While discussion of Israeli elections has largely (and reasonably) focused on the different parties’ views on the occupation of Palestine and the prospect of war with Iran, the ongoing effort to craft a coalition government may carry risks for science education, too.

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Montana State Seal, via Wikimedia Commons

Jack Kirkley is a member of NCSE and a biology professor at the University of Montana Western. He testified at the Montana House Education Committee hearing on House Bill 321—which, according to the Billings Gazette (January 29, 2015), "would encourage high school teachers to present evolutionary biology as disputed theory rather than sound science and protect those who teach viewpoints like creationism in the classroom"—on February 6, 2015. The committee subsequently tabled the bill. The following is a lightly edited version of his testimony, published here with his kind permission.

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Herman Mays is a member of NCSE and a biology professor at Marshall University. He testified at the West Virginia Board of Education meeting last week, speaking against climate change-denying revisions to the state’s science standards. Thanks to outcry from concerned scientists and parents like Mays, the board voted to remove the climate change denial. We asked him to describe what happened at the hearing, and what motivated him to speak out. A longer account of his visit with the state board will appear in a future issue of Reports of the NCSE.

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On Friday, I was happy to report that climate change denial was removed from the social studies textbook Pearson proposed to sell in Texas. And I was sad to say that McGraw-Hill hadn’t gone far enough in addressing climate change denial in their Texas geography textbook. I’m pleased to be able to update that report and say that both publishers have now agreed to correct their coverage of climate change.

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The latest battle over Texas textbooks is coming to a head. Next week, the state board of education will vote to adopt social studies textbooks, setting the list of books approved for use in history, geography, social studies, economics, and other classes for next decade. Normally we at NCSE don’t spend much time looking at social studies textbooks, but climate change comes up in several of the books and we looked them over to make sure the science was right.

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A creationist group is organizing an event at a major university (unnamed, since I certainly don’t want to promote the event), and some scientists there wanted advice on how to respond. One approach we discussed was using humor to push back. I love the idea, but it's not as simple as you'd think. How can satire and humor work? And how can they backfire? Read on.

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“I’d like a Biblical check on that.”

Those were the first words I heard upon logging into Monday’s working session of the Texas board of education. The board was meeting with publishers to discuss revisions to social studies textbooks, in preparation for the final adoption vote on November 21.

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With Cosmos’ thirteenth episode, “Unafraid of the Dark,” Neil deGrasse Tyson brings to conclusion his extraordinary re-imagining of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking series. Tyson’s brilliant presentations, rich in detail while always clear and comprehensible, have done a great service to the public understanding of science. Over the last few months, the intellectual wasteland of American popular culture was briefly illuminated with this surprising display of science.

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In late 2012, GQ magazine asked Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio, “How old do you think the Earth is?”

He answered “4.55 billion years” and no one ever talked about it again.

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