Creationist legal dispute resolved: Evolution education update: May 1, 2009
- Dear Friends of NCSE,
A legal dispute between two creationist organizations is settled,
while the lawsuit against the University of California system is
continuing on appeal. And it's not too late to enter Florida Citizens
for Science's cartoon contest!
CREATIONIST LEGAL DISPUTE RESOLVED
Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International have agreed
to settle their legal dispute, issuing a joint statement reading,
"Each ministry is now focused on its respective mission, having put
this dispute behind them." As the Cincinnati Enquirer (April 27, 2009)
reported, "The dispute arose more than four years ago as the American
ministry, Answers in Genesis, grew more wealthy and influential than
the original group in Australia, Creation Ministries International.
The one-time allies waged court battles in both countries and accused
one another of mishandling donors' money, using 'gutter tactics' to
discredit their opponents and threatening the creationist movement
with 'ruthless' business decisions."
The Australian (April 30, 2009) quipped, "Ken Ham [of AiG] and Carl
Wieland [of CMI] believe the world was created in six days, so the
four years it has taken Australia's most prominent creationists to
conclude a civil case that began ... in 2005 must seem an eternity."
Neither ministry was willing to comment to the press on the terms of
the settlement, and CMI, which previously provided a host of documents
relevant to the dispute on its website, is now providing only the text
of the joint statement. For background on the dispute, see Jim
Lippard's report for Reports of the NCSE, Lippard's updates on his
blog, and Michael McKenna's report for The Australian (June 5, 2007).
For the report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, visit:
For the report in The Australian, visit:
For the background, visit:
WHAT'S NEW IN ACSI V. STEARNS
The appeal of Association of Christian Schools International et al. v.
Roman Stearns et al. is wending its way through the appeals process,
with the University of California system submitting its responsive
brief, and a number of organizations submitting amicus curiae briefs,
in April 2009. The case, originally filed in federal court in Los
Angeles on August 25, 2005, centers on the University of California
system's policies and statements relevant to evaluating the
qualifications of applicants for admission. The plaintiffs -- the
Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel
Christian School in Murrieta, California, and a handful of students at
the school -- charged that the university system violated the
constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high
school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. The
defendants prevailed on August 8, 2008, but the plaintiffs promptly
appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Although creationism is not the only issue in the case, it is a
prominent part of it. The plaintiffs object, inter alia, to the
university system's policy of rejecting high school biology courses
that use creationist textbooks -- Biology: God's Living Creation,
published by A Beka Books, and Biology for Christian Schools,
published by Bob Jones University Press -- as "inconsistent with the
viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific
community." Michael Behe, a proponent of "intelligent design"
creationism, served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs, although
his defense of the creationist biology textbooks was unavailing.
Wendell Bird, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, is a former
employee of the Institute for Creation Research; he defended
Louisiana's 1981 "equal time" act all the way to the Supreme Court,
where it was ruled to violate the Establishment Clause in the decision
in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987).
In its appeal of the August 2008 decision, filed on January 26, 2009,
the plaintiffs asserted that the University of California system "has
rejected a large number of biology courses because, despite their
standard content, they added a religious viewpoint" (p. 21), which
"constitutes viewpoint discrimination, content discrimination, and
content-based regulation, which conflict with the First Amendment" (p.
24). In their reply, filed on April 10, 2009, the defendants replied
that the courses were rejected because they used the creationist
textbooks as their primary texts, and a review of those textbooks
"concluded they were inappropriate for use as primary texts in college
preparatory science courses due to their characterizations of
religious doctrine as scientific evidence, scientific inaccuracies,
failure to encourage critical thinking, and overall un-scientific
approach" (p. 21) -- a judgment with which Donald Kennedy and NCSE
Supporter Francisco Ayala, experts for the defendants, concurred.
Two amicus curiae briefs -- one from the American Center for Law and
Justice, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the
Common Good Foundation, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church State
Council; the other from the National Legal Foundation -- have been
filed on behalf of the plaintiffs; neither discusses creationism. Four
amicus curiae briefs -- from the American Historical Association &
Organization of American Historians, the American Association of
University Professors, the California Council of Science and
Technology, and the California State University system and the
University of Nevada, Las Vegas -- have been filed on behalf of the
defendants. Of these, only the California Council of Science and
Technology's brief discusses creationism, which is perhaps not
surprising, since the brief was coauthored by attorneys from Pepper
Hamilton LLP who were part of the legal team representing the
plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case over "intelligent
The summary of the argument from the California Council of Science and
Technology's amicus brief (pp. 3-4) deserves full quotation:
As a public institution of higher education, UC has the responsibility
to produce college graduates who have satisfied its rigorous academic
standards in all relevant disciplines, including science. In order to
fulfill this responsibility, UC must be allowed to choose among
applicants for admission into the UC system based on the applicants'
demonstrated understanding of important foundational concepts. In the
area of science, two such foundational concepts are the nature of
science and the theory of evolution. UC acted appropriately in not
giving "d" credit to certain high school science courses that used the
Biology for Christian Schools and Biology: God's Living Creation
textbooks because these textbooks do not teach either concept in an
appropriate manner and in fact advance fundamental misconceptions
about both concepts. Students educated with these textbooks will not
be adequately prepared for science courses at UC.
The need for high-quality post-secondary science education has never
been greater, either in California or the United States as a whole.
Science and technology are recognized as key economic drivers.
Unfortunately, both California and the United States are losing ground
in these critical areas, in large part because of the inability of
colleges and universities to produce enough highly qualified science
and technology graduates. The prosperity of the state and nation in
the 21st century depends on the reversal of this trend and the
production of more university graduates well educated in science and
technology. In light of this critical need, UC should be encouraged to
take all reasonable measures to ensure that the students admitted into
the UC system have a solid grounding in foundational scientific
concepts upon matriculation.
The brief, along with all of the documents mentioned here, is
available on NCSE's website, in a special section devoted to ACSI v.
For information about the case, visit:
REMINDER: STICK SCIENCE CONTEST
Just a month remains to submit entries to Florida Citizens for
Science's cartoon contest! At the FCFS blog (April 1, 2009), Brandon
Haught explains, "The basic concept here is to draw a cartoon that
educates the public about misconceptions the average person has about
science (or for the 12-year-old and under folks, a cartoon about 'why
understanding science is important')." And lack of artistic ability
isn't a problem: "all entries must be drawn using stick figures. This
is about creative ideas, not artistic ability."
Entries are due (by e-mail or post) by May 31, 2009. Prizes include
various books, movies, and toys. Judges are NCSE's executive director
Eugenie C. Scott, Phil Plait, the author of Bad Astronomy and Death
from the Skies!; Carl Zimmer, the author of Evolution: The Triumph of
an Idea and Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life; and Kate
Miller, the founder of the evolution toystore Charlie's Playhouse.
Full details of the contest are available on FCFS's website.
For Haught's blog post, visit:
For full details of the contest, visit:
Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website --
http://www.ncseweb.org -- where you can always find the latest news on
evolution education and threats to it.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition!
Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools
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