Citizens' Alliances for Science
Although universal education in the United States is a national goal, educational prerogatives have always been seen as local. Thus it is that local school boards have repeatedly found themselves to be the battlegrounds where skirmishes over the teaching of evolution in science classes have been fought ever since the days of the Scopes Trial.
In response to incursions against the freedom of science teachers to teach science, citizens in several states have formed alliances to support the integrity of science taught in the public-school classroom. This article is a quick survey of known Citizens' Alliances for Science.
In November 2004, seven of the groups listed below signed on as amici in an amicus curiae brief filed in Selman v. Cobb County School District, the court case in Georgia concerning "disclaimer" stickers added to textbooks declaring that "evolution is a theory, not a fact" (since decided against requiring the "disclaimer" stickers). The "Summary of Argument" from the document reads (in its entirety):
Amici agree with the plaintiffs that the disclaimer placed by the Cobb County School Board in biology textbooks hurts biology education in a way that appeases sectarian interests. Amici contend that a first-class science education provides students with vital, meaningful ways to understand the world around them and will provide Georgia with the skilled labor force needed to expand our technological economy. Protecting the integrity of science education will contribute directly to the future of our students, our quality of life, and to the prosperity of the state of Georgia. Further, our efforts in Georgia will help other states and nations to protect science education from the incorporation of dogma and pseudoscience. Many educators, including amici, are familiar with the average citizen’s lack of education or training in evolutionary biology. Religious interest groups opposed to modern science take advantage of this ignorance to promulgate confusion, as they have done in the amicus curiae brief filed in support of the plaintiffs. We respectfully submit information that we hope will illuminate these attempts to confuse the court.
Alabama Citizens for Science
The ACSE is a nonprofit organization of "scientists, educators, parents and other Alabamians who are concerned about the myriad of impediments to quality science education in Alabama public schools." They list the following threats to quality science education that they work to counter:
- inadequate funding
- public misunderstanding
- sectarian coercion
- difficulty keeping up with technological advances
- parental apathy
- political manipulation
Their mission is: "To promote the best possible science education in Alabama public schools." In common with their cohorts they track local legislation and news stories related to their mission. Of note among their resource is the "Information about the Alabama 'Evolution Warning Label'" used on biology textbooks in Alabama from 1996--2005.
See the Alabama Citizens for Science website for more.
Burlington-Edison Committee for Science Education [Washington state]
These excerpts from the organization's history also describes its goals:
On May 8, 1998 we heard that Roger DeHart, a science teacher employed in our high school, was teaching creationism. We later discovered that he was a fundamentalist and was working in concert with fundamentalist foundations worth millions of dollars who make it their business to generate questionable evidence and fund local anti-science initiatives. Specifically, DeHart is supported by The Discovery Institute and the Rutherford Institute, two very active organizations who decry the separation of church and state.
Instead of combating DeHart alone, it became clear that our task was to defeat the [Discovery Institute]. [...] It is now clear to us that our best efforts to combat local creationism will be to assist others to fight local creationism as well. In short, BECSE seeks to combat national creationism. Our goal with this website is to reach out to other communities who are facing anti-science pressure and assist them in their efforts to defend quality science.
We are a small town community in a rural county. The members of the BECSE come from many walks of life and many spiritual points of view. To be confronted with the DI - and their reconstructionist agenda - was frightening. [...] At this point in time, Mr. DeHart is not allowed to teach creationism or Intelligent Design in any form. The DI is being defeated in our town, and they can be defeated in yours as well.
They offer, online, an unusually comprehensive and well-organized list of resources on a wide range of topics related to science, religion, evolution, and creationism. Also of note is the page of local history titled "Defeating the Discovery Institute - A Blow by Blow Account".
For more information, see the Burlington-Edison Committee for Science Education website.
Colorado Citizens for Science
The Colorado Citizens for Science, formed in 2002, is a nonprofit organization made up of scientists and non-scientists, with membership open to the public. Their "Statement of Aims" says:
The aims of the Colorado Citizens for Science (CCFS) include promoting a better understanding of science among the public and defending the right of Colorado's science teachers to provide their students with the best science education possible. Science is a process of observation and measurement and the development of theoretical explanations for observed regularities. The validity of any given explanation is based on its ability to accurately account for the data. CCFS will act to oppose the teaching of pseudosciences that pose as science but fail to meet the widely accepted standards of the field.
Among their activities, they offer a short list of speakers and have hosted a symposium on "The Pseudoscience of Intelligent Design Creationism".
They describe themselves this way:
CCFS is not an anti-religious organization. In fact, many of our members are people of faith. All of its members do believe, however, that science is the only way that humanity can understand the natural world. It is the intention of CCFS to provide the citizens of Colorado with relevant information regarding science education and the threats posed by creationism.
See the Colorado Citizens for Science website for more.
Florida Citizens for Science
Florida Citizens for Science is an informal association of "concerned citizens, businesspeople, parents and educators who are committed to maintaining excellence in public school science classrooms in the state of Florida."
See the Florida Citizens for Science website for more information.
Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education
The GCISE is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization "dedicated to promoting scientific literacy and excellence in science education", which they do through outreach to teachers, students, school administrators, and their community; providing information to media from science experts; and doing their part to keep non-science out of the science classroom. They provide some interesting resources and commentary on the concept and nature of evolution.
As with several citizen's alliances, they put a large fraction of their effort into documenting anti-scientific events in their state and tracking news stories related to their mission. At the time of writing, this means giving particular attention to the controversy over "stickers" on biology textbooks that promote the litany that "evolution is a theory, not a fact".
See the Georgia Citizens for Integrity in Science Education website for more.
Iowa Citizens for Science
At the time of this writing (October 2005), a call (dated 10 October 2005) has gone out for interested people to join together and organize such a group. For the announcement, see "Iowa Citizens for Science group in the works". On 26 October 2004, the group established its online presence.
Kansas Citizens for Science
Formed in 1999, Kansas Citizens for Science is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, incorporated "to promote quality public science education for all Kansas students"; membership is open to all who support the goals of the organization. Their activities include
- Advocating for science education
- Educating the public about the nature and value of science
- Serving as an information resource
A motivation for forming in 1999 was to challenge "the 1999 Kansas State Board of Education's decision to adopt state science standards that removed key aspects of the theory of evolution as well as other critical concepts in earth science and cosmology"; they have recently faced a similar situation:
Now in 2005 the science standards are being revised, and once again a conservative majority on the state school board has expressed a desire for Intelligent Design/creationist-influenced changes to be made to the standards. KCFS is dedicated to keeping the public informed about this issue, and to helping defend quality science and science education in our state.
In a press release, "KCFS Resolution concerning the 'Science Hearings'" dated 8 March 2005, they called upon the Kansas State Board of Education "to dissolve the unneeded and ill-conceived Science Hearing Committee" or, barring that, they called for scientists and science educators to boycott the hearings, which is what happened.
Their "Position Paper on the State Science Standards", 15 April 2005, began:
Science has been stunningly successful in increasing human understanding of the natural world and in improving our quality of life. Yet science education is under attack. We support quality science education in public schools, and we oppose politically motivated attempts to insert theological concepts into science in public education classrooms.
and urged the Board of Education to avoid diluting the proposed standards of the science standards writing committee. The statement has since been signed by a number of individuals and organizations that have become known as the coalition for science: speaking for science education in Kansas.
At their website, they maintain an active discussion forum. See the Kansas Citizens for Science website for more.
Maryland Citizens for Science
On 12 August 2005, a call went out for interested and informed citizens to form such a group. For the announcement, see "Maryland Citizens for Science".
Michigan Citizens for Science
The Michigan Citizens for Science, formed by Robert T. Pennock and Ed Brayton in 2001, is an informal association of "concerned citizens, business people, parents and educators who are committed to maintaining excellence in public school science classrooms in the state of Michigan." Their motto is "Protecting science education for our children". In part, their Mission Statement reads:
In accordance of the Michigan State Board of Education’s March 10, 1982 resolution regarding the “Teaching of Religion and Creationism in Michigan Public Schools”, the MCFS agrees with the position that the “...State Board of Education oppose the teaching, in public educational institutions, of any course in religion which is outside of the realm of a secular program of education and be it further resolved that the State Board of Education recommend that any school district currently teaching creationism or any course in religion in an attempt to indoctrinate toward any particular belief or disbelief cease and desist such teaching.”
They maintain a dynamic listing of news items related to science teaching in Michigan. See the Michigan Citizens for Science website for more.
Minnesota Citizens for Science Education
The MnCSE mission statement
A scientifically literate population is essential to Minnesota's future. To that end, Minnesota Citizens for Science Education (MnCSE) will bring together the combined resources of teachers, scientists, and citizens to assure, defend, and promote the teaching and learning of evolutionary biology and other sciences in K-12 public school science classrooms, consistent with current scientific knowledge, theories, and practice.
Their website offers many things of interest: a collection of editorials about "intelligent design in Plymouth, Minnesota", resources for parents, students, educators, and personal statements from the associated science advisors and directors, etc. Particularly delightful: every page offers up a provocative image of science at work, with an invitation to click for more information. For another flavor of their approach, see the Science Education Saturday page, which describes their "Teaching Evolution in the Classroom" event held on 11 November 2006. The McCSE website has substantially more.
[Entry updated 2006.11.27]
Nebraska Citizens for Science
In their own words:
Nebraska Citizens for Science (formerly the Center for the Advancement of Rational Solutions) is a non-profit educational organization committed to preserving:
- The Integrity of Science Education
- The Freedom to Pursue Rigorous and Ethical Scientific Research
- The Accurate and Impartial Use of Science in Public Policy
The NCFS is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization. Among their activities, they present the "Lincoln Forum on Science and Religion". There is more information at the Nebraska Citizens for Science website.
Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education
Among citizen's alliances, the NRCSE is unique in combining a religious perspective with its solid commitment to science education. In their own words:
Often with scientific issues that have religious implications, as in debates between proponents of evolutionary science and proponents of creationism or intelligent design, it seems as if there is a fundamental conflict between science and religion. We in the Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education (NRCSE) are Nebraskans of various religious faiths who respect both science and theology. Our mission is to proclaim the compatibility of good science (including evolution) and good theology (including creation). The NRCSE recognizes the duty of Nebraska's schools to help students understand the best available science. We believe that evolution can and should be widely taught in a scientifically sound manner that is neutral regarding philosophical or religious worldviews. We are convinced that academic freedom, religious freedom, and scientific integrity are compatible.
As a result, their online list of resources offer support for teaching science from a different angle. Of particular note is their list of "Articles and Web Pages by Nebraskans", and their collection of links to relevant news stories is comprehensive. They are building a speakers' bureau, currently listing 5 speakers on 15 topics.
For more: Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education website.
[New Mexico] Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education
The nonprofit corporation, organized in 1997, "is composed of interested citizens throughout New Mexico and the nation, including scientists, engineers, educators, university faculty, members of the clergy, and parents. CESE is non-partisan and non-sectarian, and welcomes members of all religions and political philosophies. This coalition works to improve science education and science literacy for all citizens." Among their many goals they include: improving the quality of science education standards; assisting K-12 teachers in teaching better science; helping universities train better science teachers; increasing scientific literacy in their community.
For more information, see the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education website.
New Mexicans for Science and Reason
NMSR is a nonprofit group, with monthly meetings, that
consists of individuals, including scientists and non-professionals alike, who share the goals of promoting genuine science, the scientific method, and rational and critical thinking. We share a sense of wonder at both the marvels of the universe, and at the majestic scientific theories which describe these marvels so elegantly and accurately.
The New Mexicans for Science and Reason website is rich in resources related to scientific skepticism. Of particular note is the "Rio Rancho Updates Page", which tracks news stories about science-standards controversy and the Rio Rancho school board.
Ohio Citizens for Science
In their own words (with original emphasis):
OCS represents Ohio's great diversity of religions, political views, philosophies, and scientific traditions. What we share in common is the goal of improving science education in our schools for the good of our communities, our state, our country, and our world. Ohio's children need contact with real working scientists. Science and technology is the future of Ohio's economy. Our students need to see how the jobs are done so they can see themselves doing those jobs when they grow up. And sci-tech jobs change constantly. Our students need to gain self-confidence in their intelligence and intellectual skills so that as adults they can enjoy continuing to learn. This can come only from contact with real scientific theories, and from understanding the unity of science and the methods of scientific inquiry.
In a press release accompanying the organizations letter to the Ohio Board of Education, both dated 10 September 2002, they state their position on keeping the science in Ohio's Science Standards:
We think it is essential to include evolution in the new Science Standards being developed under the direction of the Ohio Board of Education. It is also critical to exclude from these standards Intelligent Design creationism (the newest form of creationism), traditional creationism or the so-called "teach the controversy" approach. There is no scientific controversy ... only a political one.
Among their online resources, they provide an interesting analysis of their state's science-standards review called "Points to Ponder about Ohio's Science Standards". Their "Legal Issues" page is a handy summary of relevant court decisions. As with other organizations, the OCS tracks relevant events and news stories. Their speakers' bureau lists 15 names available to "help raise science literacy in Ohio".
See the Ohio Citizens for Science website for more.
Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education
They say this about themselves:
OESE is a non-profit educational organization that promotes the education of the public about the methods and values of science and advocates excellence in the science curriculum.
The formation of OESE was prompted by the attempts in the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee in 1999 and in the Oklahoma Legislature each year since to diminish the teaching of evolution by the introduction of creationist textbook disclaimers to be inserted into any textbook used in public schools that discussed evolution.
Their speakers' bureau lists six presenters offering talks on over 20 topics. Their website links to a long list of national and local resources particularly aimed at teachers and interested parents, aimed at countering creationist's claims and explaining ideas in evolutionary biology.
See the Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education website for more.
Pennsylvania Citizens for Science
The mission statement of the nonprofit organization is unique and highly individual; in its entirety:
To make sure that the Pennsylvania Citizens for Pseudoscience, Bad Science, and Fake Science (they go by different names, of course) have no influence on science instruction in Commonwealth public schools. Our efforts are currently focused on protecting the ability of teachers to teach exclusively non-supernatural explanations for the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and descent with modification ("evolution") in science classes. Currently, teachers are often too scared to teach these topics, and thus evolution is given a mere 50 minutes or avoided altogether. The group does not oppose the discussion of supernatural phenomena in mythology, religion, or philosophy courses, or in private schools, homes, or churches.
We also try especially hard to promote the teaching of evolution in elementary schools, when children are most curious about dinosaurs, our similarity to other primates, and the origin of species and life itself. The group mascot is Phacops rana, a really cute trilobite from the Devonian, and the state's official fossil.
Their invitation to membership is unusually broad, too:
Open to anyone who cares about improving the science preparedness of Pennsylvania public school students. All types of members are sought: religious, atheist, tea drinkers, coffee drinkers, etc. As long as you believe that science classes should be just about science, and you have some energy or skill to apply toward that goal, we want you.
Particularly useful is their How to Help section with loads of practical ideas for how "normal people" can help support science education. For additional information, visit the Pennsylvania Citizens for Science website.
Ravalli County Citizens for Science [Montana]
The RCCS was created in 2003 in response to local activities that nearly led to adoption by the Darby School Board of an "objective origins" policy that would have mandated that science teachers present "scientific objections" to evolutionary biology. For details, please see our article on Darby, Montana School Board.
South Carolinians for Science Education
The SCSE is a group formed at the end of 2005 with the goals of promoting scientific literacy and science understanding, while defending science against non- and anti-scientific ideas. From their press release dated 5 February 2006:
Columbia, SC – The first formal meeting of the South Carolinians for Science Education was held Friday afternoon, February 3, at Sticky Fingers Restaurant on Columbiana Drive. The new organization, “dedicated to improving the quality and defending the integrity of science education in the public schools of South Carolina,” has been in the process of formation for several months. “The nucleus of the SCSE was a small group of college professors and local members of the National Center for Science Education brought together by ID creationism in the Senate Education Committee last spring.” said Dr. Rob Dillon, newly elected president. “Momentum has really accelerated since the assault on science in the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee this fall. We’ve had about 130 members register through our web site at last count.”
Their website is built around a blog format with entries detailing news about science and science education in South Carolina. The Issues page features their "Position Statement on the 2005 South Carolina Science Standards" and a useful summary of their work to maintain science-education standards against a recent attack of legislative anti-scientism.
Their website: South Carolinians for Science Education
Texas Citizens for Science
Texas Citizens for Science, modeling themselves on other states' citizen alliances for science, organized "to oppose the organized forces of unreason in our state that wish to degrade the quality of science education in our schools and ignore the use of accurate science in state government agencies." They work to maintain science standards in textbooks used in Texas, helping to avoid pressure on textbook publishers to insert non-scientific content into science textbooks, and helping to preserve "the state law that prevents the State Board of Education from censoring science textbooks, among their stated activities, plus, with a broader stroke:
Ensuring that Texas government agencies, committees, and institutions always use accuract science and scientific reasoning in their deliberations and to reach conclusions that affect the lives and welfare of Texas citizens.
Their online resources are geared to serve these goals. Significantly, they provide copies of expert testimony from the State Board of Education textbook hearings of 10 September 10 2003.
For a letter dated 1 November 2003, "550+ Texas Scientists, Teachers Agree on Teaching Evolution", they attracted the stated 550+ signatories with a short but strong statement that began:
Dear Board of Education member,
As scientists and teachers who live and work in Texas, we write to urge the Texas State Board of Education to choose only textbooks that present accepted, peer-reviewed science and pedagogical expertise. We believe that such a process leads to strong curricula of the highest quality, accuracy, and pedagogical appropriateness.
See the Texas Citizens for Science website for more.
TonkaFocus is an "an independent community group supporting the integrity of the Minnetonka [Minnesota] Public Schools." Although they do not restrict their attention solely to supporting quality science education, they have identified, as one of a handful of issues they are concerned with (emphasis in original):
a proven science curriculum, including teaching evolution without the religious/philosophical issues raised by bringing Intelligent Design into our science classrooms
For more information, see the TonkaFocus website.
- ^ Lynn Fant, Attorney for Amici Curiae, "Selman v. Cobb County School District: Amicus Curiae of Several Pro-Evolution Groups", 15 November 2004.