Defending the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools:
After Kitzmiller -- What?
Guest Speaker:  Glenn Branch, Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education (ncse.com)
May 23, 7-9 PM
2205 Haring Hall, on the UC Davis Campus
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Kitzmiller v. Dover, the 2005 case establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching intelligent design creationism in the public schools, was a pivotal event in the history of the creationism/evolution controversy in the United States. Why was
Kitzmiller the effective end of the second phase of antievolution strategy? And what is the third phase going to be like? NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch discusses these questions -- and more -- with the University of California, Davis, Science Policy Journal Club

Why you should care:
  • Earlier this year, Tennessee enacted a law that allows public school teachers to teach creationism/intelligent design instead of evolution without fear of sanction.
  • This year alone, similar legislation challenging the teaching of evolution has already been proposed in Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Alabama, and New Hampshire.  The Indiana bill passed the State Senate just days before they hosted the Super Bowl.  The Indiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire bills have been defeated, but proponents have declared their intent to revive the bills in future legislative sessions.  The Missouri bill is still alive.
  • Louisiana already has a law on the books that allows teachers to teach so-called "weaknesses" of evolution and to incorporate supplemental materials, including intelligent design resources, in their classrooms.  Efforts to repeal the law have expanded to include 78 Nobel laureate scientists, or 40% of all living Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, or physiology or medicine.  Despite these prominent endorsements, efforts to repeal the law have failed again this year.
  • US Teachers Don't Teach Evolution.  A 2011 study published in Science estimates that only 28% of all biology teachers teach evolutionary biology, while 13% explicitly advocate creationism/intelligent design.
  • As the single largest purchaser of textbooks in the US, the Texas Board of Education (BOE) has enormous influence with textbook publishers, and they have consistently ignored recommendations from teachers and scholars in efforts to undermine established science.  For example, in a discussion of geological time scales, the Texas BOE successfully pressured publishers to change the phrase "millions of years ago" to "in the distant past" to appease young-earth creationists.
Some broader context:
  • A recent report by the National Science Foundation lists education and science literacy as two factors affecting the scientific and technology progress of the nation.  According to the report
    • 47% of Americans agree with the statement "Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals." (Table 7-9)
    • The public tends to underestimate the degree of scientific consensus among scientists about evolution.  61% of the general public said that scientists generally agree that humans have evolved over time.  However, 97% of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) agreed that humans have evolved over time. (pg. 7-37)

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