instructing students on the climate change standards actually
foster fair debate backed up by solid evidence," the Gazette reported,
"school officials argued they have little control over local curricula
or ability to monitor it."

For the story in the Charleston Gazette, visit: 

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


Wyoming's House Bill 23, introducted on December 23, 2014, would, if
enacted, repeal the footnote in the law establishing the state budget
for 2014-2016 that precludes the use of state funds "for any review or
adoption" of the Next Generation Science Standards.

As NCSE previously reported, the treatment of climate change was cited
as the reason for the footnote. The Wyoming state board of education
subsequently declined to develop a new set of science standards
independent of the NGSS. Despite the legislature's decision, local
school districts are free to adopt the NGSS, and about fifteen (of
forty-eight) have reportedly done so.

Before the bill was introduced, John Patton (R-District 29) told the
Casper Star-Tribune (December 15, 2014), "What the bill does is pretty
straight forward and simple ... It simply removes Footnote No. 3 in
the appropriations bill. It means the State Board of Education can
continue with its work uninterrupted by the Legislature." He was
optimistic about the prospect for the bill's passage.

Joining Patton as sponsors of HB 23 are, in the House of
Representatives, Rosie Berger (R-District 51), Kermit Brown
(R-District 14), and John Freeman (D-District 60), and, in the Senate,
J. D. Anderson (D-District 2) and Chris Rothfuss (D-District 9).

For Wyoming's House Bill 23 as introduced (PDF), visit: 

For the story in the Casper Star-Tribune, visit: 

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


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

* Josh Rosenau continuing to ponder the latest poll on evolution and religion: 

* Glenn Branch investigating a spurious quotation from Darwin: 

* Stephanie Keep applauding a good explanation of fossils in a children's book: 

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

Check out NCSE's new blog, Science League of America: 

Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: 

Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!