NCSE's Evolution education update: June 30, 2006
- 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
"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
For "Evolution's lonely battle in a Georgia classroom," visit:
For the NSTA's report about its membership survey, visit:
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:
For the Riverside Press-Enterprise's story, visit:
For NCSE's coverage of previous events in California, visit:
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:
For NCSE's coverage of previous events in Michigan, visit:
"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
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:
For NCSE's coverage of previous events in New York, visit:
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:
For NCSE's coverage of previous events in Oklahoma, visit:
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
For the Episcopal Church's resolution, visit:
For the ENS news service's press release, visit:
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