Arizona Moves Toward Creationism in 2018

A few days ago, our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) posted Evolution under attack in Arizona? We don’t know why they included a question mark in their title, because they reported, with our bold font:

As a draft of new science standards for Arizona are undergoing public comment, “experts are alarmed” about changes imposed by staffers at the department of education, KNAU in Flagstaff reports [Science Educators Raise Alarms about Revised K-12 Standards ] (May 14, 2018) — and evolution is affected.

“Department staff deleted or qualified the word ‘evolution’ throughout the document,” KNAU reports. NCSE’s deputy director Glenn Branch was quoted as saying, “We can [be] quite sure, I think, that the revisions are aimed deliberately at softening the treatment of evolution, and thus misleading teachers and students about the scientific standing of evolution.”

For example, where the writing committee’s version of a standard for the eighth grade explained, “the process of natural selection provides an explanation of how new species can evolve,” the revised version refers instead to “the processes by which a species may change over time in response to environmental conditions,” thus avoiding both the e-word and the idea of speciation.

It certainly sounds like the “staffers at the department of education” are a pack of drooling creationists. Today we found another news article on the situation. It’s at the website of TV station KPNX, an NBC affiliate. They’re channel 12 in Phoenix, Arizona, the state capital, so they call themselves 12News. Their headline is Arizona could roll back teaching of evolution in classroom. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections [that look like this]:

The teaching of evolution in Arizona classrooms could be taking a big step backwards. School Superintendent Diane Douglas is apparently behind a rewrite of science standards for all Arizona school children that would delete references to evolution.

Wikipedia has a write-up on her. It’s not too informative. They link to her website as Superintendent. That doesn’t say much either. Okay, back to 12News. They tell us:

Audio obtained by 12 News shows Douglas believes a version of creationism, called “intelligent design,” should be taught in tandem with evolution. The proposed science standards could leave it up to teachers to decide which one students should learn.

Ah yes, let the kiddies decide. Then 12News says:

Amber Struthers, a science teacher at the Jones-Gordon School in Paradise Valley, compares a rollback of evolution in the classroom to not teaching students about gravity. “This would be something I would definitely be incredibly uncomfortable with,” said Struthers, a teacher for 12 years with five science degrees [Wow!], including a doctorate. “It would be a huge missing gap (for students) in understanding core concepts in science,” she said.

Amber Struthers knows what she’s talking about. 12 News informs us:

Struthers was a member of a team of about three dozen Arizona teachers who drafted new science standards, which were presented to the Arizona Board of Education. It’s the first update in almost 15 years. … Struthers said the deletions went beyond the usual revisions by Department of Education staffers, which typically amount to no more than corrections of grammar.

After that, 12 News gets back to Diane Douglas, the creationist superintendent:

Back in November, Douglas, who is running for a second term this fall, shared her thoughts about the science standards at a Republican candidate forum in Tempe. “Should the theory of intelligent design be taught along with the theory of evolution? Absolutely,” Douglas said in response to a question, according to audio of the event provided to 12 News. “I had a discussion with my staff, because we’re currently working on science standards, to make sure this issue was addressed in the standards we’re working on.” Jonathan Gelbart was the only one of five superintendent candidates at the forum to reject intelligent design.

M’god — except for Gelbart, they’re all drooling creationists! 12News continues:

The so-called “Theory of Intelligent Design” is a sophisticated update and rebranding of creationism — the religious belief in the existence of a creator. … In 2005, a federal judge in Pennsylvania blocked a school district from teaching intelligent design, declaring it an unconstitutional advancement of a religious viewpoint in public schools.

That’s a reference to Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Here’s the end of the news article:

A Douglas spokesperson said she wouldn’t comment on the proposed standards until they come before the Arizona Board of Education for approval in June. The public can comment until May 28. You can provide feedback online at this link.

Okay, that’s the situation in Arizona. We’ll keep watching for updates, so stay tuned to this blog!

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21 responses to “Arizona Moves Toward Creationism in 2018

  1. Richard Bond

    What most Europeans find astonishing about most Americans is how insular they are. I remember a conversation a couple of decades ago with an American colleague in which he told me that only 11% of Americans had passports. When I pointed out that about a third of Britons travelled on their passports every year he was surprised, but agreed that few of his countrymen had much idea about the rest of the world.

    That, it seems to me, is the big problem with the USA. The majority of the population is simply unaware that civilised countries exist in which health care and decent education are available to all, a safety net is provided for the least fortunate, and, above all, religion is largely irrelevant. And these countries are much better places in which to live than the USA.

  2. Holding The Line In Florida

    One thing that many Europeans seem to forget at times is the shear immensity of the United States when it comes to travel. My Ex German in laws came for a visit once. I lived in NYC at the time. We drove to visit my parents in Mississippi. We did a semi scenic route. By the time we returned to NYC the brother in law observed we traveled the equivalent distance from Gibraltar to St Petersburg. We hadn’t even crossed the Mississippi River either. A Brit might take a weekend in Paris. How long would that take you? I, living in Northern Florida, liked to drive 5 hours to weekend in New Orleans. I will be moving to Miami in a week to rejoin my wife. That drive is only 10 hours and I haven’t even left Florida. I could drive from Bremen on one side of Germany to Munich on the other in less time. I agree that most of us don’t have the slightest clue about the rest of the world. This, despite the greatest diversity of any country on the planet. This is much to our and the rest of the world’s detriment. It would be a better place if we were more aware.

  3. Richard Bond

    I agree about the scale of the USA, and the variety of the country within one border. I have visited the USA on a score of occasions, and I loved many of the parts that I saw, and many of the people whom I met. Sixteen years ago I was offered a job in Colorado (at $85K a year), as an alternative to being fired, but when I compared the pervasive USA culture, especially religion, with my dubious prospects of finding a new job at the age of 60, I decided to remain in Scotland. I was right.

  4. Yes, there is the scale of the US and the insularity feeling, but there is also the English vs the rest of the world. I lived for three decades in German speaking Europe and have never come across creationist thinking. Although people back then were much more religious than you find them now. It simply was not an issue to be religious and accept evolution. The influx of Islam into Europe now could become a challenge for science education.

    Anyway, only after moving to English speaking countries, first South Africa then New Zealand, have I come across this science/religion issue. Not as serious as in the US, but it is lingering in all churches, except perhaps the Catholic Church. The Kitzmiller/Dover story is a historical event by now, in comfortable distance. On top of that, we now we have ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truth’. This makes the teaching of creationism less like a black/white issue. You are entitled to your own opinion, where ‘opinion’ and ‘facts’ are seen as fairly interchangeable.

  5. If they succeed in dissing evolution and removing it from the teaching standards, then likely the next effort will be to follow Alabama’s Mo Brooks’ explanation to blame ocean rising on rocks falling into the water rather than climate change. Maybe too they could stop beachgoers from tossing rocks into the sea as well.

  6. Meanwhile, in Virginia, creationism is on the move:
    The Virginia GOP wants to get this creationist elected to Congress

  7. Dave Luckett

    Creationism has an uncanny ability to adopt new guises, new postures, new forms of attack. Defence, yes, that too – but that need be no more than intellectual insulation, cultivated ignorance and denial. This Arizona thing is not defensive. It’s a flat-out attack on the public school system, but without a word about God or the Bible. No, no – this is the mere proposition that life was designed by an intelligence. Totally different.

    Many living things adopt coloration and patternation to conceal themselves. But while the leopard may not change its spots, creationism has more in common with the octopus.

    The consolation, in a way, is that this is more than a local school district. This is a whole state school system. We were richly entertained by the emergence in Dover of a means of detecting and nullifying camouflaged creationist attacks. We can predict that this defensive adaptation will spread. If Arizona also adopts the “intelligent design” mutation, it will fail by the same means. Somebody with standing will bring an action – in this case, it will be against the State of Arizona – and the same will happen again, only statewide – and who knows, the State might be damnfool enough to appeal to the Supreme Court. Why not? After all, the creationists in the State Department of Education have the comfort of knowing that it’s not their money. But that will be that, for “intelligent design”.

    And the creationist organism, ever protean, will adapt and mutate again. Why, it’s reminiscent of a predator-prey arms race, or of trying to protect against the common cold. That is, of… er… evolution.

  8. And what will happen when a creationist case appears in the Supreme Court?

  9. Look at DC, and you find it odd that states are trying to get st00pid!?!?!

  10. @Hans has closed his eyes: “I lived for three decades in German speaking Europe and have never come across creationist thinking”

    “CSU politician supports bio-creation-theory.

    “Für ihren umstrittenen Vorstoß, die christliche Schöpfungslehre künftig im Biologieunterricht zu behandeln, erhält die hessische Kultusministerin Karin Wolff (CDU) erstmals Unterstützung aus der Bundespolitik. Der CSU-Bundestagsabgeordnete Norbert Geis hält es durchaus für vereinbar, im Biologieunterricht sowohl den Schöpfungsglauben als auch die Evolutionstheorie zu lehren.”

    “For the first time Hessian Minister of Culture Karin Wolff (CDU) receives national support for her controversial proposal to teach christian creation theory in biology class in the future. CSU delegate Norbert Geis thinks it certainly reconcilable to teach in biology class both the belief in creation and Evolution Theory.”

    This article was preceded by

    “Die staatlich anerkannte christliche Privatschule in Gießen lehrt neben der Evolutionstheorie nach Darwin einen Ansatz, der sich Intelligent Design nennt und auf einem christlichen Schöpfermodell beruht. Grundlage ist das Buch “Evolution. Ein kritisches Lehrbuch ….”

    “The christian private school in Giessen, recognized by government, teaches bsides Evolution Theory an approach called ID, which rests on a christian creation model. The fundament is the book “Evolution, a critical textbook ……”

    Regarding Switzerland:

    Regarding Austria:

    While many Dutchies would revolt at the thought that their beloved sore throat disease could be a version of German I still include it:

    This is where you’ll find Dutch creationists.

    To top it off I’ll finish with Flanders:

    “The creationists are coming!”

    (from the Netherlands, I haste to add).

    There is no denial that about the only aspect left that Makes America Great (not so much Again) is the leadership regarding creationism. The Ark of Noah in Dordrecht, The Netherlands, that is actually floating provides some fierce competition.

  11. TomS, what will happen when the case appears before a Supreme Court appointed by President Pence?

  12. Will the Pence Administration direct that the government’s lawyers support creationism’s side before the court? They should do a better job than the creationist lawyers have done.

  13. TomS, yes and yes. But irrelevant. We’ve known since Gore v Bush that what counts is not the merit of the arguments, but the leanings of the court

  14. On the other hand, the most undemocratic branch of government can sometimes make the most democratic decisions.
    We sometimes see this happening with the House of Lords.

  15. And in the US at least, the courts have at times done what everyone knew what was necessary, but politicians didn’t dare. Roe v Wade, and (for a while) the ruling that the death penalty is “cruel and unusual punishment.” No doubt there are others.

    Also, times when the Senate, although in a sense gerrymandered from its inception, has restrained the blatantly gerrymandered House

  16. Regarding creationism, the Supreme Court and Pence. If Pence rises to the presidency, i.e., when Trump is ousted or in 2020, there’s no doubt in my mind a good candidate for the SCOTUS would be Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, who is a creationist who’s been before the SCOTUS already arguing and is in deep with Pat Robertson’s thinking.

  17. As far as I kknow, there are no limits on naming Supreme Court Justices. They don’t have to be lawyers. They don’t have to be citizens.
    Caligula set a precedent in naming Incitatus.

  18. Do we have independent confirmation of that? I sometimes wonder if Suetonius, way ahead of his time, was generating fake news clickbait

    But of course, if Pence nominated his pet poodle, the Senate as its stands would not demur

  19. Eric Lipps

    Paul Braterman | 20-May-2018 at 9:46 am |
    TomS, yes and yes. But irrelevant. We’ve known since

    Gore v Bush that what counts is not the merit of the arguments, but the leanings of the court.
    Actually, it was Bush v. Gore. This isn’t trivial, since it’s the plaintiff’s name which comes first: Bush was suing to prevent a recount which might have kept him out of the White House and put Gore there instead. That’s why the Republican bloc on the Supreme Court tilted toward Dubya.

  20. Eric, you are of course spot on. The _whole point_ was to intervene to stop the recount while Bush was still ahead.

    The most indefensible thing of all was the Florida Sec of State deciding that unless a chad was clearly enough detatched, the ballot didn’t count

    Or perhaps, even more indefensible, the “accidental” purging from the electoral rolls of all those people in democratic-heavy wards who shared a name with a felon.

    It was in 2004, when Bush was elected as some kind of hero although it was clear to anyone paying attention that Gulf War II was a disaster, that I decided, even though this would mean me retiring years before I had wanted, to return to the UK from the US. Briefly, in 2008, I thought I’d guessed wrong, but that impression didn’t last

  21. @FrankB – Thanks for the links. I noticed that they are all within the last 10-15 years. It was not an issue 40 years ago, at least not a noticeable one.
    There is a 2014 book “Creationism in Europe”
    From the Amazon summary:
    “For decades, the creationist movement was primarily situated in the United States. Then, in the 1970s, American creationists found their ideas welcomed abroad, first in Australia and New Zealand, then in Korea, India, South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere–including Europe, where creationism plays an expanding role in public debates about science policy and school curricula….”