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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2016/01/01

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

A pair of bills in Florida have evolution and climate change in their
sights. Zack Kopplin interviews a former employee of the Discovery
Institute. Sad news of the death of Alfred G. Gilman. And the Royal
Astronomical Society adds its voice for evolution.


Two bills introduced in the Florida legislature -- House Bill 899 and
Senate Bill 1018 -- are ostensibly aimed at empowering taxpayers to
object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public
schools, for example on the grounds that they fail to provide "a
noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues." There
is reason to believe that evolution and climate change are among the

According to the Naples Daily News (December 22, 2015), "The identical
bills are the work of the Florida Citizens' Alliance and Better
Collier County Public Schools." Both organizations are opposed to the
Common Core standards for English language arts and mathematics and
have been feuding with the Collier County School Board over the
curricula and textbooks used in the district, especially with regard
to history.

Florida Citizens' Alliance's website complains of a world history
textbook that in it "Darwin's conclusions [are] presented as fact and
the biblical theory as ludicrous ... [it] states as fact millions of
species exist and fossil records document changes over time. ... while
the biblical explanation claims all species created by God on the same
day," and of an American history textbook that it is "permeate[d]" by
"discussion of climate change."

Currently, Florida parents unhappy with instructional materials are
entitled to complain to their local school board, whose decision is
final. HB 899 and SB 1018, if enacted, would allow any taxpayer to
complain to the local school board, and moreover allow them to appeal
a negative result to a circuit court to seek damages and/or injunctive
relief; the prevailing party in such a case would be entitled to
reasonable attorney fees and costs.

A further provision of the bills is also of concern. Currently,
instructional materials used in Florida's schools must be consistent
with the state science standards. HB 899 and SB 1018 would allow that
instructional materials may be alternatively be consistent with
"standards that are equivalent to or better than the applicable state
standards." No criteria for assessing the relative quality of
standards are provided.

Florida Citizens' Alliance's website recently posted a list of
“Examples of Acceptable/Proven K-12 Standards and Corresponding
Curriculum," which includes a link to something called Freedom Project
Education Classical Judeo-Christian Online Academy, whose high school
biology classes refer to "the Creator God" and use a creationist
textbook (Exploring Creation with Biology, second edition).

The sponsor of SB 1018 is Alan Hays (R-District 11), who, while
serving in the Florida House of Representatives, introduced HB 1483 in
2008. As introduced, the bill was a version of the so-called academic
freedom act; Hays later substituted a one-line version calling on
public schools to provide "[a] thorough presentation and critical
analysis of the scientific theory of evolution." HB 1483 was
eventually tabled.

SB 1018 was filed on December 2, 2015, and referred to the
appropriations and education committees and the appropriations
subcommittee on education. HB 899, sponsored by Ray Pilon (R-District
72), was filed on December 8, 2015, and referred to the education
committee and the education K-12 and appropriations subcommittees.
Florida Citizens for Science is monitoring the bills with concern.

For Florida's House Bill 899 and Senate Bill 1018 as introduced, visit: 

For the story in the Naples Daily News, visit: 

And for Florida Citizens for Science's website and blog, visit: 


Writing in The Daily Beast (December 28, 2015), Zack Kopplin reviews
the last decade of antievolution strategies -- with the assistance of
a former employee of the Discovery Institute, the de facto
institutional home of "intelligent design" creationism.

The Discovery Institute "is religiously motivated in all they do," the
former employee told Kopplin. "One way to tell that the motivation is
religion, and not science, is to compare DI work product to tech
papers produced by working scientists in the field of biology or
subfield of evolutionary biology. The two kinds of work product look
very different, read very different, and were produced by very
different means."

"Critical thinking, critical analysis, teach the controversy, academic
freedom -- these are words that stand for legitimate pedagogical
approaches and doctrines in the fields of public education and public
education policy," the former employee added. "That is why DI co-opts
them. DI hollows these words out and fills them with their own
purposes; it then passes them off to the public and to government as
secular, pedagogically appropriate, and religiously neutral."

A persistent critic of antievolutionist efforts, especially in his
native Louisiana, where he launched a campaign to repeal the so-called
Louisiana Science Education Act as a high school senior in 2011,
Kopplin received NCSE's Friend of Darwin award in 2012.

For Kopplin's story at The Daily Beast, visit: 


The eminent pharmacologist and biochemist Alfred G. Gilman -- a member
of NCSE's Advisory Council -- died on December 23, 2015, at the age of
74, according to The New York Times (December 24, 2015). Gilman and
Martin Rodbell were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
in 1994 for "their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these
proteins in signal transduction in cells." The Times explains that
their "research helped scientists understand how the body receives
signals and transmits outside stimuli like light and odor, and from a
variety of hormones in the body" and also increased understanding of
certain types of cancer and hereditary glandular disorders.

Gilman was particularly concerned with attacks on evolution education
in his home state of Texas. In 2003, for example, he was active in
resisting attempts to undermine the treatment of evolution in the
textbooks then under consideration by the Texas state board of
education. He wrote a column for the Dallas Morning News, cosigned by
sixteen members of the National Academy of Sciences and/or the
Institute of Medicine, including three other Nobel laureates, urging
the board to "render a decision based solely as whether the texts are
scientifically accurate." He subsequently joined NCSE's Advisory
Council. In 2008, Gilman was also active in opposing the Institute for
Creation Research's application for Texas certification of its
graduate school, rhetorically asking the Texas Higher Education
Coordinating Board, "How can Texas simultaneously launch a war on
cancer and approve educational platforms that submit that the universe
is 10,000 years old?" Outside Texas, he signed the petition to repeal
Louisiana's so-called Science Education Act. He also frequently helped
NCSE to recruit fellow Nobel laureates and members of the National
Academy of Sciences to oppose attacks on evolution education in their
home states.

Gilman was born on July 1, 1941, in New Haven, Connecticut. He earned
his B.S. in biochemistry from Yale University in 1962 and his M.D. and
Ph.D. in pharmacology from Case Western Reserve University in 1969. He
worked at the University of Virginia from 1971 to 1981, and then at
the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center from 1981 to 2009.
He served as the chief scientific officer of the Cancer Prevention and
Research Institute of Texas from 2009 to 2012. Besides the Nobel
Prize, his honors included membership in the National Academy of
Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and honorary
degrees from Case Western Reserve, Yale, and the universities of
Chicago and Miami.

For the obituary in The New York Times, visit: 


The chorus of support for the teaching of evolution continues, with a
statement from the Royal Astronomical Society, adopted in 2011.

In its statement, the society expresses its support for "the teaching
of evolution, geophysics, astronomy and other scientific theories in
school science lessons." As for supposed alternatives, the statement
adds that "Intelligent Design and Creationism are not scientific
theories and are presented with too little regard to carefully
developed and tested scientific evidence, in order to support a
preconceived view. ... These ideas directly contradict scientific
evidence and are so far from accepted scientific knowledge that they
are regarded by scientists as false."

The Royal Astronomical Society's statement is now reproduced, by
permission, on NCSE's website, and will also be contained in the
fourth edition of NCSE's Voices for Evolution.

For the statement (PDF), visit: 

For Voices for Evolution, visit: 


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

* Guest blogger Steven Dutch reviewing James L. Powell's Four
Revolutions in the Earth Sciences: 

* Glenn Branch tracing a misleadingly quoted passage from a 1911 source: 

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.

With best wishes for the new year,

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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