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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2015/02/13

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

The effort to unblock the Next Generation Science Standard in Wyoming
continues. Antiscience bills in Montana and South Dakota are dead, but
are Utah's new science standards in trouble? Plus Darwin Day
resolutions are introduced in the Arizona House of Representatives and
the United States Senate. And -- speaking of which -- a reminder about
Darwin Day.


Wyoming's House Bill 23 was passed by the Senate on a 27-3 vote on
February 12, 2015. The bill would allow the state to adopt the Next
Generation Science Standards by repealing a footnote in the state
budget for 2014-2016 that precluded the use of state funds for "any
review or adoption" of the NGSS.

The treatment of climate change was cited as the reason for the
footnote in the budget, as NCSE previously reported. 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 passing HB 23, the Senate amended it by adding, "The state
board of education may consider, discuss or modify the next generation
science standards, in addition to any other standards, content or
benchmarks as it may  determine necessary, to develop quality science
standards that are unique to Wyoming." The House previously considered
and rejected such a provision, so the bill will proceed to conference

"It's clear," commented NCSE's Mark McCaffrey, "that Wyoming educators
want to be able to make use of the NGSS. It would be a shame if the
Senate's amendment to the bill survived, enabling the opponents of
sound science education to lobby against the use of the standards as
somehow not sufficiently unique to the state."

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

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


Montana's House Bill 321, which purports to "encourage critical
thinking regarding controversial scientific theories" such as
"biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation,
natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries," was tabled in the
House Education Committee on February 9, 2015.

According to the Billings Gazette (January 29, 2015), the bill "would
encourage high school teachers to present evolutionary biology as
disputed theory rather than sound science and protect those who teach
viewpoints like creationism in the classroom."

The House Education Committee discussed HB 321 in its February 6,
2015, meeting. Only two testifiers, including the bill's sponsor,
Clayton Fiscus (R-District 46), spoke in favor of the bill, while over
a dozen testifiers, including scientists, teachers, theologians,
school board members, and concerned parents, testified against it.

For information about Montana's House Bill 321, visit: 

For the story in the Billings Gazette, visit: 

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


South Dakota's Senate Bill 114 is out of commission, following a
February 10, 2015, hearing in the Senate Education Committee. The
committee voted to defer further consideration of the bill to the
forty-first legislative day, and since the legislative session in
South Dakota is forty days long in odd-numbered years, the bill is
effectively dead.

Identifying "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life,
global warming, [and] human cloning" as scientifically controversial,
SB 114 would, in effect, have allowed public school teachers to
miseducate their students about science -- and would have prevented
state and local educational authorities from intervening.

Testifying in support of the bill at the committee hearing were
representatives of Concerned Women for America, the South Dakota
Family Policy Council, and the Discovery Institute; testifying in
opposition were representatives of the state department of education,
the South Dakota Education Association, and the Associated School
Boards of South Dakota.

For information about South Dakota's Senate Bill 114, visit: 

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


Utah's new state standards for middle school science education are on
hold, reports the Salt Lake Tribune (February 9, 2015) -- and
evolution and climate change may be the reason.

Although the draft standards were to be released for public review and
comment in February 2015, the state board of education's standards and
assessment committee decided to postpone their release pending further
revisions. Laura Belnap, a member of the board, told the newspaper
that the reason for the committee's decision was the incorporation of
computer science in the standards.

In a subsequent editorial, however, the Tribune (February 9, 2015)
complainedthat "the state board is in a holding pattern because of a
few objections that the proposed standards are too accepting of such
'controversial' scientific principles as evolution and climate
change," adding, "in science class they teach science. Evolution and
climate change included, or it cannot be called science class."

The editorial may have been prompted by a comment from Vincent
Newmeyer, a parent who served on a state committee that reviewed the
standards, who felt that the draft standards took a position on
controversial subjects. "That is true with global warming, that is
true with Darwinian evolution and a number of other things," Newmeyer
told the newspaper. "It's not a science class in these areas. It's an
indoctrination class."

"With the public review now on hold," the Tribune commented, "it is
not clear what the next steps for the science standards will be."

For the Salt Lake Tribune's story and editorial, visit: 

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


House Resolution 2002, introduced in the Arizona House of
Representatives on February 9, 2015, would, if enacted, express the
House's recognition of February 12, 2015, as International Darwin Day.

The resolution acknowledges the 206th anniversary of Charles Darwin's
birth, honors his discovery of natural selection, and the theory's
role as "the foundation for ongoing advances in science, health,
philosophy, art, education, and many other areas of modern life." It
also celebrates Darwin's "strength of character" and the "great
courage, wisdom and honesty required to explore and publish" his work
on evolution, and deems his birthday "an appropriate day on which to
celebrate and to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual
bravery, perpetual curiosity, and the hunger for truth, which
contribute to the well-being of all people."

Like HR 67 and SR 66, Darwin Day resolutions introduced in the US
House and US Senate, the resolution in Arizona covers only 2015. The
resolution was introduced by Andrew Sherwood (D-District 26) and
Rebecca Rios (D-District 27), whose districts include Arizona State

For the text of Arizona's House Resolution 2002 (PDF), visit:


Senate Resolution 66, introduced in the United States Senate on
February 4, 2015, would, if passed, express the Senate's support of
designating February 12, 2015, as Darwin Day, and its recognition of
"Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the
achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human

Introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), S. Res. 66
is the first Darwin Day resolution ever to appear in the Senate. A
string of similar bills have been introduced in the House of
Representatives, the most recent of which -- H. Res. 67 -- was
introduced by Representative Jim Himes on February 2, 2015.

In a February 5, 2015, press release from the Secular Coalition of
America, which worked with Blumenthal on the resolution, Kelly Damerow
expressed her "hope that all members of Congress will see these
resolutions as a reminder of the historical impact of science on
humanity and its continued importance in our everyday lives."

For the text of Senate Resolution 66 (PDF), visit: 

And for the Secular Coalition of America's press release, visit: 


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: Darwin's birthday was
February 12, but the celebrations continue! Colleges and universities,
schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain
folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to
celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life
and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous
opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage
in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of
evolution education -- which is especially needed with assaults on
evolution education already under way in state legislatures. NCSE
encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even
organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local
event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the
registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration
website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin
Day Celebration website!)

And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of
congregations all over the country and around the world are taking
part in Evolution Weekend, February 13-15, 2015, by presenting sermons
and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science.
Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution
Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the
relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to
elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to
move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that
religious people from many faiths and locations understand that
evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.
Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it
clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and
science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 459
congregations in forty-five states (and thirteen foreign countries)
were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events.

For the Darwin Day registry, visit: 

For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: 


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

* Josh Rosenau noting a telling irony in a creationist organization's
complaint about totalitarianism: 

* Mark McCaffrey recounting his recent visit to the Energy and Climate
Change conference: 

* Glenn Branch investigating the provenance of the adage "Everything
is the way it is because it got that way": 

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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