Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 6, 1996 A M E
Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 6, 1996
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn
#149 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/6/96
In This Issue...
* Science Wins (For Now...) in Colorado
* American Atheists Statement on Creationism/Evolution
* Gay Rights, "Marriage" Bills in D.C., California
* A Timely Note to Readers
* About This List...
EVOLUTION VIDEO REINSTATED IN COLORADO SCHOOL
"One of the best learning resources available in the country..."
A video which included mention of evolution and had been pulled from a
science class in Colorado was reinstated last night thanks to a 3-1 vote on
the Jefferson County School Board. The decision followed an emotional public
hearing that drew more than 300 spectators and speakers, including American
Atheist State Director Margie Wait. The Board rejected a proposal by a high
school superintendent to circulate "The Miracle of Life" with a study guide
and "warning label" which declared that the video "contains scientific
material that some students may find objectionable." In accordance with the
proposed "guide" directives, teachers would have fast-forwarded through parts
of the video, including a section that declared: "From these one-celled
organisms evolved all life on Earth." The Board also called for a change in
the administrative policy which permitted the tape to be withdrawn without
consultation of a review committee.
The Colorado case attracted national media attention last month, making it
the latest in an on-going round of battles being waged throughout the
nation's schools over the evolution-creationism controversy. References to
evolution, especially in high school texts and science guides, have come
under increasing attack by Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals who
warn that it denigrates religious faith in divine creation and the
authenticity of the bible.
The video was first challenged by a 15-year old student, Danny
Phillips,who identified himself as a fundamentalist Christian and maintained
that its contents abridged his freedom of religion. But last night, in a
five-minute address to the Board, Phillips insisted that "this is not a
cration/evolution debate," although he did suggest that a creationist tape be
substituted for the "The Miracle of Life."
Another speaker pointed out that if the Board prohibited the video and
substituted one which expressed a creationist "alternative," then views of
other religious groups -- including Muslims and Taoists -- had to be given
equal time. Creationists defended Phillips, maintaining that "if schools
teach evolution as a fact rather than a theory, they are indoctrinating
According to the Rocky Mountain News, science teachers at last night's
hearing "present evolution as a robust theory that has the support of most
biologists, geologists and other scientists." One insisted that "The Miracle
of Life," produced by the award-winning PBS series "Nova," "is the best
available...and would be difficult to replace."
School Board member Dave DiGiacomo told the Denver Post that the
controversial video was "one of the best learning resources available in the
country," and added that "The board cannot take away an important resource
from other children because of one student's concerns."
Behind A Public Statement: Deeper Issues
While Mr. Phillips said that last night's board decision was not about
evolution and creationism, earlier statments he made suggests a different
story. In "Freedom Watch," a publication of the Citizens Project in
Colorado, Phillips is quoted as insisting that the bible should be used in
public schools because of "scientific works that have to be revised and
corrected every few years...If science is pervaded with theories like this
(evolution) and that is all there is to it, then science is obviously nothing
more than an attempt to discredit religion and should not be taught in public
Freedom Watch also noted that Phillips suggested using a creationist book,
"Of Pandas and People.
Phillips and other creationist supporters also have reportedly received
assistance from Focus on the Family, the huge Colorado Springs-based
fundamentalist group headed by "bible-discipline" guru James Dobson. Mr.
Phillips also reportedly attended a summer course on creationism, sponsored
by the Institute for Creation Research.
A Double Strategy: Censor or Subsidize
The tone of letters to newspapers and even editorials in some Colorado
media reflects a strategy currently in vogue with creationists and their
conservative religious allies. If evolution cannot be banned or "balanced"
in public schools by presenting it as merely a competing theory about the
origin of life and universe along with biblical accounts of creationism, then
religious students should be "accomodated" or have their "religious liberty"
protected by establishing special, faith-based schools, or instituting
voucher schemes and other forms of aid so they may attend private schools. In
this way, the creationist debate has now been linked with both the "religious
liberty" question and state subsidies for church schools masquerading under
the banner of "educational choice."
Not even all religionists were in agreement with the creationist position
last night, however. The pastor of a local United Methodist Church told the
board that he supported use of the video, adding: "The idea that Christianity
is in opposition to science is embarrassing to me...Please don't lose your
sense of reason. Please don't ban a perfectly good teaching tool." But
according to reports, the creationists have pledged to carry on their fight;
one said that the school board "just chickened out."
AMERICAN ATHEISTS STATEMENT TO THE JEFFERSON SCHOOL BOARD
(Here is the text of a release presented last evening to the Jefferson County
School Board and the news media by Frank Zindler, Science Advisor for
American Atheists and a nationally-recognized authority in the
It is regreatable that there are religions that cannot accept scientific
reality; their existence, though, must not deflect the public schools of this
state from carrying out their obligations to teach science as it is
understood by its foremost practioners. It is as much a fact that evolution
has occured as that our bodies are made of atoms. Evolutionary theory is
just as factual as atomic theory. The change in species of plants and
animals through time as documented in the fossil record shows beyond a shadow
of doubt that evolution has occured. Moveover, our studies of DNA and the
processes of mutation and natural selection have revealed quite precisely the
chemical basis of evolutionary change. The differences between men, mice and
mosses are simply the result of the fact that the DNA messages that encode
them are "spelled" differently, in a four-letter chemical alphabet (A,T,C,G)
that was first discovered in the middle of this century. Moreover, there are
no no known chemical barriers that can prevent such changes from occurring
from time to time, making evolution essentially inevitable.
In the last century, some people people in Missouri decided that the Bible
required the value of pi to be exactly 3.0 rather than 3.14150... . An
attempt was made to pass a law setting the value at 3.0, and we may suppose
that at least some religionists forbade their children to believed in the
established value of pi. Today this is laughable, but a century ago the
distress caused by the clash between religion and reality was certainly just
as great as that which adherents of creationist religions experience today.
We may suppose that people in the future will look back at the creationist
controversy with as much laughter as we now look back to the pi-problem.
Religions themselves evolve, even religions that disallow belief in
evolution. In time the creationist churches will come to terms with the
world that science has shown to be reality. But until that evolution takes
place, the public schools must continue to present the best understanding of
science that is available at any given point in time. It is sad that this
may cause discomfort to certain individuals. But the fact that reality is
not "fair" may itself be an important lesson for our children to learn, over
and above any lessons they may learn about human origins.
Our children deserve the best possible education we can offer them today
to prepare them for the real world. They must learn to properly evaluate and
distinugish between what is real and what is fantasy in order to make the
decisions of tomorrow. Their chances for success depend on their
understanding of real science, where hypotheses must be tested repeatedly and
subjected to possible falsification, before being accepted. No reputable
scientist accepts the pseudo-scientific world of "creation science," nor
should we be teaching our children a corrupt form of "science" which is based
on belief, or acceptance without evidence.
To ban any teaching tool from the science classroom because it presents a
scientific fact which offends those who still desperately want to believe
otherwise, is to do a great disservice to the students of today and the
leaders of tomorrow.
American Atheists urges this board of public education not to bow to
pressure from any religious organization that wishes to impose its beliefs
upon the manner in which science is taught in our public classrooms.
A note to AANEWS readers: we have learned that the Rocky Mountain Family
Legal Foundation has now vowed to take the issue of the "Miracle of Life"
video to court in an effort to either ban the film, or segments thereof.
GAY MARRIAGE LEGISLATION STALLED IN D.C, DOWN IN CALIFORNIA
The battle of same-sex marriage continued on both coasts yesterday, with
Republicans and Democrats alike switching sides and hammering out amendments.
In Washington, the Senate late yesterday postponed a vote on the "Defense of
Marriage Act," which would define marriage as "a union involving one man and
one woman," and would permit states to ignore same-sex marriages granted in
other states. Although homosexuals unions are not legal anywhere in the
country at the present time, an important court case begins in Hawaii next
week which could make it the first state to grant same-sex marriage licenses.
Yesterday, an amendment to the Defense of Marriage Act offered by Sen.
Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator James Jeffords (R-Vt.) was called a
"distraction," and threatened to undermine the original legislation. That
provision would bar an employer from using sexual preference as a basis for
any discrimination in the workplace. GOP Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
threatened procedural maneuvers to stop that amendment, and then Democrats
countered with a threat of their own, insisting that they would attach the
anti-discrimination rider to any and all pet Republican appropriation bills.
The earliest another vote can be attempted is next week. Gay rights
supporters are confident that they enact the anti-discrimination measure, in
part due to the support of Senators Chafee of Rhode Island of D'Amato of New
York. But opponents of the Marriage Act concede that it will pass in some
form; in July, it cleared the House in a 342-67 vote. President Clinton
promises to sign the legislation, a move which political strategists say
denies GOP Presidential nominee Sen. Bob Dole a "family values" campaign
Meanwhile, in California the State Senate completed its session with
approving measures which would have barred homosexual unions. Like the
Washington battle, the California controversy was largely concerned with
amendments. The proposal originally voided "any marriages contracted outside
this state between individuals of the same gender," and was passed in January
by the Assembly. Winding its way through the State Senate, though, the
legislation was amendment to establish legal unions outside of marriage for
both gay and straight couples." That angered supporters, who accused the
Senate's Democratic leader of "using every tool of procedural manipulation to
thwart the will of the people."
Gay rights activists said that the failure of anti-homosexual legislation
in California during this past session was "enormously important." The
Family Research Council, however, said that "California is similar to the
national situation in that legislation that had strong popular support has
been under attack through unwarranted amendments and parliamentary stalling
There was an ancillary fight going on in Santa Ana, Calfiornia where gay
activists clashed with church groups led by the Rev. Louis Sheldon of the
Traditional Values Coalition during a hearing on a proposal to bar adoptions
by unmarried couples. John Davidson of the Lambda Legal Defense and
Education Fund said that the proposal was unecessary and was "based on
prejudice and animus toward lesbian and gay men and women." Sheldon warned
that laws were needed "to restore the primacy of marriage within the law and
culture...", adding that "The best environment is one with a married man and
The issue of same sex marriage may heat up even more, and move from
legislative chambers to court rooms. Next week, arguments get underway in a
case that could lead to the granting of marriage licenses to couples of the
same sex; appeals can be expected regardless of that decision.
A (Timely) Note to Readers...
"THE BIG CRASH -- Is It Coming?"
No, the latest issue of Internet World isn't talking about the stock
market, or the popularity of some politician; "the big crash" concerns the
internet. Is demand fast outstripping carrying capacity?
We've wondered ourselves. You may have noticed in the past week that
issues of AANEWS are sometimes taking several hours to reach your mailbox.
We have been assured that the server is indeed working properly, and what we
are experiencing is an "electronic traffic jam" on the net. We apologize to
those of you who expect to receive your AANEWS during the afternoon, but
instead end up getting "the latest" from us that evening or (worse) the
To alleviate this problem, we will be shifting our production schedule and
making every effort to get AANEWS into the mail system earlier. Bear with us
and remember that we, too, are subject to the problems inherent in the
explosive growth of this new and exciting medium. There are also more of you
as well, and "subscribe" messages have been pouring in at a steady -- and
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