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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2016/01/22

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Antievolution legislation in Oklahoma. Public opinion on climate
change and evolution addressed in Science and Engineering Indicators
2016. Plus a reminder about Darwin Day.


Senate Bill 1322, styled the Oklahoma Science Education Act, is the
latest antievolution bill in the Sooner State. SB 1322 would, if
enacted, in effect encourage science teachers with idiosyncratic
opinions to teach anything they pleased -- proponents of creationism
and climate change denial are the usual intended beneficiaries of such
bills -- and discourage responsible educational authorities from
intervening. No scientific topics are specifically identified as
controversial, but the fact that the sole sponsor of SB 1322 is Josh
Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced similar legislation that
directly targeted evolution in previous legislative sessions, is

SB 1322 would require state and local educational authorities to
"assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science
curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and permit
teachers to "help students understand, analyze, critique and review in
an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses
of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught";
it would prevent such authorities from "prohibit[ing] any teacher in a
public school district in this state from helping students understand,
analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific
strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in
the course being taught."

In late 2010, Brecheen announced his intention to file antievolution
legislation in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010):
"Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors
are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown,
without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and
unacceptable." In a later column in the newspaper (December 24, 2010),
he indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented as
scientifically credible, writing, "I have introduced legislation
requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate
of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which
conflicts with Darwin's religion."

What Brecheen in fact introduced in 2011, Senate Bill 554, combined a
version of the now familiar "academic freedom" language -- referring
to "the scientific strengths [and] scientific weaknesses of
controversial topics ... [which] include but are not limited to
biological origins of life and biological evolution" -- with a
directive for the state board of education to adopt "standards and
curricula" that echo the flawed portions of the state science
standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature of
science and evolution. SB 554 died in committee. In 2012, Brecheen
took a new tack with Senate Bill 1742, modeled in part on the
so-called Louisiana Science Education Act; SB 1742 likewise died in

In 2013, Brecheen modified his approach again. Senate Bill 758
followed the lead of Tennessee's "monkey law" (as it was nicknamed by
House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh), enacted (as Tenn. Code Ann.
49-6-1030) over the protests of the state's scientific and educational
communities in 2012. The major difference is that SB 758 omitted the
monkey law's statement of legislative findings, which cites
"biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming,
and human cloning" as among the topics that "can cause controversy"
when taught in the science classroom of the public schools. The bill
died in the Senate Education Committee.

The failure of SB 758 notwithstanding, Brecheen persisted. In 2014, he
introduced the virtually identical SB 1765. Like SB 758, it died in
the Senate Education Committee, but not before eliciting opposition
from the American Institute of Biological Sciences, which described
the bill as "bad for science and bad for science education," and the
National Association of Biology Teachers, which warned that it "could
easily permit non-science based discussions of 'strengths and
weaknesses' to take place in science classrooms, confusing students
about the nature of science." In 2015, he introduced the virtually
identical SB 655, which similarly died in the Senate Education

For the text of Oklahoma's Senate Bill 1322 as introduced (PDF), visit: 

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


Public opinion about climate change was reviewed in the National
Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2016.

Climate change, according to the NSB's report, "remains a central, and
often divisive, environmental issue for the American public." The
report highlighted two points:

* Slightly more than half of Americans say they worry about climate
change, a percentage that is relatively low compared with surveys
conducted since 1989. Fewer than 4 in 10 think it will pose a serious
threat to their own way of life.

* Only about 6 in 10 Americans believe there is scientific consensus
on the fact that climate change is occurring.

A variety of reports and commentaries on previous polls about public
opinion about climate science is available on NCSE's website.

For chapter 7 of Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys on climate, visit: 


Public opinion about evolution and the Big Bang was reviewed in the
National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2016.

In the 2014 General Social Survey, respondents were asked whether
"human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species
of animals" was true or false; 49% said that it was true. Respondents
were also asked whether "the universe began with a big explosion" was
true; 42% said that it was true. The report commented, "Both scores
are relatively low compared with scores on the other knowledge
questions in the survey."

Those questions have not been used in the National Science Board's
assessment of scientific literacy since 2010, on the grounds that they
may measure personal belief rather than scientific knowledge. A box in
the 2016 report discusses experimental evidence comparing responses to
a question about human evolution to responses to a question about
elephant evolution, which the NSB contends "proves better ... in
capturing scientific knowledge."

Internationally, the United States was next-to-last for the evolution
question, ahead only of Russia in 2003, with 44% of respondents
correctly answering; Japan in 2011 did the best, with 78% of
respondents correctly answering. The United States was in the middle
of the pack for the Big Bang question, with 42% of respondents
correctly answering; Canada in 2013 did the best, with 68% correctly

Although the section on "Public Attitudes about Specific S&T-Related
Issues" is billed as describing views on "teaching evolution in
schools," no discussion is provided.

For chapter 7 of Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of polls and surveys, visit: 


It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than three weeks
remains before Darwin Day 2016! 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 12-14, 2016, 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, 331
congregations in forty-eight states (and eleven 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:

* Guest blogger Barbara A. O'Malia reviewing Molly Bang's Buried Sunlight: 

* Stephanie Keep expressing her unhappiness with sensational claims
about future human evolution: 

* Glenn Branch investigating a misquotation from Roderick Murchison: 

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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