News Briefs from the Editor
Arkansas:A coalition of church leaders, educators, individuals, and organizations filed a suit in U.S. District Court on May 27, 1981, challenging the new Arkansas "equal-time" creation law. Two-thirds of the plaintiffs are ministers or other leaders in Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish organizations. Other organizations involved are the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Coalition for Public Education and Religious Liberty (National PEARL), and the Arkansas Education Association. The American Civil Liberties Union is handling the case. Mentioned among the reasons for the action are these facts: the legislative process used in passing the law was hasty with no hearings in the State Senate and only a fifteen-minute hearing in the House, the bill was drafted by an outsider working through a creationist organization, the law is religiously sectarian, the law abridges the constitutionally protected academic freedom rights of both teachers and students, and the law is unconstitutionally vague with internally inconsistent provisions. The Arkansas law is a word-for-word copy of the model bill, drafted principally by Wendell R. Bird of the Institute for Creation Research and pushed by Paul Ellwanger's Citizens for Fairness in Education. (A "flatearth" version of this same bill appeared in Creation/Evolution, III.) Creation/ Evolution is assisting in the effort to fight this bill by providing the ACLU with background information. Science and religion experts are needed for witnesses in support of the case. If you are interested, write to Jack D. Novik at ACLU National Headquarters, 132 West 43rd Street, New York NY 10036, or call (212) 944-9800.
Colorado:SB 394, a creation bill, died in the Senate Education Committee in April by a vote of eight to one. But Senator Sam Zakhem, sponsor of the bill, has not given up after two attempts. He has lined up radio appearances to promote his creation arguments.
Florida:SB 296 and HB 178 were both hopelessly bottled up in committee where they died in June. A last minute effort to bring this creationist legislation out of committee was made when two state senators tried to add it onto a bill dealing with disposal of old textbooks. The amendment was ruled out of order for not being germane to the bill. Meanwhile, Florida school boards are still having trouble with the issue.
Iowa:SF 97 and SF 280 were introduced in January and February respectively.
SF 280 is the Bird model bill with the "Legislative Findings of Fact" removed. No hearings have been held, and no reports concerning this creation legislation have been written. Further action cannot be taken in the first session, but the bills are eligible for further consideration in 1982 during the second session of the current legislature. Senator Ray Taylor is sponsor of both bills.
Louisiana:After the first creationist bill was killed, a legislative committee concluded hearings on two new bills. The committee reported to the full senate on a permissive propagandist bill that doesn't change present legalities. The bill mandates nothing. It permits, but doesn't require, teachers to teach creationism, evolution, both, or neither. Nothing more has been heard on this one.
Michigan:The Michigan chapter of the Moral Majority, headed by the Reverend David A. Wood of Grand Rapids, has been encouraging citizens and parent', to demand that school boards in the state introduce creationist textbooks in classrooms and libraries. In March and April, school boards in several counties, including Berrien, Cass, Kalkaska, and Antrim, began being pressured to include the creation story in the science curriculum. In response, the Voice of Reason. a Michigan-based group founded by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, started training its members to oppose introduction of creationism into public schools. They held two science seminars on the subject in March. The Bellaire school board in Antrim county is reviewing creationist textbooks for possible placement in the school library.
Oregon:Although HB 2633, a version of the Bird bill, was tabled in committee after a public hearing, this has not ended creationist action in Oregon. Petitions were circulated in March for a May district referendum on teaching scientific creationism in Medford public schools. The lead promoter of the petition drive, Tom Kindell, runs a teaching ministry from Faith Bible Center and is a science speaker for the Moral Majority. He feels that the majority of Medford residents would favor equal time for creationism and would be willing to mandate it through the ballot. Kindell failed to get the required 4,650 signatures by deadline time, but has stated that he may aim for the September election.
Meanwhile, in April, three people in Grants Pass filed a preliminary petition for a statewide initiative. This initiative would require balanced presentation of scientific creationism and evolution in all Oregon public schools. If the 1,994 signatures can be collected and verified by August 11, 1981, the initiative can appear on the September 15 statewide ballot. Whether or not it is legal for an initiative to be used to dictate school curricula is a question that remains up in the air. Richard Bliss from ICR appeared on the scene in May to help the effort along. Kindell has stated that this voter referendum approach to mandating creationism is "a precedent for the entire nation." one that has never been done before. However, back
in 1964, a Reverend Moore had attempted the very same idea in Arizona. And, even though he used deception by labeling his law as a measure to prohibit the teaching of "atheism" in the public schools, he still failed to get the required number of signatures.
Texas:HB 1901 was considered in the House Committee on Public Education in May. Considerable pro and con testimony was heard. The measure was then referred to a subcommittee for further study, where it quietly died. Forty-seven politicians went on record as supporting the bill.
Various states:Bills have recently died in committee in Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington. School boards in several towns in South Dakota have rejected demands that the teaching of creationism be mandated in the schools.
Society Actions and Miscellaneous
African safari:Biologist Roy P. Mackal of the University of Chicago, Los Angeles engineer Herman Regusters, botanist Richard Greenwell of the University of Arizona, and crocodile expert James Powell plan a safari to the Congo and Zaire in search of a living brontosaurus. Following claimed first-hand reports from pygmies and other natives of encounters with a bizarre creature twice the size of an elephant, they will enter uncharted African jungles, which have changed little in seventy million years.
This creature, called mokele-mbembe by the natives, supposedly fits the description of a brontosaurus. Tribesmen who were shown an artist's drawing of the dinosaur have agreed that this is what they saw. The brownish-gray animal apparently has short, thick legs, weighs perhaps nine to fifteen tons, and stretches some thirty-five feet in total length. One of these animals was reported killed by pygmies in 1959. The plan is to take photographs. The expedition has the official support of no institution or foundation. Though the explorers are not creationists, the Creation Research Society Quarterly has recently taken an interest in the project. It even seconded the reports by claiming that a Mr. Burge Brown saw three plesiosaurs swimming off Bynoe Harbor, near Darwin, Australia. "An apparently similar animal was fished up, already dead, off New Zealand about three years ago." In the creationist film, The Great Dinosaur Mystery, a belief that the Loch Ness Monster is a plesiosaur has been expressed as well. This leads the Quarterly to conclude, "So maybe these reports of somewhat similar land-dwelling creatures [the alleged brontosaurus sightings] are not so surprising after'all."
Clark University:On June 6, 1981, the biology and education departments at
Clark University held a Conference on the Teaching of Evolution. The purpose was to help teachers of science subjects deal with the creationevolution controversy. Teachers were introduced to the history of evolutionary theory, recent developments in the field, and the pedagogic and civil liberties issues relevant to the teaching of evolution. Professor Charles S. Blinderman of the Department of English coordinated the conference.
National Association of Biology Teachers:In January, the NABT started a publication called Scientific Integrity to "maintain the integrity of science and science education." It is edited by Wayne Moyer and gives up-to-date information on creation conflicts in various states, republishes short articles, gives listings of articles published elsewhere on the controversy, and keeps one abreast of new statements issued by science societies. It is a four-page newsletter published bimonthly and costs five dollars a year. Write: NABT, 11250 Roger Bacon Drive #19, Reston, VA 22090. The publication is free to NABT members. The NABT is also starting to circulate its own pamphlets rebutting creationist principles for the benefit of teachers and others. Furthermore, it has established the Fund for Freedom in Science Teaching to engage in litigation.
Society for the Study of Evolution:The Society has established an education committee to assist in defense of
evolution in the schools. Not only will the committee prepare an official statement but it will collect helpful materials such as legislative transcripts, legal decisions, and creationist publications. The committee will also prepare a list of experts on evolution who will be willing to serve as witnesses and spokespeople. The committee is chaired by Dr. John A. Moore of the Department of Biology at the University of California, Riverside.
The San Francisco Chronicle conducted a phone-in poll on March 11 asking for a yes or no answer to the question, "Should the biblical version of creation be taught in science classes?" Out of 13,512 callers, 73 percent said "no" and only 27 percent said "yes." This is a reversal of the results creationist polls frequently report. The poll was in reaction to the California Segraves trial.
Another newspaper poll, this time by the Detroit Free Press, was also conducted in March. Readers were asked if they favored the Arkansas law, which compels the state's public schools to teach the two models. The results were similar to those in San Francisco with 71 percent voting "no" and 29 percent voting "yes."
A supposedly more scientific survey, conducted by The California Poll, was made in April, and the results were released on May 14. The questions were asked over the phone to a representative cross section of the California adult public. The questions were as follows:
Have you seen or heard anything recently about a court case in California regarding the theory of evolution and the biblical version of creation? (81 percent answered "yes"]
Well, as you know, the theory of evolution holds that mankind evolved over the years from lower forms of life. This is different than the biblical version, which maintains that mankind was created directly by God. Which view do you happen to believe in? ... (39 percent believe in evolution; 49 percent believe in creation; 12 percent had no opinion]
Right now, California public schools teach the evolution theory in science classes. Do you think the public schools should also be required to teach the biblical version of creation in their classes or not? (If yes, ask:) Should the public schools teach the biblical version instead of the evolution theory or should it teach the biblical version along with the evolution theory? (40 percent do not want to require schools to teach creation; 6 percent want creation taught instead of evolution; 50 percent want creation taught along with evolution; 4 percent had no opinion]
Do you think the biblical version of creation can be taught in public schools
and still meet the constitutional requirement of separating church and state? (61 percent said "yes"; 32 percent said "no"; 7 percent had no comment]
The flaw in this survey was spotted by Edd Doerr, editor of Church and State magazine. The questions used referred to "the" biblical version, as if there were only one. They did not specifically state that the creation model for which creationists seek equal time is one that demands a literal six-day creation occurring six- to ten-thousand years ago followed by a worldwide flood. Many who support a "biblical" version of creation see it as compatible with evolution, or at least an old earth, and may have wanted equal time for that. As Doerr noted, the respondents "were presented with an either-or choice that excluded the vast middle of the country." One can further note that even the "scientific" creationists were treated unfairly. They say they do not want the "biblical" creation model taught in public schools, but only the "scientific" model. To our knowledge, no poll, whether conducted by creationists or others, has asked the questions in a manner that would get an accurate and informed public reaction on the real issues at stake. (Jerry Falwell's poll is a particularly obvious example. By answering it, however, you will not only get to voice your view but will receive a free book in the bargain.)