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News Briefs from the Editor

Creation Evolution Journal
Title: 
News Briefs from the Editor
Volume: 
2
Number: 
4
Quarter: 
Fall
Page(s): 
45–49
Year: 
1981

Arkansas

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the creation bill which was passed in Arkansas. The case is slated to go to court on December 7, 1981. Wendell Bird, the leading author of the Arkansas law, along with other leading creationists (including Henry Morris, Duane Gish, and Harold Coffin) originally sought to participate in the state's defense. However, Arkansas Attorney General Steve Clark has told the creationists that he doesn't want their help. The creationists have established a "Creation Science Legal Defense Fund" and were planning a big showdown; they wanted the merits of creationism to be presented before the judge who will try the case. Judge Overton ruled against their motion to intervene, while at the same time turning down a request from the Unitarians to file a friend-of-the-court brief which defends evolution and states the Unitarian opinion of the law. These decisions might mean that the primary emphasis of the case will be on evolution and constitutional law rather than on religion.

Meanwhile, the ACLU is gathering together a group of expert scientists and educators to aid in the suit. They are prepared for whatever sort of case this may turn out to be.

Louisiana

On July 21, 1981, a creation bill similar to that in Arkansas was signed into law in Louisiana. The wording of the two is almost identical, as both are from the same draft pushed by Paul Ellwanger's Citizens for Fairness in Education. The Louisiana law, however, leaves out the specific definitions of creation-science and evolution-science. (This is actually more sensible, because science is not a dogma that can have its conclusions engraved into the immutable bronze of a statute.) The Louisiana law also adds a provision stating that the governor may designate seven creation scientists "who shall provide resource services in the development of curriculum guides." Unlike the Arkansas law, this law affects teacher-training institutions as well as secondary schools.

In Governor Treen's public statement defending his signing of the bill, he indicated that the law simply permits the two theories to be covered; it does not mandate anything. However, recognizing that the wording in this part of the law is ambiguous and may end up meaning that creationism will be required whenever evolution is taught, Treen opined that this would not damage science education. "Academic freedom can scarcely be harmed by inclusion; it can be harmed by exclusion," he said. But if this is literally true, why does the bill exclude all other pseudoscientific theories from consideration? And, since Louisiana never required the teaching of evolution in the first place, what is the need for a law that "permits" the teaching of creationism?

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Don McGehee, the state education official, has determined that the new law will cost Louisiana $7 million. This will go to pay for creationist library and textbooks as well as teacher training.

The ACLU is committed to bringing a lawsuit challenging this bill also, but the timing is a bit uncertain. The Arkansas bill was challenged two months after it was signed into law, and it will probably take as long to make the legal moves regarding the Louisiana case.

Federal Legislation

Congressmen from Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other states have recently been approached about introducing a federal creationist bill in Washington. The bill is another model piece of legislation, this time being pushed by Citizens Against Federal Establishment of Evolutionary Dogma. Who heads this group? You guessed it: Paul Ellwanger. The federal bill is called "An Act to Protect Academic Freedom and to Prevent Federal Censorship in Scientific Inquiry Funded with Federal Tax Monies." It's main thrust is to ensure that, whenever federal funds are provided for evolution research, curriculum development, museum exhibits, or exhibits and lectures connected with the National Park Service, equal funds must be applied to creationism in these same areas. This would probably mean, for example, that tour guides in our national parks would have to include a creationist interpretation of each natural wonder that they explain. The repercussions would be enormous. National Science Foundation General Counsel Charles H. Hertz has said that such a law "could severely distort the allocation of federal monies, introduce factors extraneous to scientific research, and itself constitute a form of subtle federal censorship of academic research." Pressure is nonetheless building in Congress at this time and Ellwanger has declared that such a bill will appear very soon.

State Legislation

Paul Ellwanger has had his model state bill introduced so far in twenty-one legislatures and is now in the process of completing a second revision of it. He expects that after January it will appear in about nineteen states. The original tactic used by creationists to push the model bill was to first stir up a public outcry and then, with all that hoopla and support, try to force the bill through the legislature.

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However, in every case where that tactic was tried, concerned scientists, religious leaders, educators, parents, and others against creationism became alarmed. They were often mobilized by Committees of Correspondence. The result was that they were able to use the time to organize an effective opposition. The creationists were stunned to see how large that opposition was. In response to their repeated failures, the creationists adopted a new tactic: "springing" bills. They began to keep quiet about proposed legislation until the last few days of the legislative session and then tried to rush it through before anyone heard about it. This tactic worked in Arkansas and Louisiana. We expect to see it in use again in 1982.

Is there an effective antidote to this new tactic? Yes, but it requires foresight. It had been wise in the past to "let sleeping dogs lie" and not raise the creation controversy in a state until the creationists did. But now, those opposed to such legislation must raise the issue early by writing to their state legislators and local school boards to inform them of the facts well in advance of any possible vote. Legislators should know there is an organized opposition to creationism before it becomes an issue. Copies of articles in Creation/Evolution can be sent to key people who need to be informed. Individual letters need to be written. Letters to the editor should appear in newspapers. There is no way of telling which states will be next. The time to act is now.

Committees of Correspondence to fight creationist legislation have been established in thirty-five states. If you desire to take part in the effort, write to Stanley Weinberg, Committees of Correspondence, in care of this journal. The Committees of Correspondence network will be involved in three presentations at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., January 3—8.

California

The Creation-Science Research Center is at it again. Nell Segraves of the Center is fighting to get Isaac Asimov's book, In the Beginning, taken off public school library shelves in San Diego City Schools. Segraves argues that the book is "anti-God and anti-Scripture and makes the Bible out as mythology." She adds that creationist books are not in these school libraries. "We have a law in this state that allows the Bible to be used as a resource book, but it does not allow commentary on the Bible," Segraves declared. But if this is true, she should be fighting against such a law, not for censorship. If creationist books are not included in public school libraries, she should fight to get them in—not get Asimov out. There is no harm in exposing high schoolers to a variety of religious viewpoints. If books on astrology appear in San Diego City School libraries (and they do), then books on almost any harmless opinion should appear with them. It seems Segraves does not agree with Louisiana's Governor Treen in his view that "exclusion" alone is harmful. So long as religious materials are not made part of the science curriculum, there should be no bar to their inclusion in the public schools. Teaching about religion, as opposed to preaching, is quite legal.

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Kentucky

Dr. William E. Ellis, an Eastern Kentucky University history professor, has polled Kentucky's high school biology teachers and found that they are overwhelmingly in opposition to being forced to teach scientific creationism. Of 794 questionnaires sent out, 44 percent were returned. Of those, 76 percent showed opposition to any state law forcing "equal time" for creationism. Slightly over half of the responding teachers said that they moderately emphasize evolution in their classes, and one-third said that they give it little emphasis. A majority said that, while they frequently encourage students to offer opposing views to evolution, the students do so only "very rarely" or "occasionally." Nearly 80 percent said that they have never had any negative reactions from parents about teaching evolution, and over 90 percent said that they never had complaints from either school administrators, the superintendent, or the school board. A majority supported the view that they alone should make any decision on which theories will be emphasized in their classrooms. It appears that this survey is the first of its kind that has covered the entire state.

Michigan

Professor John N. Moore, a founder of the Creation Research Society, has accepted early retirement from Michigan State University. For more than a decade Moore has taught "two model" science in his classes. He also coauthored the controversial text, Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity.

Oregon

An error was made in Creation/Evolution V. It was stated that the petition filed in Grants Pass, Oregon, was for a statewide referendum on teaching creationism. It was actually for only a local referendum. The result, however, was the same as for the earlier and similar petition drive in the Medford area: it failed. Petitioners canvassed door-to-door in Grants Pass in an attempt to gather the 1,994 signatures needed in order to put an "equal time" measure on the ballot but were only able to get about 1,000. Their desire was to have scientific creationism taught in the district's schools on an equal basis with evolution. Petitioner Phil Hyatt said, "We got very poor response and we came considerably short, so we are going to discontinue the efforts. It seems like the people are not interested in getting involved in it." This result surprised the creationists, who had felt sure they would have no difficulty.

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Virginia

Evangelist Jerry Falwell moderated a debate between creationist Duane Gish of ICR and Dr. Russell Doolittle of the University of California at San Diego, to be aired during prime time on a nationwide television hookup. The contract gives Doolittle some control over the tape and limits Falwell's right to use it as a medium for creationist publicity. The taping took place on October 15, 1981, at Falwell's Lynchburg, Virginia, church and will be broadcast first over the Christian Broadcasting Network before the end of this year. Doolittle previously debated Gish at Iowa State University with considerable success; however, the results of the latest confrontation were not so positive.

This version might differ slightly from the print publication.