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NCSE's Evolution education update: June 30, 2006

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  • Carol Smith
    Dear Friends of NCSE, A busy week! A courageous science teacher in Georgia is profiled in The New York Times, while in California, a lawsuit in part involving
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1 1:27 AM
      Dear Friends of NCSE,

      A busy week! A courageous science teacher in Georgia is profiled in The New
      York Times, while in California, a lawsuit in part involving creationism is
      likely to proceed, and in Michigan, a "critical analysis"
      bill is passed by a legislative committee. In New York, however, a bill
      requiring the teaching of "intelligent design" is dead, as are no fewer than
      four antievolution bills in Oklahoma. And the Episcopal Church reaffirms
      its support of evolution education. Finally, NCSE is seeking candidates for
      three positions.

      "EVOLUTION'S LONELY BATTLE"

      "Evolution's lonely battle in a Georgia classroom," published in the June
      28, 2006, issue of The New York Times, discusses the travails of Pat New, a
      veteran middle school teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia, "who, a year ago,
      quietly stood up for her right to teach evolution in this rural northern
      Georgia community, and prevailed." New was pressured by students, parents,
      teachers, and administrators to downplay her presentation of evolution in
      her classes, despite the fact that it pervades the assigned textbook and is
      mandated by the state science standards. Finally, after she submitted a
      complaint to initiate a grievance under state law, the administration
      relented, and in the following year she was free from pressure.

      New's experience is not atypical: the Times notes that despite the
      occasional battle that dominates the headlines, "[m]ore commonly, the
      battling goes on locally, behind closed doors, handled so discreetly that
      even a teacher working a few classrooms away might not know." Gerry
      Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association,
      observed that a third of the NSTA's membership reported experiencing such
      pressure. The story also notes that the presence of evolution in state
      science standards provides teachers with a resource to cite in defense of
      their teaching: New explained, "What saved me, was I didn't have to argue
      evolution with these people. All I had to say was, 'I'm following state
      standards.'"

      For "Evolution's lonely battle in a Georgia classroom," visit:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/education/28education.html

      For the NSTA's report about its membership survey, visit:
      http://www.nsta.org/pressroom&news_story_ID=50377

      CREATIONIST LAWSUIT AGAINST UC SYSTEM TO PROCEED?

      The recent lawsuit -- Association of Christian Schools International et al.
      v. Roman Stearns et al. -- that charges the University of California system
      with violating the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian
      schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for
      college is apparently going to proceed. In what the Associated Press
      described (June 28, 2006) as a "tentative ruling," Judge S. James Otero
      stated that he was not inclined to rule in favor of a motion by the
      university system to dismiss the suit.

      The lawsuit was originally filed in federal district court in Los Angeles on
      August 25, 2005, on behalf of the Association of Christian Schools
      International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California,
      and six students at the school (none of whom have been refused admission to
      the University of California). Representing the plaintiffs are Robert H.
      Tyler, a lawyer with a new organization called Advocates for Faith and
      Freedom, and Wendell R. Bird of the Atlanta law firm Bird and Loechl, a
      former staff attorney for the Institute for Creation Research.

      The plaintiffs object, inter alia, to the university system's policy of
      rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob
      Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints
      and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community." The policy,
      they allege, infringes on their rights to "freedom of speech, freedom from
      viewpoint discrimination, freedom of religion and association, freedom from
      arbitrary discretion, equal protection of the laws, and freedom from
      hostility toward religion."

      During the hearing, Judge Otero reportedly expressed concern that Calvary
      was the only school to be a party to the lawsuit, observing that Catholic,
      Jewish, and Islamic schools "seem to have students move through the system
      with no problem." Afterwards, however, Tyler told the Riverside
      Press-Enterprise (July 27, 2006), "Based upon today's hearing, we're
      optimistic that the religious liberty concerns of this lawsuit will go
      forward to a full trial." A written ruling on the defendants' motion to
      dismiss the case is expected from Otero, although he did not indicate when
      he would issue it.

      For the Associated Press's story, visit:
      http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/breaking_news/14921185.htm

      For the Riverside Press-Enterprise's story, visit:
      http://www.pe.com/localnews/southwest/stories/PE_News_Local_H_calvary28.1d39
      88f.html

      For NCSE's coverage of previous events in California, visit:
      http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=CA

      WEAKENED VERSION OF MICHIGAN ANTIEVOLUTION BILL PROGRESSES

      Michigan's House Bill 5251 passed the House Education Committee by a vote of
      15-2 on June 28, 2006, according to a report in the Saginaw News (June 29,
      2006). The bill originally called for the state board of education to
      revise the state science standards to ensure that students will be able to
      "(a) use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories
      including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution
      [and] (b) Use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those
      theories and to formulate arguments for or against those theories," but the
      references to global warming and evolution were reportedly removed in
      committee. HB 5251 now proceeds to the House for its second reading.

      The primary sponsor of HB 5251, Representative John Moolenaar (R-District
      98), denied that permitting the teaching of "intelligent design" was the
      point of the bill. Yet Moolenaar was a cosponsor of explicit antievolution
      legislation in Michigan in the previous (2003-2004) legislative
      session: HB 4946, which would have amended the state science standards to
      refer to "the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent
      design of a Creator," and HB 5005, which would have allowed the teaching of
      "the design hypothesis as an explanation for the origin and diversity of
      life" in public school science classes. These bills, as well as HB 5251,
      were denounced by the Michigan Science Teachers Association.

      There was concern that the bill, if enacted, would encourage a threatened
      lawsuit against the Gull Lake School District, which in June 2005 instructed
      two middle school science teachers who were using Of Pandas and People and
      other creationist material in their science classes to desist. That
      decision prompted the Thomas More Law Center, which subsequently
      unsuccessfully represented the defendants in Kitzmiller v.
      Dover, to threaten to sue. A lawyer for the school district said that the
      original version of HB 5251 "essentially would provide a legal basis for
      [the] Thomas More Center to follow through on the threat to sue for not
      teaching intelligent design," adding that the bill mirrored the "intelligent
      design" movement's "teach the controversy" slogan.

      For the report in the Saginaw News, visit:
      http://www.mlive.com/news/sanews/index.ssf?/base/news-19/1151587306147530.xm
      l&coll=9

      For NCSE's coverage of previous events in Michigan, visit:
      http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=MI

      "INTELLIGENT DESIGN" LEGISLATION IN NEW YORK DIES

      When the New York State Assembly's legislative session ended on June 23,
      2006, Assembly Bill 8036 died in committee. If enacted, the bill would have
      required that "all pupils in grades kindergarten through twelve in all
      public schools in the state ... receive instruction in all aspects of the
      controversy surrounding evolution and the origins of man." A later
      provision specified that such instruction would include information about
      "intelligent design and information effectively challenging the theory of
      evolution."

      The bill was never expected to succeed; its sponsor, Assemblyman Daniel L.
      Hooker (R-District 127), was reported as explaining that his intention was
      more to spark discussion than to pass the bill, and as acknowledging that
      the bill was "religion-based." Moreover, Hooker is not planning on seeking
      a third term in the Assembly due to his military commitments: he is expected
      to be on active duty with the Marine Corps until at least early 2007.

      For the text of Assembly Bill 8036, visit:
      http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A08036&sh=t

      For NCSE's coverage of previous events in New York, visit:
      http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=NY

      RESPITE IN OKLAHOMA

      No fewer than four antievolution bills were introduced in the Oklahoma
      legislature in 2006: HB 2107 (encouraging the presentation of "the full
      range of scientific views" with regard to "biological or chemical origins of
      life"), HB 2526 (authorizing school districts to teach "intelligent
      design"), SB 1959 (encouraging the presentation of "the full range of
      scientific views"), and HCR 1043 (encouraging the state board of education
      and local school boards to ensure that students are able to "critically
      evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of
      evolution" with regard to "biological or chemical origins of life"). Of the
      four bills, HB 2107 was the only one to reach a floor vote: it was passed
      by the House by a vote of 77-10 on March 2, 2006. With the adjournment sine
      die of the legislature on May 26, 2006, all four are presumably dead.
      Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education and its allies were
      instrumental in organizing resistance to these bills.

      For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit:
      http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/oese

      For NCSE's coverage of previous events in Oklahoma, visit:
      http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=OK

      THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH REAFFIRMS EVOLUTION EDUCATION

      At its 75th General Convention in June 2006, the Episcopal Church passed a
      resolution supporting the teaching of evolution in schools. The resolution,
      titled "Affirm Creation and Evolution," declared that "evolution is entirely
      compatible with an authentic and living Christian faith." It also
      encourages state legislatures and boards of education "to establish
      standards for science education based on the best available scientific
      knowledge as accepted by a consensus of the scientific community," and to
      "seek the assistance of scientists and science educators in understanding
      what constitutes reliable scientific knowledge."

      Also occurring at the convention was the election of new Presiding Bishop
      Katharine Jefferts Schori, who, as well as being the first woman elected to
      the position, is a former oceanographer with a strong evolutionary
      background. According to a press release from the Episcopal News Service,
      Schori said at a press conference on June 18, 2006, "Evolution most
      definitely should be taught in school. It's a well-tested premise and the
      best model that fits the data available. Creationism can't make that claim.
      I believe in the creeds. They say God created the world, but they don't say
      how."

      For the Episcopal Church's resolution, visit:
      http://gc2006.org/legislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=136&type=CURRENT

      For the ENS news service's press release, visit:
      http://www.wfn.org/2006/06/msg00414.html

      HELP WANTED

      NCSE is seeking candidates for three positions: Education Project Director,
      Faith Project Director, and Archives Project Director. All three are
      full-time, permanent, salaried positions in NCSE's office in Oakland,
      California. Please feel free to disseminate the descriptions of these
      positions to any qualified candidates who might be interested.

      For the descriptions, see:
      http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2006/ZZ/86_help_wanted_6_29_2006.asp

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      Thanks for reading! And as always, be sure to consult NCSE's web site:
      http://www.ncseweb.org
      where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats
      to it.

      Sincerely,

      Glenn Branch
      Deputy Director
      National Center for Science Education, Inc.
      420 40th Street, Suite 2
      Oakland, CA 94609-2509
      510-601-7203 x305
      fax: 510-601-7204
      800-290-6006
      branch@...
      http://www.ncseweb.org

      Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism is now available:
      http://www.ncseweb.org/evc

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