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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2016/09/23

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Creationists hope to take their case against the Next Generation Science Standards 
to the Supreme Court. NCSE's Grand Canyon excursion is featured in the pages of 
Scientific American, while NCSE's Josh Rosenau discusses climate change education 
in the pages of TES. And the shenanigans over evolution in state science standards 
resume in Texas.


COPE et al. v. Kansas State Board of Education et al., the creationist lawsuit seeking 
to reverse Kansas's 2013 decision to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards on the 
grounds that the state thereby "establish[ed] and endorse[d] a non-theistic religious 
worldview," is now under appeal to the Supreme Court.

As NCSE previously reported, in December 2014 a district court dismissed the case, finding 
that the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert any of their claims; in April 2016 the Tenth 
Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's dismissal. In May 2016, the plaintiffs 
unsuccessfully asked the appeals court to review the case en banc.

Subsequently, in August 2016, COPE asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court's 
decision and to address the question "Do theistic parents and children have standing to 
complain if the goal of the state is to cause their children to embrace a 'nontheistic 
religious worldview that is materialistic/atheistic'?"

The lead plaintiff, COPE, Citizens for Objective Public Education, is a relatively new 
creationist organization, founded in 2012, but its leaders and attorneys include people 
familiar from previous attacks on evolution education across the country, such as John H. 
Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network.

The Next Generation Science Standards have so far been adopted in eighteen states and the 
District of Columbia, with similar standards adopted in a number of further states. The 
treatment of evolution and climate science in these standards occasionally provokes 
controversy, but COPE v. Kansas is the only lawsuit to have resulted. 

For COPE's petition to the Supreme Court (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's collection of documents from COPE v. Kansas, visit: 


In a column published in the October 2016 issue of Scientific American, Steve Mirsky relates 
his excursion through the Grand Canyon with NCSE. 

"Since 1981," Mirsky writes, "the Oakland, Calif.-based NCSE has defended evolution education 
in public schools against constant threats from those who seek to remove it from biology 
curricula or to 'balance' it with the addition of oxymoronic 'scientific creationism' or its 
mutated progeny such as 'intelligent design.'"

Answering the question "what does rafting down the Grand Canyon have to do with science 
education," NCSE's executive director Ann Reid explained that young-earth creationists have 
taken the Grand Canyon as evidence of Noah's flood a few thousand years ago, despite the 
overwhelming geological evidence to the contrary. Mirsky promised to discuss the geologic 
history of the Canyon in a subsequent issue.

By the way, NCSE is now accepting reservations for the next excursion to the Grand Canyon, 
June 29 through July 7, 2017.

For Mirsky's column in Scientific American, visit: 

And for information about the 2017 excursion, visit: 


NCSE's Josh Rosenau contributed a column about the NCSE/Penn State survey of climate change 
education in the United States to TES (September 19, 2016).

Observing that "scientists, policymakers, and the global community recognize climate change 
as an urgent threat that citizens -- especially students, the citizens of tomorrow -- must 
understand and confront," Rosenau added that nevertheless, "While many teachers cover climate 
change, they tend to downplay the confidence of the science and the urgency of the issue."

The reasons for the neglect of climate change, he explained, include pressure from the local 
community and unfamiliarity of teachers with the scientific consensus on climate change, as 
well as "slow deployment of state standards emphasizing climate change, political efforts to 
suppress such standards, outdated and misleading textbooks, and insufficient in-service 

Despite these obstacles, Rosenau concluded, "[S]tudents need and deserve climate education to 
be presented uncontroversially across the curriculum in their schools."

For Rosenau's column in TES, visit: 

And for NCSE's report on the survey (PDF), visit: 


Members of the Texas state board of education launched a preemptive attack on a panel appointed 
to streamline the state science standards for biology during its September 14, 2016, meeting, 
according to the Texas Freedom Network's Kathy Miller, who criticized the attack in a September 
16, 2016, letter to the board posted on the Texas Freedom Network's blog.

A panel of educators and scientists is currently working on streamlining the science standards 
for biology, and a staff member from the Texas department of education was scheduled to deliver 
a routine report on the panel's progress at the board's meeting.

But a member of the panel -- Raymond Bohlin, associated with Probe Ministries and the Discovery 
Institute's Center for Science and Culture -- appeared at the meeting, criticizing the majority 
of the panel for a preliminary vote to remove certain standards.

The standards that the panel voted to remove were aimed at undermining the treatment of evolution. 
They were inserted, without input from scientists or educators, by members of the state board 
during the last revision of the standards in 2009.

The objectionable standards called for students to analyze "all sides of scientific evidence" and 
to evaluate "sudden appearance, stasis" in the fossil record, "the complexity of the cell," and 
"the DNA molecule for self-replicating life."

The history as well as the pedagogical and scientific problems of these standards is described 
in detail by Ryan Valentine of the Texas Freedom Network, Ben Pierce of Southwestern University, 
and John Wise of Southern Methodist University in a 2015 report.

The panel's vote to remove the standards is only preliminary; a final vote will follow after the 
panel reviews results from a survey of Texas educators. The panel's recommendation will presumably 
then be considered by the state board of education.

The fact that a number of members of the board -- reportedly including Marty Rowley, Ken Mercer, 
and Barbara Cargill -- were sympathetic to Bohlin's complaints about the panel's vote struck Miller 
as "deeply disturbing."

Also disturbing was the discovery that antievolutionist Charles Garner of Baylor University was 
appointed to the panel after the application deadline, over the objections of the state department 
of education, at the behest of Barbara Cargill.

"The state board should respect the process it has established and refrain from any further efforts 
to pressure curriculum panelists and undermine their work," Miller wrote in her letter to the board. 
Harking back to previous controversies, she added, "Texas has been embarrassed enough already, and 
our kids deserve far better."

For the letter from Kathy Miller, visit: 

For the report on the objectionable standards (PDF), visit: 

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


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

* Glenn Branch discussing "evolution in the back seat": 

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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