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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2016/04/08

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Idaho's governor vetoes the Bible-as-reference bill. Sad news of the
death of Harold Morowitz. A reminder that seats are still available on
NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon. And a denunciation of
Alabama's evolution disclaimer.


Idaho's governor C. L. "Butch" Otter (R) vetoed Senate Bill 1342 on
April 5, 2016. The bill, passed by both chambers of the Idaho
legislature, would have permitted the use of religious texts,
including the Bible, "in Idaho public schools for reference to further
the study" of various topics. In his veto message, Otter expressed
respect and appreciation for the Bible, but insisted that Senate Bill
1342 violated the Idaho Constitution.

As NCSE previously reported, a previous version of the bill, Senate
Bill 1321, which specifically included the topics of astronomy,
biology, and geology, was criticized in the Senate State Affairs
Committee as potentially opening the classroom door to creationism,
which would be unconstitutional. The senator who proposed the bill,
Sheryl Nuxoll (R-District 7), agreed to the removal of those topics,
and the bill proceeded under the new designation of Senate Bill 1342.

Despite the removal of the specific references to scientific topics,
there was still concern that Senate Bill 1342 would encourage the
teaching of creationism. In a March 14, 2016, blog post, for example,
the ACLU's Heather L. Weaver warned, "As amended, the bill *still*
allows for teachers to use the Bible in 'any topics of study' where a
teacher personally believes it is 'useful or relevant,' including
science classes" (emphasis in original).

For the text of Idaho's Senate Bills 1342 and 1321 (PDF), visit: 

For Governor Otter's veto message (PDF), visit: 

For the ACLU's Heather L. Weaver's blog post, visit: 

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


The eminent biophysicist Harold Morowitz died on March 22, 2016, at
the age of 88. Morowitz, accordingto the obituary in The New York
Times (April 1, 2016), "was best known for applying thermodynamic
theory to biology, exploring how 'the energy that flows through a
system acts to organize that system.'" A prolific author, his output
included hundreds of papers in biophysics, biochemistry, and molecular
biology, as well as scientific books such as Energy Flow in Biology
(1968), from which the Times extracted the above passage, and popular
books with whimsical titles such as Mayonnaise and the Origins of Life
(1985) and The Thermodynamics of Pizza (1991). A final book of his
(coauthored with Eric Smith), The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth,
is due to be published later in 2016.

Morowitz was among the scientific expert witnesses for the plaintiffs
challenging the constitutionality of Arkansas's Balanced Treatment for
Creation Science and Evolution Science Act of 1981 in McLean v.
Arkansas. Asked to testify about his specialty, biophysics and
biochemistry, particularly with respect to the origin of life and the
laws of themodynamics, he described creation science's approach to the
origin of life as unscientific, citing its misleading probabilistic
arguments and misuses of the second law of thermodynamics. (Morowitz
discussed his experiences at the McLean v. Arkansas 20 Years Later
panel organized by NCSE at the AAAS meeting in 2001; the video is
available at NCSE's YouTube channel.) A third of a century later, in
2005, as the trial in Kitzmiller v. Dover neared, he (with Robert
Hazen and James Trefil) took a stand against "intelligent design"
creationism in the Chronicle of Higher Education, writing, "The vast
majority of scientists who study the origin of life accept the idea of
nonmiraculous origins without any reservations. Only creationists
support the theory of intelligent design."

Morowitz was born on December 4, 1927, in Poughkeepsie, New York. A
child prodigy, he enrolled at the age of 16 at Yale University, where
he proceeded to earn his B.S. in physics and philosophy in 1947, his
M.S. in physics in 1950, and his Ph.D. in biophysics in 1951. He then
taught in the department of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at
Yale from 1955 to 1987. He spent the rest of his career at George
Mason University, where he was the Clarence Robinson Professor of
Biology and Natural Philosophy and the founding director of the
Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. He was also associated with the
Sante Fe Institute, where he served as the Science Board Chair and as
the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Complexity, and with NASA,
for which he was a consultant on the Apollo 11 and Viking projects.

For the obituary in The New York Times, visit: 

For Morowitz's testimony in McLean v. Arkansas, visit: 

For Morowitz's talk at the McLean v. Arkansas 20 Years Later panel, visit: 

And for Morowitz, Hazen, and Trefil's essay (subscription required), visit: 


Explore the Grand Canyon with NCSE! Reservations are still available
for NCSE's next excursion to the Grand Canyon -- as featured in the
documentary No Dinosaurs in Heaven. From June 30 to July 8, 2016, NCSE
will again explore the wonders of creation and evolution on a Grand
Canyon river run conducted by NCSE's Steve Newton and Josh Rosenau.

Because this is an NCSE trip, we offer more than just the typically
grand float down the Canyon, the spectacular scenery, fascinating
natural history, brilliant night skies, exciting rapids, delicious
meals, and good company. It is, in fact, a unique "two-model" raft
trip, on which we provide both the creationist view of the Grand
Canyon (maybe not entirely seriously) and the evolutionist view -- and
let you make up your own mind. To get a glimpse of the fun, watch the
short videos filmed in 2011, posted on NCSE's YouTube channel, and
explore photographs by 2015's rafters in the expedition's Flickr
group. The cost of the excursion is $2790; a deposit of $500 will hold
your spot. Seats are limited: call, write, or e-mail now.

And, for the second time, NCSE will offer scholarships to two lucky
teachers, giving them a unique opportunity to spend eight days
exploring the geology and natural history of the Canyon. (Alyson
Miller and Scott Hatfield wrote about their experiences on the trip on
NCSE's blog.) Your donations to the scholarship fund help to make the
scholarship program possible.

For information about the excursion, visit: 

For information about No Dinosaurs in Heaven, visit: 

For the videos and photographs, visit: 

For Miller's and Hatfield's blog posts about their experiences, visit: 

And for information about donating to the scholarship fund, visit: 


Writing on (March 31, 2016), Amanda Glaze denounced the recent
decision of the Alabama state board of education to retain the
"scientifically inaccurate and pedagogically inappropriate" evolution
disclaimer affixed to biology textbooks in the state's public schools.

As NCSE previously reported, the decision to retain the disclaimer was
taken at the board's March 10, 2016, meeting, even though the new
Alabama state science standards describe evolution as "substantiated
with much direct and indirect evidence."

"The disclaimer describes evolution by natural selection as
scientifically controversial and it suggests that doubt about the
importance of natural selection in evolution is scientifically
justified. These are simply mistakes," Glaze wrote.

"Just as problematic," she added, "is the implicit message -- that
evolution is something so horrible that it is necessary to warn
students about it. As a science teacher ... in Alabama, I can
definitely say that the disclaimer's effect is uniformly negative."

A science educator and teacher educator born and raised in Alabama,
Glaze is the author of numerous articles about the acceptance and
rejection of evolution and the coeditor of a forthcoming book on
evolution education in the American South.

For Glaze's column on, visit: 

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


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

* Stephanie Keep describing scientific research into a legendary
Explorers Club dinner: 

* Glenn Branch worrying about embryology in Wyoming middle school science: 

* Josh Rosenau pondering a revealing remark about the Louisiana
antievolution law: 

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 

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

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