Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 6, 1996 A M E

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Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 6, 1996 from: AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #149 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 9/6/96 http://www.atheists.org 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 The Board also called for a change in the administrative policy which permitted the tape to be withdrawn without consultation of a review committee.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 children." 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 schools." 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 creationism-evolution debate...) * 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 issue. 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 techniques." 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 woman." 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 following day. 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 gratifying rate. We still hope to reach our goal of having 10,000 AANEWS subscribers by the end of the year. In the meantime, please remember that we will continue to do everything we can to assure that AANEWS reaches you in a timely fashion. ** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send mail to info@atheists.org, and include your name and postal address. Or, check out our cool new web site at http://www.atheists.org. You may forward, post or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to AANEWS and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER.

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