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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2016/02/19

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Coverage of "Climate Confusion Among U.S. Teachers." A bill in Idaho
that would permit the use of the Bible in studying science. And
progress for Arizona's Darwin Day bill, the death of Antonin Scalia,
and a Facebook milestone for NCSE.


"Climate Confusion Among U.S. Teachers," a paper in the journal
Science describing the first nationwide survey of climate change
education in the United States, conceived and funded by NCSE and
conducted in collaboration with researchers at Pennsylvania State
University, received extensive coverage in the press. Here is a

Describing the study as providing "new evidence on the source of the
confusion and denial surrounding global warming in American public
life," the Guardian (February 11, 2016) observed that "Nearly
two-thirds of schoolchildren in the US are taught lessons on climate
change that do not rise to the level of a sound science education."

Newsweek (February 11, 2016) explained that the survey found that
climate change is taught: "Only 3 to 4 percent of students receive no
teaching on the subject. The sort-of good news ends there, because
what those who are taught about climate change receive -- and the
amount they receive -- is shaky at best."

Writing for the Washington Post (February 11, 2016), Chris Mooney
summarized, "a majority [of U.S. science teachers] are teaching about
climate change in their classrooms -- but a significant percentage are
also including incorrect ideas, such as the notion that today's
warming of the globe is a 'natural' process."

Mother Jones (February 11, 2016) was particularly concerned that "most
teachers are unaware of how many scientists agree that climate change
is mostly caused by humans. Only 30 percent of middle school teachers
and 45 percent of high school teachers agreed that the consensus was
in the range of 81 to 100 percent. (It's about 97 percent.)"

The paper's lead author Eric Plutzer told InsideClimate News (February
11, 2016), "Many of them personally believe the burning of fossil
fuels is causing warming, but are not aware that view is shared by
climate scientists. That lack of awareness surely contributes to the
willingness to [entertain] alternatives and non-scientific views in
their classrooms."

Time (February 11, 2016) emphasized that, according to the study,
"[c]onservative political identity was the strongest indicator that a
teacher would suggest that climate change may be rooted in natural
rather than human causes," although "a lack [of] formal education on
climate change among teachers" is also a factor.

The New York Times (February 11, 2016) quoted Miami science teacher
Bertha Vazquez, who incorporates climate change in all of her courses,
as confirming that the pressure on teachers is real. "Every year, I
get the email from a father who says, 'This is garbage,' and [asks]
why am I teaching this?" She added, "It's no fun to field those phone

NCSE's Minda Berbeco told Think Progress (February 12, 2016) that it
was important not to blame teachers. "That was really not our goal at
all by doing this survey. Teachers are in a really tough position. Our
purpose was not to target or attack, but to figure out what's going
on, and figure out next steps to help them to teach the good stuff."

The survey even caught the attention of the satirical newspaper The
Onion (February 15, 2016), which purported to ask ordinary citizens
for their reaction to the survey. The favorite response among NCSE's
staff: "It's so hard for teachers to know what's right, what with the
overwhelming abundance of scientists saying the exact same thing."

In New Scientist (February 11, 2016), Michael Mann concluded, "Our
children will bear the brunt of the climate crisis, battling coastal
inundation, the damage done by more extreme weather, increasingly
withering droughts and devastating floods. We owe it to them not only
to give them the facts, but to help them begin to clean up the mess
that we created."

Similarly, Sander van der Linden, Edward Maibach, and Anthony
Leiserowitz wrote in US News & World Report (February 18, 2016),
"American children are currently being presented with a false debate.
This needs to end: We urge secondary school science teachers to set
the record straight by educating their students about the overwhelming
degree of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change."

Written by Eric Plutzer, Mark McCaffrey, A. Lee Hannah, Joshua
Rosenau, Minda Berbeco, and Ann H. Reid, the article is "Climate
Confusion Among U.S. Teachers," appearing in Science 351
(6274):665-666. Further articles explaining the survey and its results
are scheduled to appear in various venues.

For "Climate Confusion Among U.S. Teachers" (PDF), visit: 

For the cited coverage, visit: 

And for NCSE's resources on climate science education, visit: 


Idaho's Senate Bill 1321, introduced on February 12, 2016, and
referred to the Senate Committee on State Affairs, would, if enacted,
permit the use of the Bible in Idaho's public schools "for reference
purposes to further the study of" a variety of topics, including
"astronomy, biology, [and] geology."

The bill resembles a resolution adopted by the Idaho Republican Party
in the summer of 2015. The executive director of the party told KBPO
television (June 10, 2015), "if there is a school district that thinks
having the Bible as part of the curriculum would be useful, this
resolution is basically saying, 'we support the idea of allowing them
to have that tool in their tool box.'"

The bill is credited to the Senate Education Committee, but according
to Idaho Education News (February 11, 2016), it was proposed by Sheryl
Nuxoll (R-District 7), who convinced the committee to introduce the
bill. Idaho Education News also reported, "Idaho school teachers can
already use the Bible as a reference."

For the text of Idaho's Senate Bill 1321 as introduced (PDF), visit: 

For the resolution from the Idaho Republican Party (PDF, p. 4) and the
story from KBPO, visit: 

For the story from Idaho Education News, visit: 

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


Arizona's Senate Resolution 1001, which would, if enacted, express the
Senate's recognition of February 12, 2016, as International Darwin
Day, was passed on a 5-1 vote by the Senate Committee on Natural
Resources on February 15, 2016.

The measure would also need to be approved by the Senate Health and
Human Services Committee to reach the Senate floor, according to the
Arizona Capitol Times (February 15, 2016); the chair of the committee
reportedly has not decided whether to give SR 1001 a hearing.

SR 1001's sponsor, Andrew Sherwood (D-26), told the Capitol Times that
although the resolution would have no legal effect, it is still
important to recognize the importance of science and the role Charles
Darwin has played in advancing it.

For the text of Arizona's Senate Resolution 1001 as introduced, visit: 

For the story in the Arizona Capitol Times, visit: 

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


Antonin Scalia, a justice on the United States Supreme Court, died on
February 13, 2016, at the age of 79, according to the obituary in The
New York Times (February 14, 2016). Appointed by President Ronald
Reagan, Scalia served on the court from 1986 until his death. The
Times wrote of the controversial Scalia that his "transformative legal
theories, vivid writing and outsize personality made him a leader of a
conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the
Supreme Court."

With regard to science education, Scalia is remembered for his
dissenting opinion in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), in which the
Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana's Balanced Treatment for
Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction
Act violated the Constitution. While the Supreme Court agreed with the
district court and the court of appeals that the act was
unconstitutional because it was intended to discredit evolution by
promoting creationism, Scalia (joined by William Rehnquist) was
skeptical both of the court's claim to be able to detect the
intentions of the legislature and of the relevance of intention to
constitutionality. He famously asserted, "The people of Louisiana,
including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled,
as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be
against evolution presented in their schools." The dissent elicited a
rebuttal from Stephen Jay Gould, "Justice Scalia's Misunderstanding"
(1987), in which Gould lamented, "Justice Scalia does not understand
the subject matter of evolutionary biology. He has simply adopted the
creationists' definition and thereby repeated their willful mistake."
Undeterred, Scalia later repeatedly took the opportunity to condone
antievolution tactics, as in his dissents to the court's decision not
to hear appeals in Freiler v. Tangipahoa (2000) and LeVake v.
Independent School District #656 (2002).

Scalia was born on March 11, 1936, in Trenton, New Jersey. He
graduated from Georgetown University in 1957 and Harvard Law School in
1960, practiced law in Cleveland, and then became a law professor at
the University of Virginia in 1967. He worked for the federal
government in various capacities from 1971 to 1977, when he became a
law professor at the University of Chicago. He was appointed to the
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1982,
where he served until he was named to the Supreme Court.

For the obituary in The New York Times, visit: 

For the decision and Scalia's dissent in Edwards v. Aguillard, visit: 

For "Justice Scalia's Misunderstanding" as it appeared in Natural
History, visit: 

FACEBOOK: N > 150,000

A milestone: there are now over 150,000 fans of NCSE's Facebook page.
Why not join them, by visiting the page and becoming a fan by clicking
on the "Like" box by NCSE's name? You'll receive the latest NCSE news
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surfing the web, why not visit NCSE's YouTube channel, with hundreds
of videos for your watching pleasure? It's the best place on the web
to view talks by NCSE's staff.

For NCSE's Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube channel, visit: 


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

* Stephanie Keep reviewing a Darwin app and interviewing its cocreator: 

* A guest post from Daniel Duzdevich about his modern rendition of
Darwin's Origin: 

* Glenn Branch discussing a pair of misleading quotations from John Tyndall: 

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.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
fax 510-788-7971 

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