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by Glenn Branch and Nick Matzke
On February 8, 2005, a pair of bills — House Bill 352 and Senate Bill 240 — was introduced in the Alabama legislature, under the rubric of "The Academic Freedom Act." Virtually identical, these bills purport to protect the right of teachers "to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories" and the right of students to "hold positions regarding scientific views." In language reminiscent of the Santorum language removed from the No Child Left Behind Act, they specify that "[t]he rights and privileges contained in this act apply when topics are taught that may generate co
According to the Associated Press [Link broken], a South Carolina education subcommittee removed the provision from S 114 that would have established a South Carolina Science Standards Committee to "study standards regarding the teaching of the origin of species; determine whether there is a consensus on the definition of science; [and] determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools." (For the history and purpose of the provision, see
An important article by Cornelia Dean in the Science section of the February 1, 2005, issue of The New York Times details a common, but rarely recognized, form of evolution censorship in the United States: self-censorship. In her article, "Evolution Takes a Back Seat in U.S.
House Bill 179, introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives on January 27, 2005, would require "Whenever any theory of the origin of human beings or other living things is included in a course of study offered by a local unit of administration, factual scientific evidence supporting or consistent with evolution theory and factual scientific evidence inconsistent with or not supporting the theory shall be included in the course of study." NCSE's executive director Eugenie C.
A trio of op-ed columns greeted the January 13, 2005, ruling in Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District et al., in which U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper deemed that the evolution disclaimer required in the Cobb County School District violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Although the board decided (on January 17) to appeal the decision to the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals, the discussions in these columns are still worthwhile and timely. And a humor column in Scientific American looks on the lighter side.
On January 17, 2005, the Cobb County School Board voted 5-2 to appeal the ruling in Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District et al., which ordered the removal of evolution disclaimers from the school district's textbooks. Announcing the decision, Kathie Johnstone, chair of the board, described Judge Clarence Cooper's ruling as an "unnecessary judicial intrusion into local control of schools."
Two excellent opinion columns about evolution education appeared on January 19, 2005, on opposite sides of the country.
"[T]he Sticker adopted by the Cobb County Board of Education violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," declared U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper, in a forty-four-page ruling issued on January 13, 2005. Cooper's ruling requires the Cobb County School District to remove the disclaimers immediately and not to disseminate them again in any form. NCSE Executive Director Eugenie C. Scott commented, "This is another win for good science and good science education.